LEAF interns Keon Flavius, Raymond Rodriguez and Sky Strang enjoy a day rafting down the Colorado River.
Colorado River LEAF interns Keon Flavius, Raymond Rodriguez and Sky Strang enjoy a day rafting down the Colorado River. © Erika Nortemann/The Nature Conservancy

Mark Tercek

LWCF: A Win for Conservation and Our Economy, but Only if Congress Acts

Chief Executive Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Mark Tercek is Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy, the global conservation organization known for its intense focus on collaboration and getting things done for the benefit of people and nature. He is the author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

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In less than 30 days, the United States stands to lose one of its great conservation tools, one that protects important outdoor spaces, supports local economies and comes at no cost to the American taxpayer.

For over half a century, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has balanced the use of one natural resource—oil and gas—with the conservation of another by using a portion of drilling revenues to conserve important land and water resources.

This fund has helped save everything from iconic park landscapes to urban community spaces and state recreation areas, but come September 30th, it will expire unless Congress acts.

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Ultimately, LWCF is about preserving the best of America, protecting our landscapes, our wildlife and ways of life tied to lands and waters.

It helps ensure important recreational access for hunting and fishing; keeps working farms and ranches working; creates urban parks and trails; and preserves historic battlefields and cultural sites. 

Self portrait of photographer Ian Shive on assignment, Black Bayou Lake, part of the National Wildlife Refuge and Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior.
Monroe, Louisiana Self portrait of photographer Ian Shive on assignment, Black Bayou Lake, part of the National Wildlife Refuge and Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of the Interior. © Ian Shive

Just last year, the entrance to Grand Teton was for sale and without LWCF, that critical land would have been lost to potential development. In Montana, LWCF funds provided some of the best access for hunting and fishing in this country by protecting privately owned “checkerboard” lands dispersed throughout the boundaries of national forests.

Economically, LWCF helps create jobs and increase tourism, contributing billions of dollars to the U.S. economy every year.  In fact, LWCF and the access to public lands it provides to all Americans are a critical underpinning of this country’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy.

All those benefits come without using a single tax dollar. LWCF is authorized to receive a small percentage of offshore oil and gas revenues—up to $900 million per year.

Despite this authorized amount, most of these funds have historically been diverted elsewhere, even as drilling revenues bring in $6 billion or more each year.

Recreational biking on the established mountain bike trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Brainerd in Crow Wing County, Minnesota.
Cuyuna Country Recreation Area Recreational biking on the established mountain bike trails in the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area near Brainerd in Crow Wing County, Minnesota. © Mark Godfrey/The Nature Conservancy

To ensure LWCF continues its half century of success, Congress needs to not only permanently reauthorize the program, but ensure it gets the full funding it’s due.

There is a long tradition of bipartisan support from lawmakers who see the importance of dedicated funding to make strategic investments in America’s irreplaceable natural, historic and recreational outdoor areas.

Earlier this summer, I stood with a large group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers outside the U.S. Capitol to call on Congress to renew LWCF before time runs out. As we enter the legislation’s final days, it’s more important than ever for that bipartisan tradition of support to continue.

From the Alaskan tundra to rolling Midwestern grasslands to the Gulf of Mexico, the lands and waters of the United States capture our imaginations and inspire us. LWCF is critical to protecting those spaces. It is too important to continue leaving its future in doubt. Now is the time to save LWCF. 

Chief Executive Officer, The Nature Conservancy

Mark Tercek is Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy, the global conservation organization known for its intense focus on collaboration and getting things done for the benefit of people and nature. He is the author of the Washington Post and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling book Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.

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