Land & Water Conservation Fund on Track for Full Funding After Five Decades of Battle

Image Credit: Brett Cole

WASHINGTON, DC (July 22, 2020)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) and the conservation community today celebrated historic legislative action that will, for the first time, permanently and fully fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is the nation’s most important and effective tool in funding land and clean water protection projects. Funding for the LWCF is contained in the Great American Outdoors Act, which achieved final legislative approval today, when the measure passed the House of Representatives in a vote of 310-107. The bill passed the U.S. Senate in June and now awaits presidential approval.

Passage of the measure follows five decades of hard-fought battles, led by the OSI-supported Outdoor America Campaign, to achieve annual full and permanent financial commitment for LWCF, which is funded through revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments. Under the newly passed legislation, $900 million will be allocated each year to protect America’s natural, recreational and cultural resources, including fresh air, clean water, and scenic landscapes.

Since the inception of the LWCF in 1965, Congress has undergone an annual LWCF appropriations process, to determine funding for federal projects and dollars that go to the state grant programs. Only twice in the history of the LWCF has it received full funding.

“Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a monumental victory for the preservation and protection of our nation’s most precious natural resources and treasures,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “It is impossible to overstate how critical this measure is for the long term health of our nation’s water sources, forests, and parkland. We salute the members of the House and Senators who fought for and voted in support of the bill, making this multi-decade goal a reality.”

In addition to fully funding the LWCF, the Great American Outdoors Act also establishes a National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will go toward backlogged maintenance projects in the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Education.

Since 2009, OSI has operated the Outdoors America Campaign (OAC) to bring greater capacity, cohesion, and a broader lens to build support for consistent, dedicated federal revenue for the LWCF. The OAC educates decision-makers and the public about the benefits of preserving open space and the vital role of federal funding in land acquisition.

The LWCF is America’s most important conservation program, responsible for protecting parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas at the federal, state and local levels. For over 55 years, it has provided critical funding for land and water conservation projects, recreational construction and activities and the continued historic preservation our nation’s iconic landmarks from coast-to-coast.

Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation activities contribute $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 7.6 million jobs.

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