After my post the other day on Instagram, I got a few more questions about the LWCF, what it is, how does it affect people and public lands in their area, and a lot of comments on how folks thought this was already funded last year. So, I thought it may be a good idea to write a blog post and answer some of these questions to the best of my ability. I do want to call out that some of the best information can be found direct from the horse’s mouth so to speak. The LWCF Coalition is usually my number one resource on information about the LWCF. Also, the Wilderness Society has a great map that shows you every state and national LWCF project. I am more than happy to share what I know but I am no expert and these folks are really much more knowledgeable than I am on the subject.
What is the LWCF?
LWCF stands for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This fund was established in 1964 by congress with support from both sides of the aisle. The goal of this fund is to safeguard our natural areas and ensure recreation opportunities for all Americans. The more popular areas that are funded by the LWCF are the Rocky Mountains National Park, Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains. Here in my home state of Florida alone, there are over 30 wildlife refuges, shorelines, and conservation areas that are impacted by the LWCF. That isn’t all though, Just in my county of Palm Beach, there are 54 projects funded by the LWCF for a total $ 13,170,703.47. That is just 1 out of 67 counties in the state.
LWCF provides funding to agencies such as the National Park Service to help protect against development at our national parks and seashores. It also funds the Bureau of land Management to help conserve lands within it’s system. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service uses LWCF dollars to protect habitats, refuges, and hatcheries. The U.S. Forest Service uses funds to protect national forests and grasslands. The list goes on and on and you can find other programs funded by the LWCF in your state or even county by clicking on this map or checking out the LWCF coalition’s programs page.
Where does the money come from?
The fund costs all tax payers exactly, $0.00. You read that right. We pay absolutely nothing, and the Fund pays for conservation across thousands of projects all over the United States. I know, when I first heard this myself, I thought there was a catch. Our elected officials had a brilliant idea when passing this and the concept was simple. We would use the depletion of one of our natural resources to fund another. So, every year $900 Million dollars in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas are put into this fund.
By allowing energy companies to take advantage of our oil and gas resources, we would fund national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, wildlife refuges and event match grants for local and state parks and recreation projects. Beyond conservation, the LWCF has created jobs and increased economic activity in areas throughout the country. An example of this is the $214 Million that was spent in 2010 on land acquisition has translated to over $442 million in economic activity and approximately, 3,000 jobs. Another lesser known protection the LWCF has funded is for historical battlefields. One of the more treasured experiences in my childhood was visiting bunker hill and breed’s hill in Boston. It is one thing reading about these places in a textbook, but actually visiting them is something else entirely. Could you imagine if places like these weren’t protected? If buildings and condos were just plopped right on top? It’s not something I could even imagine happening in a country like ours that is so steeped in patriotism and tradition.
What is the problem?
So, while the LWCF was passed in 1964, the problem is it is common for funds to be diverted by congress for other uses. This has caused a huge backlog of maintenance projects across the country. Over $2 billion dollars’ worth of projects are on this backlog currently. In February, the Trump Administration proposed to eliminate almost all funding for the LWCF in it’s 2021 Fiscal Year Budget. Thankfully on March 3rd, 2020, President Trump publicly supported and asked congress to send him a bill that permanently funds the LWCF and helps address the backlog of maintenance projects for our national parks. It feels incredible typing that. In fact, i am going to type it again. Permanent funding! This would be an historic bill should it pass and be signed into law and is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us.
What can you do to help?
After President Trump’s public endorsement Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) along with 54 original cosponsors introduced S.3422 – The Great American Outdoors Act with bipartisan support. Since then it has grown to a total of 58 Cosponsors and only 2 away from a supermajority. To be a part of this historic bill and help it get to the President’s desk you can write to your local senators and ask them to cosponsor this bill. I have posted my letter to both of my Florida senators which you may feel fry to take and reword as you please and send it to them as well. It is titled, The Great American Outdoors Letter to Senators. You can also check out Back Country Hunters and Anglers which have also posted a form letter and pretty cool tool to help you find out who the Senators in your area are, as well as how to send them the letter. If you like, you can also try emailing your senators as most have contact forms on their websites as well. I did both.
Feel free to leave questions or comments below and I will absolutely get back to you. You can also message and follow me on Instagram by searching for @TheHuntingRookie.
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Thank you so much for reading and be safe everyone! If you are able to get into the outdoors in your state during this pandemic be sure to do so. It is a great treatment for cabin fever.