Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced nearly $95 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will be distributed to conservation-related projects across all 50 U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia.
LWCF is funded by a portion of the fees collected from offshore oil and gas lease revenues. The $95 million in new funding will be used to carry out projects supported by local communities that create jobs, boost economies and increase opportunities for outdoor recreation, Interior highlights in a news release.
The news comes during National Park Week (April 16-24) and as Secretary Jewell prepares to deliver a major speech on the Obama Administration’s approach to conservation and the need for a change in course in order to assure the health and integrity of public lands, water and wildlife.
Outsized returns from LWCF investments
Created in 1965, the National Park Service has distributed more than $4 billion in LWCF funds and leveraged more than $8 billion more in matching local public and private capital to finance more than 43,000 projects. The projects took place in communities near national parks in order to expand outdoor recreational facilities and outdoor experiences open to all, Director Jonathan B. Jarvis explained.
A recent analysis of LWCF found that every $1 invested in land acquisition yielded a return of $4 for local communities. A full list of the projects being funded by the new $95 million capital infusion is available on the Department of Interior’s website.
LWCF was created in order to ensure that present and future generations have access to outdoor recreational resources, as well as to fund purchases of land, water and wetlands for public benefit by federal agencies, state and local governments.
LWCF capital is also used to provide public access to rivers, lakes and other waterways and perpetual conservation of areas for outdoor recreational use. Past projects have ranged from enhancing soccer fields and urban parks to state wildlife management areas areas.
A political football
On September 30, 2015 Congress allowed LWCF to expire for several months before approving a three-year renewal as part of the fiscal year 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Fiscal uncertainty has added pressure and disabled federal, state and local conservation efforts, Interior states.
Congress has approved full LWCF appropriation of $900 million just once in the past 50 years, Interior notes. President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget request to Congress includes a legislative proposal that would establish mandatory funding for LWCF programs and full annual appropriations.
“This highly successful national program has set aside local green spaces, built neighborhood baseball fields and boat docks, preserved some of our most hallowed grounds, and provided funding to construct and maintain trails and access points for many of our public lands and waters,” Secretary Jewell said.
“While Congress temporarily reauthorized the successful 50-year program, President Obama and his Administration have asked for full, dedicated funding and permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, investing a small portion of revenue from oil and gas extraction back into our lands and waters for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans, now and for future generations.”
The National Park Service has waived national park entrance fees for National Park Week. Enjoy!
*Image credits: 1, 3) National Parks Service; 2) David J Laporte, courtesy flickr