Issue Brief: Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Issue

ASLA supports protecting and maintaining funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).  The LWCF program provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The program is intended to create and maintain a nationwide legacy of high quality recreation areas and facilities and to stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and maintenance of recreation resources across the United States.  Landscape architects are often on the LWCF front lines, designing and planning projects that protect our natural resources, our cultural and historic resources, and stimulate local economies in communities across the country.

Background & Analysis 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established by Congress in 1964. The Act designated that a portion of receipts from offshore oil and gas leases be placed into a fund annually for state and local conservation, as well as for the protection of our national treasures, including parks, forest and wildlife areas. LWCF has a broad-based coalition of support, including the Trust for Public Land, National Parks and Recreation Association, The Wilderness Society, and the Land Trust Alliance.

LWCF is authorized at $900 million annually, a level that has been met only twice during the program's 40-year history. The program is divided into two distinct funding pots: state grants and federal acquisition funds.

The "stateside" of LWCF is distributed to all 50 states, DC and the territories by a formula based on population among other factors. State grant funds can be used for park development and for acquisition of lands and easements. State park directors solicit communities to apply for projects and distribute funds to those worthy projects based on a scoring process. Click here for a list of the most recent state-by-state apportionments.

On the federal side, LWCF provides for national park, forest and wildlife refuge and Bureau of Land Management area fee and easement acquisitions. Each year, based on project demands from communities as well as input from the federal land management agencies (NPS, USFS, FWS, BLM), the President makes recommendations to Congress regarding funding for specific LWCF projects.  During congressional consideration, these projects go through a rigorous Appropriations Committee review process with much input from legislators representing project areas. Given the intense competition among projects, funding is generally only provided for those projects with universal support.

LWCF projects significantly contribute to our national economy.  The Outdoor Industry Association estimates that hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, paddling, back country skiing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and other activities contribute a total of $646 billion annually to the economy, supporting 6.1 million jobs (1 of every 20 jobs in the U.S.)

Current Status

Senator Max Baucus (MT) and Senator Richard Burr (NC)  introduced S. 338 The Land and Water Conservation Fund of 2013 which would provide full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at its authorized level of $900 million.  

Currently a bi-partisan group of 26 senators are co-sponsors.

The measure was introduced on February 14, 2013 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources where it is awaiting further action.


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