One of the provisions tucked away in the Senate bill is $700 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for 2013 and 2014. That provision, whether it’s part of a transportation bill or some other piece of legislation, should be enacted into law.
The LWCF was established in 1965 to acquire open space for a growing nation and to develop recreation projects that fit with local priorities. Not a penny of taxes goes into the fund. Instead, LWCF revenues totaling $900 million per year come from royalties paid by oil and gas companies producing in federal offshore waters.
The problem is Congress has seldom used all the funds for their promised purposes.
That’s unfortunate because in spite of the shortchanging, LWCF has still accomplished a great deal for America. There are two parts of the program, a federal side and a state side.
Since 1965, the federal side has paid for acquiring more than 5 million acres of open space with high conservation value. These acquisitions have benefited such treasured national parks as Grand Canyon, Everglades, Great Smoky Mountains, and Mount Rainier.
The state side has financed nearly 41,000 open space and recreation projects that fit with local priorities in all 50 states. Recreation projects improve quality of life and strengthen local economies. Fishing, for example, supports more than half a million jobs and generates more than $60 billion per year in economic value.
By protecting our outdoor heritage and developing recreation needed by our growing population, LWCF provides great value to all Americans. Congress should keep its promise and use money in the Land and Water Conservation Fund for its intended purposes.