Issue Brief: Land and Water Conservation Fund


ASLA supports protecting and preserving 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’s goals are 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 access LWCF to plan and design community parks and recreational facilities across the nation. 

Background & Analysis 

Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) 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 broad support from a coalition of organizations, including the Trust for Public Land, National Recreation and Park 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 50-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, the District of Columbia, 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

In January 2017, Congressmen Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ) and Patrick Meehan (PA) introduced H.R. 502, a bill to permanently reauthorize LWCF in the House of Representatives.  In April 2017, Senator Richard Burr (NC) introduced S. 896, companion legislation in the U. S. Senate.  Both measures have been referred to committee where they are awaiting further action.


H.R. 502, Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ) and Patrick Meehan (PA) and cosponsors

S.896, Senator Richard Burr (NC) and cosponsors.

S.569, Senators Maria Cantwell (WA) and Richard Burr (NC) and cosponsors.


On December 15, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate agreed to an omnibus budget deal (H.R. 2029, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016) that provides funding for all government operations and programs through fiscal year (FY) 2016. The measure also reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for three years through September 2018 and provides $450 million in funding for 2016, an increase of about $144 million over 2015 spending levels.  Under the deal, funding for state and local projects was also increased to $213.1 million, with $110 million going directly to the State and Local Assistance Program (stateside), $10 million to the American Battlefield Protection Program, about $30 million to Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund, and $62 million to the Forest Legacy Program. President Barack Obama signed the omnibus spending bill into law on December 18, 2015.


H.R. 502, to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
S. 569, to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
LWCF Talking Points 
Land and Water Conservation Fund Home (National Park Service) 
LWCF Coalition - LWCF in Your State 
LWCF Coalition Report – LWCF 50th Anniversary Report 
City Parks Alliance Report – LWCF Economic Impact Report 
Outdoor Industry Association Report - The Outdoor Recreation Economy


LWCF Coalition 
National Recreation and Park Association 
Trust for Public Land 
The Wilderness Society


ASLA Public Policies

Open Space
Urban Growth and Development
Human Health and Well-Being
Livable Communities
Environmental Justice
Environmental Sustainability  



Roxanne Blackwell, 
Esq., Hon. ASLA,
Director of Federal
Government Affairs

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs