Issue Brief: Land and Water Conservation Fund


ASLA supports the permanent authorization of 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 the country’s recreation resources. Landscape architects access LWCF funds to plan and design community parks and recreational facilities across the nation.


Congress established 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 such as parks, forest, and wildlife areas. LWCF has broad support from a host of organizations that ASLA has joined with to form the LWCF Coalition, including the Trust for Public Land (TPL), National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), The Wilderness Society, and the Land Trust Alliance.

While LWCF is authorized at $900 million annually, this level of funding has been met only twice during the program's more than 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.

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 input from legislators representing project areas. Given the intense competition among projects, funding is generally only provided for those projects with universal support.

LWCF does not use taxpayer dollars, but is funded using a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas royalty payments. Outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, paddling, back country skiing, mountain biking, wildlife viewing, and other activities contribute a total of $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy supporting more than 7.6 million jobs.

Bill Summary

Despite bipartisan support and a majority of Senators and Representatives sponsoring language permanently authorizing LWCF, this program expired on September 30, 2018. An attempt to reauthorize LWCF in December 2018 was thwarted in the Senate when time expired for the 115th Congress.

On January 9, 2019, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Senator Maria Cantwell (WA) introduced S.47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, more commonly known as the public lands package. This legislation not only permanently authorizes LWCF, but also includes over 100 other bills creating and protecting over 1.3 million acres of public land.

Recent Action

On March 12, 2019, S. 47 was signed into law as Public Law No: 116-9.


S.47. Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Maria Cantwell (WA) and cosponsors.  


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

Elizabeth Hebron,
Director of State
Government Affairs