Land and Water Conservation Fund: Don’t let our access to the out-of-doors disappear

The LWCF is essential to water, land and wildlife. (Photo by Rob Drieslein)

As we speak, a critical decision awaits in Washington D.C. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 is up for renewal, and its future rests on Congress’ ability to get a bill across the finish line. For over 52 years this bi-partisan commitment has protected and enhanced our natural resources and our natural cultural heritage for us all.

The LWCF is derived from royalties collected from off-shore oil and gas drilling leases. The fund uses no taxpayer dollars. From these earnings the fund is used to implement state and federal outdoor recreation goals. Four Federal Agencies receive these funds; the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service and the Forestry Service.

The LWCF has three general purposes:

  • Matching grants for state recreational planning for land and water, outdoor facilities.
  • Principle source funding for land acquisition and outdoor recreation.
  • Funding federal programs by the Forest Service with grants from the Fish & Wildlife Service.

Conserving our natural resources while meeting the present day needs and challenges put upon them is a daunting task for us all. To succeed, all stakeholders, forestry, farming, private landowners, and public users must work together to take on this challenge. We wish to continue the bipartisan collaboration begun over a half century ago with the passage of the original LWCF in 1965.

In every county in Minnesota, the LWCF has been felt – from parks, both city and rural, green spaces for kids to play and recreate outdoors. If there is a trail near you or your favorite route or park, chances are the LWCF helped contribute dollars for it.

The LWCF encourages voluntary conservation partnerships with private landowners to keep working lands working, forests growing, ranching in production. LWCF brings monetary dollars to rural areas. How much? For every dollar invested by the LWCF, four dollars are returned to the local economy.

The LWCF is essential to water, land and wildlife. Whether in a national park keeping our natural history alive or having a wildlife refuge for natural reproduction of fish and wildlife. It has helped protect at-risk species, including pollinators and pheasants, as well as fish and furbearers.

So please take a minute to contact your elected Representative and Senator and seek their bipartisan support as they seek your vote. Let’s not let this valuable fund and our access to the out-of-doors disappear.

(Lance Ness is the president of the Minnesota Conservation Federation.)

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