Land and Water Conservation Fund Receives Attention it Deserves

When the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) was signed into law last summer, it was deemed the most important piece of conservation legislation in nearly 100 years. A major component of the GAOA, was fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Unfortunately, not much has happened in regards to implementation since the act’s passage. Now it looks like action is about to begin. 

The LWCF has benefited every single county in the country. It’s one of the most successful and influential conservation programs in our nation’s history. When the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) passed, it fully funded the LWCF at $900 million annually. Of which, $15 million must be spent annually to increase public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other forms of outdoor recreation. 

On February 11, 2021, the United States Department of Interior announced it was implementing Secretarial Order 3396, which rescinds a previous administration order that put compliance conditions on state funding for the acquisition of land, water and other interests of conservation concern. With the inhibition of funding lifted, the $900 million annual allotment for LWCF practices can finally be used as the GAOA intended, which is to strengthen access to public lands and waters.  

In a press release issued by the Interior, Shannon A. Estenoz, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Fish and Wildlife and Parks said, “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been crucial to protecting public lands, conserving wildlife habitats and improving access to outdoor recreation. Interior’s actions today affirm our support for one of America’s most successful and popular conservation programs. We look forward to further strengthening this successful program to ensure that all communities – from hikers and sportsmen to urban and underserved communities – have access to nature and the great outdoors.”

The LWCF was created by an act of congress in 1965, with the support of President Lyndon Johnson. Since its inception, the LWCF has been the most important piece of conservation legislation we have in America to provide funding for public access to lands and waters of our nation for hunting, fishing, camping, paddling, hiking, bird watching and more. With the prior administration’s restrictions lifted, we Americans can finally realize the full benefit of the fund. 

Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership said, “We are pleased the Department is doing away with rules that could have crippled getting these critical dollars to the ground. Sportsmen and sportswomen want to ensure that the LWCF is working to increase public access to outdoor recreation opportunities and conserve important habitats. This is going to require investments in agency capacity, prioritization of areas with recreational value, and coordination between federal, state, and private partners. We appreciate that hunters and anglers are being heard in this process.”

For more than half a century, across times of both republican and democratic control, the LWCF has benefited all Americans. But not until today, has the fund been cleared to be fully exercised. Now the LWCF is about to realize its maximum potential. If care about your birthright as an American and value our unique system of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands and waters, then you should feel a great sense of pride. 

The LWCF ensures, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “those still in the womb of time,” are able to realize the great gift of public lands and waters across these United States.  

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler

Pic: The Department of Interior has announced plans to realize the Great American Outdoors Act’s full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

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