For over fifty years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been one of our most important conservation programs. In the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt’s conservation legacy, President Lyndon B. Johnson created the LWCF, which provides financial support for protecting and preserving millions of acres of public lands, purchasing new lands, wildlife conservation, historic military battlefield preservation, stewardship of private lands, and a wide array of outdoor recreational opportunities. The LWCF also contributes matching grants to state and tribal governments which add even more public access opportunities and improvements to local ecosystems. Hunters and anglers in particular benefit from the Land and Water Conservation Fund but it also adds financial support to historically significant places such as Gettysburg National Military Park.
It has done all of this with bipartisan support and without costing taxpayers a dime for decades. The LWCF is funded primarily through offshore oil royalties. In short, the Land and Water Conservation Fund benefits everyone without any negative side effects. While it is budgeted at $900 million per year, it’s been fully funded only twice in fifty years due to money being continually redirected into other projects by Congress. The current federal budget proposal includes an 84% cut to the LWCF. This lack of funding has created a financial backlog which has stalled the LWCF’s ability to do what is it was intended to do.
Photo from wilderness.org
And now the Land and Water Conservation Fund is in real danger of expiring altogether. If Congress does not approve the reauthorization of the LWCF, the program will be ended on September 30, 2018. If this happens, it will be a serious blow for hunters and anglers. Conservation and access would suffer greatly without the backing of the LWCF. But all American citizens who value all types of outdoor recreation in national parks, forests, refuges, and even local open spaces and trail systems across the country will also see diminished opportunities.
Not only should the Land and Water Conservation Fund be reauthorized, it should be fully funded. Much of our hunting and fishing heritage was possible because of the program and our future depends on it. The expiration of the Land and Water Fund is an unacceptable outcome but saving it will require action the part of hunters and anglers. Support organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership which advocate for the renewal of the LWCF. We must also call and write our representatives and senators to voice our support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Take action now so we don’t lose later.
Brody Henderson and the MeatEater Crew