Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was enacted in 1964. It supports preservation, development, and access to outdoor lands for public recreation. The LWCF is funded by revenue from offshore oil and gas leases.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund provides competitive grants to states for local preservation and recreation projects, along with a federal portion to acquire lands and waters for public recreation or cultural preservation.
The LWCF funds landscape conservation, outdoor recreation, and the needs of local communities, including:
- access to outdoors
- national trails
- working lands (e.g. private working farms, forests, and ranches)
- historic or cultural sites
- urban parks
- wildlife habitat
Authorization and funding
The LWCF was authorized
Lawmakers have introduced bills in both the House and the Senate to permanently authorize the fund.
The fund doesn’t receive any tax revenue, but is instead funded largely by offshore oil and gas revenue. ONRR
The LWCF is authorized to receive and distribute $900 million each year, but the fund is subject to congressional budget appropriations. Actual annual appropriations to the fund have met the authorized threshold only twice (1998, 2001), while appropriations have been limited to between $255 million and $450 million since 2008.
Distribution of funds
Most of the funds from the LWCF are distributed to support two general purposes:
- federal acquisition of land for the benefit of the public
- grants to states for recreational planning, acquiring recreational lands, or developing outdoor recreational facilities
A portion of funds also supports:
- American Battlefield Protection Program, sponsoring the preservation of historic battlefields
- Forest Legacy Program, a Forest Service program to encourage the protection of privately owned forest lands
- Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, a Fish and Wildlife Service program that provides funding to states and territories for species and habitat conservation on non-federal lands
Every year during the budget process, Congress determines the total appropriation from the fund to support each of these purposes.
Federal land acquisition
Federal land management agencies include the Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
During the annual budget process, these agencies can submit proposals to acquire lands or waters with LWCF funds. LWCF funds for land acquisition can be carried over from fiscal year to fiscal year until expended.
Review land acquisition reports and data.
State and local grant funding
Administered by the National Park Service, the stateside program of the LWCF provides matching grants to states for planning, acquiring lands and waters, and developing facilities for outdoor recreation. LWCF funds are limited to 50% or less of a proposed project’s total cost; the rest must come from other funds.
A formula in the Land and Water Conservation Act determines how the funds are apportioned to states (See 54 U.S.C. §200305(b)). States must use the money for its intended purpose within three years.
Review state and local grant funding status.
The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006 specifies 12.5% of revenues from certain gulf leases be directed to the LWCF stateside program. States can receive up to $125 million in funding. This portion of LWCF funds is not subject to congressional appropriation, and states can roll it over beyond the three-year limit of other LWCF state grants.