Gaithersburg, MD – The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been a driving force for conservation and outdoor recreation for over 50 years. The Izaak Walton League of America applauds Senate passage today of the Great American Outdoors Act, which fully and permanently funds LWCF and addresses critical infrastructure maintenance backlogs on public lands across America.
“The Izaak Walton League played a pivotal role in creating the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964. But for too long, LWCF has been handicapped by unpredictable and insufficient funding, leading to decades of missed opportunities for conservation, public lands, and outdoor recreation,” says League Conservation Director Jared Mott. “Despite these limitations, LWCF has become our nation’s most successful conservation program and our best tool for securing access to outdoor recreation for all Americans. The League commends the Senate for finally securing that legacy forever.”
Momentum for fully funding LWCF now shifts to the House of Representatives. A bipartisan companion bill to the Great American Outdoors Act has been introduced by Representatives Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, Mike Simpson of Idaho, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, and Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania. The League calls on House leadership to move this important legislation quickly so that it can be signed into law before the end of the year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is providing yet another example of the importance of our public lands as more Americans than ever have sought solace through fishing, hunting, hiking, camping, and other outdoor recreation,” says Mott.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the primary mechanism through which local, state, and federal agencies acquire and consolidate land for public use and benefit, including for outdoor recreation and to conserve natural resources. LWCF is funded through royalties from federal offshore leases of publicly owned oil and gas. Under federal law, LWCF can distribute up to $900 million annually for conservation to indirectly offset the impacts of the offshore oil and gas operations. However, the program has typically been appropriated amounts significantly less than its fully authorized $900 million. By providing full, permanent funding, the Senate has recognized the extraordinary value that comes from the conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities generated by the Fund and that those benefits should be permanent.
In addition to fully funding LWCF in perpetuity, the Great American Outdoors Act establishes the National Parks and Public Lands Legacy Fund, which would direct up to $9.5 billion in unobligated mineral receipts over five years to address priority repairs in national parks and on other public lands. The National Park Service would receive 70 percent of Fund proceeds; the U.S. Forest Service would receive 15 percent; and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Indian Education schools would each receive 5 percent.
Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America’s outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.