Land and Water

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

Nature's Beacon Monthly Insight

The Land and Water Conservation Fund Revisited

Photo credit-Local Andy Massel

2019 HR 3195 & SB1081 named the LWCF Permanent Funding Act

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) authorization passed as part of a larger bill this past winter. Currently, there is a push to pass the above-mentioned act for permanent funding. There are differing opinions on this, so a closer objective look is warranted.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Act of 1965 was enacted to help preserve, develop, and ensure access to outdoor recreation resources. A main goal was to increase access and participation in recreation.

It is authorized up to $900 million per year, subject to appropriations. This is a real source of concern for those who support the current structure of the LWCF who worry that the act’s effectiveness is withered away in appropriations. Thus, their ask for the newly created bills for permanent funding.

Historically this has been directed toward three purposes.

Land acquisition by Federal Land Management Agencies for recreation

Grants to states for recreation purposes

Other purposes

A couple of stipulations in the 2019 re-authorization package include a requirement that no less than 40% go toward acquisition and 40% to state grants.

This raises real concern from groups such as the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) who wonder why this act does not provide the flexibility to address the roughly $19 Billion maintenance backlog on Federal Lands.

This does have some logic to it as if we are unable to provide proper and well-funded care to our current resources, why expand funding for more land acquisition.

Also, the funding source could arguably be at risk as more environmental groups oppose the funding source activity which is in this case, Oil and Gas revenues from the Outer Continental Shelf. That is a risk to the program’s health and sustainability.

Reform coupled with additional funding buy-in could be trans-formative both for access and for the preservation called for in the LWCF. The % allocation toward Federal Land Acquisition could be whittled down to allow for only those parcels that are essential for access for those on the lower economic spectrum for instance.

The state grant program could be reduced to those projects that serve to truly reach more people in the spirit of increased recreational access. Maintenance of state and local municipal recreational assets can be funded at the source and not from federal funds.

I will continue to explore this issue and will have an update prior to the 2020 congressional session. While I would like to see it permanently funded, a much larger % of the funds should go toward maintenance of our existing natural recreation infrastructure.

Even if this were to occur, funding will remain an issue to contend with as this only is the tip of the iceberg that our land and water requires for health and economy.

Let your representatives know that you would like more capital directed toward the maintenance backlog on our public land.

Senate Representatives and Contact Information

Senator Cory Gardner

303-391-5777 Denver Office

Senator Michael Bennet

303-455-7600 Denver Office

Summit County is in District 2 represented by Congressman Joe Neguse. His Boulder office # is 303-335-1045.

Please use this link to find your representative by zip code.


Tom Koehler-Sustainable Hiker

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As a Summit County, Colorado Local Tom Koehler, founder of Sustainable Hiker, is passionate about driving people toward solutions for the health of our forests and waters. After many years of success in the capital markets that include stints as Director of Research for a wealth management company and Managing Director on a bond desk at a D.C. bank, Tom recognizes the true crisis that we are in with our forests and waterways and wants to foster a community that participates in its healing through traditional and non-traditional means. 


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