Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of the 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The fund uses revenues from the depletion of one natural resource – offshore oil and gas – to support the conservation of another precious resource – the nation’s land and water. Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund. The money is intended to create and protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.
Yet, nearly every year, Congress breaks its own promise to the American people and diverts much of this funding to uses other than conserving our most important lands and waters.
As a result, there is a substantial backlog of federal land acquisition needs estimated at more than $30 billion—including places vulnerable to development such as the Florida Everglades, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, Civil War battlefields in Virginia, and other precious places around the country. State governments also report needing $27 billion in LWCF funds for eligible local parks and recreation projects.