The Land and Water Conservation Fund
Healthy land. Clean water. Recreational opportunities. Vibrant working landscapes. Support full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The Nature Conservancy supports protecting America’s land and water through full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). TNC seeks to reconnect Americans to nature by restoring critical large landscapes such as the Everglades and Flint Hills Conservation Areas.
Funding for LWCF is provided by revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling and directed toward multiple public benefits:
- Important recreational access for hunting and fishing.
- Natural areas that sustain clean water and provide other community benefits.
- Working farms and ranches.
- National parks and forests.
- Neighborhood parks and trails.
- Historic battlefields and cultural sites.
- Fish and wildlife refuges.
Overview of the Fund
LWCF’s goal is to balance the extraction of oil and gas resources with conservation by using a portion of drilling fees to protect important land and water resources.
The program is authorized to receive a small percentage of offshore oil and gas revenues—up to $900 million per year—but most of these funds have been diverted elsewhere. With 50 acres of farm and ranch land lost to development every hour in the United States, according to American Farmland Trust, it is critical to ensure funding for LWCF for the next generation of conservation.
Recent Progress on LWCF
LWCF enjoys broad, bipartisan support in the House and Senate. In February 2019, the House and Senate voted with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities to approve a public lands package that included permanent reauthorization of LWCF, putting an end to the cycle of expiration and renewal that LWCF repeatedly found itself in throughout its 54-year history.
While an important win for conservation, there is still work to do on LWCF. Senators should join S.1081 led by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo. House members should join the companion bill, H.R. 3195, led by Reps. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa. TNC asks lawmakers to work together to find a permanent funding solution for LWCF.
Conservation = Economic Gains
Sustained investment in LWCF will stimulate the economy, create jobs and protect U.S. infrastructure. LWCF makes substantial contributions by strategically securing the economic assets that federal, state and local public lands represent.
- Outdoor recreation drives $887 billion in consumer spending and supports 7.6 million U.S. jobs annually, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. (See table below.) It brings $125 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue.
- Public lands and waters help drive the outdoor recreation economy. National parks, national wildlife refuges, national monuments and other public lands and waters account for $45 billion in economic output and about 396,000 jobs nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.
- Home property values near parks and protected areas are often 20% higher than similar properties elsewhere.
- Visitor-driven business stimulates the economy in local communities surrounding national parks and other public lands. For example, more than 5,000 outfitters and guiding companies benefit from proximity and access to national forests.
- Protecting water sources through watershed, forest and wetland conservation is often a cost-effective way to ensure clean and adequate water supplies.
- The “value of ecosystem services provided by natural habitat in the 48 contiguous United States amount to about $1.6 trillion annually, which is equivalent to more than 10% of the U.S. GDP,” according to a 2011 report for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.