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Land and Water Conservation Fund Remains Grossly Underfunded


Before Congress left Washington for a seven-week "recess" (Where's my recess?, you might be asking.) the House passed the fiscal year (FY) 2017 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies spending bill (H.R. 5532). The bill increased (FY) 2017 funding for the National Park Service (NPS) and NPS Centennial events (yes, NPS is 100 years old this year).

The House allotted $2.9 billion for NPS activities and programs, the major chunk ($2.435 billion) going for management, operation and maintenance of areas and facilities and general administration. That's an increase of $39 million from FY 2016.

The legislation, however, made significant cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), among other environmental programs. The allotment for LWCF is $145.8 million for federal land acquisition ($88.4 million less than FY 2016); and $80 million for state assistance ($30 million less than FY 2016).

LWCF was founded in 1965 to protect our land, water and recreation areas. LWCF is the main funding source to purchase land for national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal areas. The program has added millions of acres to our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, scenic trails and scenic river corridors. What you may not know is that LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars. Its annual funding derives from a small percentage of federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) oil and gas leasing revenues. In FY 2013, for example, the Department of the Interior collected about $9 billion in OCS leasing revenue, but only $305 million went towards LWCF and the programs LWCF funds. That is only a 3.39% piece of the offshore leasing revenue pie.

*Congress originally authorized $900 million annually for LWCF, but that funding has only been met twice in half a century.

As seen in LASN magazine, October 2016.

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July 22, 2019, 10:03 am PDT

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