Historic Win: America’s Most Successful Conservation Program Permanently Reauthorized

LWCF dollars enable us to protect Mailliard Ranch and other forests. Photo by John Birchard
LWCF dollars enable us to protect Mailliard Ranch and other forests. Photo by John Birchard

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), our nation’s most successful conservation and recreation funding program, was permanently reauthorized. This is a resounding and historic win for land conservation from coast to coast and for our redwoods here in California!

After earning strong support in both the Senate and House of Representatives — from both sides of the aisle — the president signed the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act (S.47) into law on March 12, 2019. This public lands package is the biggest conservation legislation to be considered by the federal government in a decade.

Along with permanent reauthorization for LWCF, this public lands package protects more than two million acres, creates new national monuments, and preserves our wild and scenic rivers, among other benefits. With strong, bipartisan support it’s a historic win for our treasured public open spaces, forests, and wildlands from small city parks and playgrounds to our majestic redwood forests.

Save the Redwoods League and our coalition of conservation colleagues are so thankful for the support of our members, the public at large, and our federal representatives for supporting this bill and making sure that it passed, decisively.

And now, with LWCF permanently reauthorized, we can fulfill our commitment to expand the Headwaters Forest Reserve and protect Mailliard Ranch, permanently safeguarding the incredible redwood forests on those extraordinary properties.

The Revival of the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Over the last 50 years, every county in every state nationwide has benefited from LWCF, creating countless opportunities for everyone to explore and experience the outdoors — without using a single taxpayer dollar. Using oil and gas lease revenues from energy operations in the Outer Continental Shelf, LWCF reinvests in projects that protect our natural lands and waterways and preserve historic and cultural resources across the United States. The idea started earnestly with the intention of using these revenues from operations that deplete our offshore natural resources to conserve natural treasures and create recreation opportunities elsewhere.

Muir Woods National Monument and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have all been enhanced by funding from LWCF. The fund also helped the League expand Redwood National Park, leveraged with support from League members. From these world-renowned jewels of the national park system to our local reserves, LWCF has provided critical funding for the League and many others to safeguard the public lands we all love.

Yet, even with its many successes and with tremendous bipartisan support among our federal legislators, LWCF was allowed to expire in September 2018 for the second time in three years, losing an estimated $2.5 million per day. This was another devastating blow for the American public, our more than $280 billion national recreation economy, and of course our unparalleled natural resources, parks, and cultural heritage sites.

In the last two years, we’ve seen unprecedented boundary reductions in two national monuments and the sustained threat to shrink others like the Giant Sequoia National Monument; the longest government shutdown in US history that left our national parks unguarded and vulnerable; and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement leaving communities and state and local governments to take charge of our own future in the absence of federal climate leadership. In the face of these political headwinds, Congress came together in response to extraordinary public support from across the country — including League members who made their voices heard — and voted to invest in our parks, our natural heritage, our public lands.

LWCF helped make it possible for Save the Redwoods League to protect part of the Prairie Creek corridor and add the land to Redwood National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo by Max Forster
LWCF helped make it possible for Save the Redwoods League to protect part of the Prairie Creek corridor and add the land to Redwood National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Photo by Max Forster

The League and a broad coalition of conservation and recreation programs championed LWCF for years. In February, we had our first sign of hope for renewed federal energy in support of the fund when the Senate passed the permanent reauthorization of LWCF by a vote of 92 to 8, demonstrating strong bipartisan support. Ten days ago, I traveled to Washington, DC with the League’s Director of Government Affairs, Shelana deSilva, and League Councilor, Don Massey, to implore members of the House of Representatives to vote in favor of LWCF and the broader John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. Serendipitously, while we were there, the House passed the legislation with a 363 to 62 vote, again with strong support on both sides of the aisle.

Finally, President Trump signed the Act into law. After being expired for more than 160 days and losing an estimated $400 million in lease revenue that could have otherwise been used to protect our parks, natural resources, and wildlands, LWCF is now permanently reauthorized.

Thanks to everyone who called their member of Congress and helped spread the word to get LWCF permanently reauthorized. Your votes and your voices matter!

Our sincere gratitude goes to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for sponsoring the Senate bill and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a steadfast supporter of California’s redwoods, for cosponsoring it. And our gratitude goes also to Chairman Grijalva (D-AZ) and several members of the California Congressional delegation, who all fought tirelessly to ensure that our public lands are protected and accessible to all! Special thanks to Speaker Pelosi, Congressman Huffman, and Congressman Lowenthal.

The Ongoing Push for Full and Dedicated Funding

Now that we have permanently protected the inflow of LWCF funds from offshore energy revenues, we are excited to work together with Congress on the next step, which is protecting the outflow of LWCF funds to their intended purposes by enacting full, dedicated funding legislation.

Stay tuned for updates on the League’s effort to ensure increased, dedicated funding for public lands, and how you can help!

Learn more about LWCF and the other public policy issues we’re following.

About the author

President and Chief Enthusiast for the Outdoors (CEO) of Save the Redwoods League, Sam brings more than 25 years of experience in overseeing land conservation programs from the remote wilderness to the inner city.

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One Response to “Historic Win: America’s Most Successful Conservation Program Permanently Reauthorized”

  1. Tom Leach

    A big THANK YOU to all involved in LWCF reauthorization!


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