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Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. These federal funds are generated from royalties from offshore oil and gas drilled on the Outer Continental Shelf. Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. Over the years, much of the money has been diverted by Congress to other uses.
The Administration's 2018 budget proposal would dramatically reduce the land and easement acquisition funds from the LWCF by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the LWCF programs of the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The president wants to cut $120 million, calling these "lower priority activities."
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, there is actually bipartisan support to protect the LWCF. Congressman Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) introduced H.R.502 on Jan. 12 to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The bill has 130 co-sponsors. On the Senate side, Maria Cantwell (D-WA) has introduced S.569, the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act.
Watch OE and the legislative database for information on the progress and fate of this important legislation.
Congress will need to authorize the LWCF before the end of next year, giving lawmakers the chance to reform, expand or make the program permanent.