The Land and Water Conservation Fund
What is it?
Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in 1964 “to protect and enhance our nation’s incomparable array of natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities.” As America’s most essential federal conservation program, LWCF has protected our national and state parks, wildlife refuges and forests; forests and ranches; cultural resources and historic sites; urban parks, backcountry hunting and fishing access; essential water resources, iconic scenery, and a broad array of irreplaceable natural resources. It has done all of these things via funding generated by off-shore oil and gas royalties rather than general taxes.
Yet, for all of these accomplishments, Congress recently let LWCF expire. Is this is a big deal? The answer is yes and no.
Why is LWCF Important to Tennessee and Tennesseans?
LWCF has impacted millions of Americans in Tennessee alone, not to mention the entire country. Areas funded by LWCF include Rocky Fork, the Obed Wild and Scenic River, the Cherokee National Forest, Big South Fork National Recreation Area, Chickamauga National Military Park, Chickasaw National Wildlife Refuge, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Lower Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Moccasin Bend, Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, Shiloh National Military Park, Stones River National Battlefield, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Get the picture?
The program has provided more than $81 million towards these projects, some of the most iconic natural areas certainly in Tennessee and arguably, in the country.
But that’s not all. In Tennessee, LWCF has also contributed another $73 million in grants to protect state and local parks and recreation resources. From building hiking and biking trails, to improving community parks, playgrounds and ballfields, this 50:50 matching program is the primary federal investment tool to ensure that families have easy access to public, open spaces.
Lastly, LWCF is responsible for an additional $29 million in funding for the Forest Legacy program which protects working forests from being converted to a non-forest land use.
All total, in 50 years, LWCF has invested a staggering $189 million to help Tennesseans conserve our state’s tremendous natural resources.
Read the entirety of CEO Mike Butler’s article about LWCF HERE.