Fifty years ago President Lyndon Johnson signed the Land and Water Conservation Act into law, creating the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to build and expand public parks and forests. The idea was to get the American people outdoors to recreate and become more physically fit. If national parks are our greatest idea, the LWCF is the bank account that brings the greatest idea to life.
Since 1964 LWCF has funded thousands of projects at the federal, state and municipal levels. In New Hampshire, it has funded state and municipal parks from Coos County to the sea. In fact, through the end of 2018, our state had received a total of $165.4 million in LWCF funds since the program’s establishment. LWCF has funded major additions to the White Mountain National Forest and the establishment of the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge. It has funded Forest Legacy projects, placing permanent conservation easements on privately owned forest lands, like the 146,100 acre Connecticut Headwaters conservation easement in Coos County, and the Moose Mountains Reservation (owned by the Forest Society) in Middleton and Brookfield.
The major funding source for LWCF is revenue the federal government receives from offshore oil and gas leases to private energy developers. The idea is to invest dollars received from the depletion of natural resources under the sea into the permanent conservation of natural resources on the terrestrial United States. Congress has created a dedicated fund for LWCF, directing that the first $900 million received each year in lease revenues from the Outer Continent Shelf (OCS) leasing program be directed to LWCF. Unfortunately, Congress has rarely appropriated the full $900 million authorized each year. In fact, LWCF has been fully funded only two times in the program’s entire history.
In contrast, the members of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation have all been active champions. In 2019, Senators Shaheen and Hassan and Cong. Kuster and Cong. Pappas supported and voted for s. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. The most significant outcome from this comprehensive public lands legislation was the permanent authorization of the LWCF.
The overwhelming bipartisan support for S. 47 demonstrates that the long-term protection of the country’s landscapes and unique natural areas is a shared goal. It reflects how outdoor businesses and recreationists, people who hunt, veterans, conservationists, parks advocates, ranchers and working forest organizations like the Forest Society all value the deep benefits land conservation brings to communities across the country.
The next goal for LWCF advocates is to ensure Congress fully funds the LWCF to its maximum authorization level of $900 million a year. Again, New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation is pushing to achieve this goal. They all are co-sponsors of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act (S.1081/ H.R.3195) which, if signed into law, would guarantee the $900 million in annual funding.
The Forest Society strongly support S. 1081, and believes legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle must finish the job now by enacting the bill and sending it to the President for his signature.
We want to thank our federal elected officials for their leadership in support of LWCF. Their actions have strengthened the commitment made in 1965 to safeguard our natural areas and cultural heritage.
Contact members of our Congressional delegation. Thank each for their continued support for LWCF. Let them know you also support S.1081/ H.R.3195 and ask them to work with Congressional leadership on scheduling a floor vote for this legislation in both houses of Congress as soon as possible.
The Forest Society is part of the national LWCF Coalition. Together with our partners from across the country, we strongly support the permanent reauthorization of LWCF’s dedicated funding sources from OCS lease revenues. We also strongly support the full annual funding of LWCF at $900 million a year.
A Vision for America’s Forests – speech by US Secretary of Agriculture, August 9, 2010