UPDATE: President Trump signed the Act into law on March 12, 2019. After being expired for 160 days and losing $400 million in lease revenue that could have otherwise been used to protect our parks, natural resources, and wildlands, LWCF is now permanently reauthorized. Check out our Giant Thoughts blog for the most current news!
About the Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is our nation’s most important conservation and recreation tool. Without using a single taxpayer dollar, LWCF invests in our quality of life, a booming recreation economy, and our history and culture. For Save the Redwoods League, the LWCF plays a critical role in the protection of old-growth redwoods, and helps connect people to our incredible giant sequoia and coast redwood forests.
LWCF is a unique federal program in that it provides a conservation offset for offshore oil and gas production, replenishing our natural resources with receipts from extractive industry. Communities in every single county across the nation benefit from this bipartisan-supported program. Despite the law’s promise to direct $900 million in OCS revenue to this successful program, the LWCF is subject to the uncertainties of the annual federal budget process and threatened by drastic cuts proposed by the current presidential administration. A significant amount of the funding intended to protect our natural resources and build accessible parks is diverted each year to other, often unrelated purposes.
In addition, recently proposed legislation threatens to further divert OCS funding to address the staggering more than $11 billion deferred maintenance backlog in our national parks. Our national parks are economic engines, and more importantly they represent what is best about our country. The backlog of maintenance needs includes road and building repair, upgrading water systems, and improving parking lots and trails, among many other things. The Restore Our Parks Act (S. 3172) would begin helping to address these needs by providing up to $6.5 billion to the National Park Service to address the deferred maintenance backlog over five years.
A funding solution like this to address the aging infrastructure and natural resource needs in our parks is desperately required. However, providing dedicated funding to park maintenance, using OCS revenues already promised to the LWCF, will not adequately sustain the parks and public lands we all depend upon. As we prioritize our national park infrastructure through legislation like the Restore Our Parks Act, we must also increase appropriations for LWCF, renew the program before the current authorization expires at the end of this federal fiscal year, and push for dedicated funding.
Many challenges face our national parks, natural resources, and public lands today. Given the more than 50-year track record of success the LWCF has, along with the ongoing need to protect land and enhance public access, Congress must prioritize better funding for the maintenance backlog alongside conservation and historic preservation. Our public lands deserve nothing less.