For 50 years—until Congress let it expire on September 30th, 2015—the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has allowed for the purchase of critical lands for conservation and the development of parks, trails, and other outdoor recreation facilities in all 50 states and nearly every county in America.
Created to invest a portion of the revenue from offshore drilling leases towards protecting parks, forests, wildlife refuges, public lands, and other community spaces— the $900 million LWCF has been a crucial tool for helping to close gaps and preserve critical historic and scenic places within our National Trails System. In 2015 alone, over $25 million LWCF dollars were appropriated by Congress to buy land along 11 of our National Scenic and Historic Trails. (Right: National Park Service map of the 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails)
An Executive Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (3/29/2017)
The Fiscal Year 2018 “skinny budget” recently released by the Trump Administration implies the intention to drastically decrease funding of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) below the $450 million Congress appropriated for Fiscal Year 2016. Meanwhile, support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund continues to increase in Congress with 205 Members of the House of Representatives—the most ever—signing a “Dear Colleague” letter to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman requesting strong funding for the Fund for Fiscal Year 2018. A similar letter supporting LWCF funding for the National Trails System (NTS) was signed by 68 Members of the House. Both letters are bipartisan and the Representatives who signed them deserve our thanks for their consistent support for the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
A Year End Congressional Update (12/29/2016)
The 114th Congress adjourned in early December after passing another Continuing Resolution to fund the Federal government agencies at the Fiscal Year 2016 levels until April 28, 2017. The appropriations for Fiscal Year 2017 are to be completed by the 115th Congress sometime next Spring. The 114th Congress left this important work for the National Trails System unfinished:
- Re-authorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund
- Re-authorization of the Historic Preservation Fund
- Re-authorization of the Federal Land Transfer Facilitation Act to authorize the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus land and use the proceeds to buy lands to fill in management blocks in the several checkerboards of public/private land in the west
- A method for funding wildfire suppression costs that will relieve the annual operating budget of the Forest Service from bearing the majority of these costs
- Authorization of the several adjustments to the route of the North Country National Scenic Trail in Minnesota and extending into Vermont.
The Partnership for the National Trails System will work with many allies to get bills introduced in the 115th Congress to accomplish these important actions.
A Congressional Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (9/29/2016)
Work continues to convince Congress to permanently re-authorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund via several pieces of legislation under consideration. Two bills in the House of Representatives – HR 1814 sponsored by Representative Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) has 210 sponsors and HR 4151 sponsored by Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID) as an all Republican bill has 13 sponsors – would make the LWCF a permanent program as it now operates. Senate and House members of the conference committee are working to reconcile the energy bills passed by both houses of Congress and are also working to include re-authorization of the LWCF in the final bill. The Senate version of the Energy Bill – S. 2012 – includes the same language that Congressman Simpson used for HR 4151.
There is still hope that one or several of these bills will be adopted by Congress during its post election “Lame Duck” session. Supporters of the Land & Water Conservation Fund should continue to express that support.
A Congressional Update on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (6/29/2016)
Congress is currently working on legislation to fund land protection projects with Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) money for Fiscal Year 2017 and on legislation that could permanently reauthorize this landmark land conservation program. The House and Senate have each written their FY 2017 Interior Appropriations bills to fund the work of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Environmental Protection Agency and a number of other federal agencies and programs. The House proposes to spend $322 million for LWCF projects, while the Senate proposes to spend $400 million. These amounts are significant decreases from the $450 million Congress has provided for LWCF projects for FY 2016 and are less than half of the $900 million requested by the President. At the proposed level of funding only a handful of National Trails System land acquisition projects would be funded.
The Senate and House Energy and Natural Resources Committees are also in discussions to reconcile their two versions of the Energy Policy Modernization Act. The version passed by the Senate includes permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as reauthorization of the Federal Land Transfer Facilitation Act (FLTFA) to enable the Bureau of Land Management to sell surplus land and use the money obtained to buy conservation lands, and the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act to relocate the Trail in Minnesota and extend it eastward to connect with the Long and Appalachian Trails in Vermont. If the Conference Committee can produce a bill reconciling the differences between the two versions that bill will go back to each House to be approved. With the longer than normal summer Congressional Recess rapidly approaching it is likely final decisions on these important bills will not be made in each House until fall.
The Senate Passes Energy Policy Modernization Act (4/20/2016)
The United States Senate has passed S. 2012 85-12, which includes permanent reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Specific details, provided by the Land & Water Conservation Fund Coalition, can be found below:
The Senate just voted for final passage of S. 2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Act—which contains permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund as part of a bipartisan compromise provision negotiated by Chairman Lisa Murkowski and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell.
This is an historic victory for LWCF, the first time permanent authorization has passed the full Senate. Before passing the bill, the Senate voted last night on several amendments including the anti-LWCF Lankford amendment, which was decisively defeated by a vote of 63-34.
Obama’s New Budget Proposal Includes Full Funding for the LWCF (2/4/2016)
The Partnership for the National Trails System applauds President Obama’s continued commitment to fully funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund as reflected by the Federal land preservation projects announced in the FY 2017 Budget. Projects included along some of America’s 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails will provide increased access for healthful outdoor recreation for millions of people while helping to preserve critical wildlife habitat, sensitive historical and cultural sites, and the integrity of ecosystems and watersheds. The National Trails link together many of Americans favorite national parks, wildlife refuges and Wilderness Areas and many major cities, as well.
Debates Begin on Energy Policy Modernization Act (EMPA) (1/27/2016)
This week, the Senate has begun to debate the Energy Policy Modernization Act (EPMA), which passed through the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July of last year. This package includes the bipartisan compromise reached by Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to permanently reauthorize LWCF while making modest reforms to the program. The Murkowski-Cantwell LWCF proposal has passed through the Committee twice by a wide bipartisan margin. This agreement is a major improvement on the three-year reauthorization of the LWCF included in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill passed in December.
Already, this important agreement is being attacked. Senators Lee, (R-UT), Barasso, (R -WY), and several others have introduced amendments to remove or substantially change the LWCF agreement in this bill.
Please contact your Senators and ask them to oppose any amendments that strike or weaken the Murkowski-Cantwell agreement on LWCF included in the EPMA. Talking points are as follows:
The Murkowski-Cantwell agreement contained in EPMA would permanently reauthorize LWCF and make the following changes to the program
- A 40%-40%-20% split of LWCF funding between federal purposes (i.e. federal agency projects through NPS, BLM, USFS and USFWS), state purposes (grants through the NPS State and Local Assistance Program, the Forest Legacy Program, the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Program/Section 6, and the American Battlefield Protection Program), and flexible funding, all subject to appropriator discretion. This closely mirrors the distribution of LWCF appropriations in recent years, including the overall distribution in the FY16 omnibus.
- Agencies must take into account the following factors when choosing projects: management efficiencies, management cost savings, geographic distribution, significance of the acquisition, urgency of the acquisition, threats to the integrity of the land to be acquired, and the recreational value of the land. These are similar to existing agency criteria, and would codify current practice.
- Codification of the 1.5% sportsmen’s access provision that has been included in all proposed LWCF legislation for the last several years, endorsed by the LWCF Coalition.
- Where feasible and appropriate, agencies should consider the use of conservation easements.
The agreement also creates a new National Park Maintenance and Revitalization Fund that is over and above LWCF—NOT taking authorized dollars away from LWCF—from Outer Continental Shelf energy revenues.
This agreement therefore addresses critical needs for our public lands on two fronts:
- Improving existing facilities and resources
- Protecting the integrity of those parks from incompatible development
Unlike various other proposals, this agreement addresses questions about reforming LWCF without causing major damage to the program’s core conservation mission or the diversity and flexibility of tools available to communities.
LWCF Reauthorized in FY Omnibus Appropriations Bill (12/16/2015)
Thanks to great work by a group of persistent Republican and Democrat Senators and Representatives the Omnibus FY 2016 Appropriations Bill prepared for approval by Congress reauthorizes the Land Water Conservation Fund until September 30, 2018 with the current authorities and potential funding of $900 million annually. While those of us who have worked for years to secure permanent reauthorization of LWCF and guaranteed annual full funding of it are disappointed that Congress will extend it only for three years now, we will have a good start on working with Congressional champions to achieve permanent reauthorization over the next several years.
Congress is scheduled to vote on the Omnibus FY 2016 Appropriations Bill in the next several days.
Many thanks to all of you who contacted your members of Congress time and again urging them to reauthorize LWCF. Please thank them for including this reauthorization in the FY 2016 Appropriations Bill.
Please also thank the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for allocating $450 million for LWCF land acquisition projects for 2016. This funding is $143 million more than Congress has appropriated in each of the past two fiscal years.
Take Action (Updated 12/11/2015)
Congress is still negotiating the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill and has set a new deadline of next Wednesday, December 16th to have the bill ready to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. They will continue negotiating over this weekend. Thanks to all of your good work and that of other advocates across the nation reauthorization of the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is still under consideration to be included in the bill.
We need you to remind the Representatives and Senators you have already contacted and any you have not that LWCF must be reauthorized now — it does not need to be “fixed” or “reformed” — delaying action will, among the various detriments, threaten or deny our ability and our federal agency partners ability to close gaps and protect critical resources along the national scenic and historic trails.
ACT TODAY to remind Congress how vital the LWCF is for our trails and all the other public lands that preserve our natural, historic, and cultural heritage as Americans and provide outdoor recreation so beneficial to our health and the economies of countless communities across the Nation.
LWCF Talking Points – (Source: Land & Water Conservation Fund Coalition)
- Congress continues to debate a broad spending and tax package that will be completed in the coming days, and the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund – including permanent reauthorization and funding – is part of those negotiations!
- Clearly leaders in Congress are starting to hear the LWCF message, but with multiple issues and needs to be addressed in these final days, LWCF supporters in Congress must continue to speak up for LWCF so that it does not get left on the cutting room floor.
- Congress just gave itself a 5 day extension to December 16 to finish its work. Final negotiations are underway now – and LWCF MUST be included in that final legislation!
- LWCF’s authorization should never have lapsed on October 1st of this year, and Congress must take this opportunity to rectify that and protect America’s most important conservation program
- LWCF is one of the most popular, bipartisan programs in Congress and should be renewed without delay
- Ask for Members of Congress: Please reiterate/urge leadership that permanent reauthorization and funding of LWCF is a top priority for you and that it must be a part of the final spending package that will be voted on in Congress in the coming days
LWCF works for American jobs and has broad bipartisan support
- The outdoor recreation industry, governors, mayors, sportsmen, small business owners, conservation leaders, landowners, ranchers, farmers, and millions and millions of Americans are united in the push for permanent reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund because it works. LWCF helps to keep the $646 billion recreation economy alive and serves to protect our National Parks and other public lands from being destroyed.
- LWCF is universally popular and enjoys bipartisan support in Congress as it did from its origins when first envisioned by Eisenhower, advanced by JFK, and signed into law by LBJ. Given the chance, majorities in both the House and the Senate would vote today to reauthorize LWCF. And yet, inexplicably, Congress has allowed the lights to go out on LWCF for the first time in half a century. SUPPORT AMERICAS BEST PARKS PROGRAM – IT PAYS FOR ITSELF AND SUPPORTS JOBS!
Why LWCF must be permanently funded and reauthorized now
- LWCF’s authorization should never have lapsed in the first place, and Congress has an opportunity in these budget negotiations to right that wrong and finally provide the long term certainty that the program needs.
- The current budget climate is unlikely to change anytime soon. With a few staunch opponents of federal land acquisition emboldened by LWCF expiring and not being renewed, backed by those who oppose funding unauthorized programs on ideological grounds, the future of the program looks grim. Since LWCF expired, proposals have been submitted to drastically alter the program by diverting substantial funding to non-conservation purposes and capping successful programs at extremely low funding levels. These proposals cannot be the answer for LWCF!
- As a result of Congress’ inaction on reauthorization, LWCF’s funding will face unprecedented downward pressure in the future, and many important conservation projects will likely be in jeopardy.
- All landowners have the right to see their land conserved if that is their wish, and deserve viable options for keeping working lands in production through easement sales. LWCF is a program that works, with communities clamoring for access to funding through a multi-year process. We must not allow that process to be further handicapped or cut off altogether by letting LWCF expiration to continue.”