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 level. In New Hampshire it has funded state and municipal parks from Coos County to the sea. 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 contrast, the members of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation have all been active champions. In response to the Administration’s proposal to cut the program’s funding for Fiscal Year 2019, Reps. Ann Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter have signed onto a bi-partisan letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior urging robust funding for the LWCF for 2019. Both members are also co-sponsors of H.B.502 which permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen has consistently pushed for increased funding for the LWCF as well as its permanent reauthorization. She led a bi-partisan letter in the Senate urging the Senate Appropriation Committee to give strong support in FY 19 budget. She is also cosponsoring two bills in the U.S. Senate (S. 569 and S. 896) that would make permanent the authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Sen. Maggie Hassan has also demonstrated that the future of the program is a top priority for her by also sponsoring S. 569 as well as by urging strong funding for the LWCF.
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.
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 full annual funding of LWCF at $900 million a year. Click here to read a letter from SPNHF President/Forester Jane Difley to Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke asking Sec. Zinke to reconsider the Administration’s current position on the program.
Right now, the program is facing a critical point. Without action from Congress, its authorization will expire on September 30, 2018. If that happens, the program will, in effect, cease to exist. It faced a similar deadline in 2015 until Congress approved a short-term 3-year reauthorization. The goal this year is to stabilize the LWCF for the long-term so that future generations have access to healthy green spaces, parks, trails, and places to watch wildlife.
A Vision for America’s Forests – speech by US Secretary of Agriculture, August 9, 2010