The Land and Water Conservation Fund

WHAT IS THE LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND?

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was created by congress in 1964. It was a bipartisan commitment to invest in natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage. The LWCF sought to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans by funding projects in national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers, lakes, community parks, trails and ball fields in each of our 50 states. The recreation assets created by the Land and Water Conservation Fund make communities more livable, attracting both visitors and quality of life companies. LWCF is an important economic driver in communities of all types.

WHERE DOES THE MONEY FOR THE LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION COME FROM?

The idea behind funding was simple: use revenues from the depletion of one natural resource – offshore oil and gas – to support the conservation of another precious resource – our land and water. Each year, $900 million in royalties are paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).  That money is put into the fund and is intended for investment in public lands, including recreation and conversation projects across the country. It has supported 41,000 state and local parks, conserved land for national parks, waterways, wildlife refuges, trails and so much more.

HOW MUCH FUNDING DOES THE LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND ACTUALLY RECEIVE?

Unfortunately, nearly ever year, Congress diverts almost half of the $900 million allocated to the LWCF for uses other than conversing our most important land and waters. While Congress permanently reauthorized LWCF and allocated the program $435 million in its FY2019 budget, the fact remains this program needs full, dedicated funding in order to be the tool local communities need to protect and enhance recreation opportunities.

WHY DO LOCAL COMMUNITIES NEED THE LWCF TO ENHANCE RECREATION OPPORTUNITIES? 

The LWCF is an invaluable component of the recreation economy and plays a critical role in developing economies, particularly in rural areas. Access to outdoor spaces creates quality of life in American communities and is a proven component of economic prosperity. 

According to the Outdoor Industry Association’s 2017 National Recreation Economy Report, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, paddling and other outdoor recreation activities contribute a total of $887 billion annually to the economy and supports 7.6 million American jobs.

  • This sector generates $65.3 billion annually in federal tax revenue, as well as $59.2 billion in annual state and local tax revenue.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has found that each year, 37.4 million Americans aged 16 and older hunt and fish, spending a total of $90 billion.
  • The larger outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation economy, contributes $1.06 trillion annually, and supports 9.4 million American jobs. 

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND IN FISCAL YEAR 2020?

It is imperative that Congress secure full funding for the LWCF in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget appropriations bill. The needs are great and pushing toward full funding in the Appropriations process is key. The backlog of federal needs for the LWCF are estimated at $30 billion while state governments report needing $27 billion in LWCF funds for eligible local parks and recreation projects.

WHAT HAS THE LWCF BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR IN MY COMMUNITY/STATE?

For state specific LWCF Factsheets, click HERE