Late this afternoon, the U.S. Senate vote 92-8 in favor of permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). It expired in October 2018.
Per its website, LWCF “provides money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands for the the benefit of all Americans.” Moreover, lands acquired by the program permit recreational opportunities, provide clean water, conserve wildlife habitat, bolster scenic vistas, protect archaeological and historical sites, and ensure pristine nature of wilderness areas are maintained.
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) said while the program was significant, it had run its course and drifted from its mission. Other Republicans had similar reservations too about land grabs.
Lee’s thoughts on permanent reauthorization of LWCF—particularly his concerns about more government land grabs—were laid out like this back in August:
…the fund has unfortunately drifted far from its original intent and is in desperate need of reform.
The fund was set up to be the principal source of money for federal land acquisition, and to assists states in developing recreational planning and facilities. Originally, the LWCF directed 60% of its funds to be appropriated for state purposes and 40% for federal purposes. However, in 1976 the law was amended to remove the 60% state provision, stating that “not less than 40%” must be used for federal purposes.
The result? About 61% of this money has historically been spent on federal land acquisition, while only 25% has been allocated to state grants. The LWCF has thus added an additional 5 million acres of land to the federal government’s vast estate.
The federal program was created in 1965 by Congress. It takes no taxpayer funding and uses offshore oil and gas royalties paid by companies to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
Here’s more on the program:
Using offshore energy revenues to provide more access to public lands is something the vast majority of Americans want. Lack of access is the number one reason hunters stop hunting. Trails remain unconnected. Forests as well as historic battlefields are being lost to suburban sprawl at an alarming rate. LWCF investments made every year in every part of the country are the answer to these issues, but they require certainty and consistency. Securing permanent funding and reauthorization for LWCF is one sure way we can work together to get good things done for everyone across the country.
LWCF awaits a vote in the House of Representatives. The Resurgent will continue to monitor updates on the program as they come.