Since 1964 The Land and Water Conservation Fund has helped conserve thousands of acres across the United States.


Created by Congress in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was a bipartisan commitment to safeguard natural areas, water resources and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks like Rocky Mountain, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Smoky Mountains, as well as national wildlife refuges, national forests, rivers and lakes, community parks, trails, and ball fields in every one of our 50 states were set aside for Americans to enjoy thanks to federal funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

It was a simple idea: use revenues from the depletion of one natural resource - offshore oil and gas - to support the conservation of another precious resource - our land and water. Every year, $900 million in royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) are put into this fund. The money is intended to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.  Over the years, LWCF has also grown and evolved to include grants to protect working forests, wildlife habitat, critical drinking water supplies and disappearing battlefields, as well as increased use of easements.

Yet, nearly every year, Congress breaks its own promise to the American people and diverts much of this funding to uses other than conserving our most important lands and waters.

As a result, there is a substantial backlog of federal conservation needs estimated at more than $30 billion—including places vulnerable to development such as the Florida Everglades, Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Civil War battlefields in Virginia, our shrinking Northern forests, and other precious places around the country. State governments also report needing $27 billion in LWCF funds for eligible local parks and recreation projects.

Bandelier National Monument via NPS flickr

Bandelier National Monument via NPS flickr

“Our community works hard to protect its rural and wild character. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been a big help in doing that. America benefits when it invests in clean water, productive land and wildlife habitat. I support full funding of the LWCF. It’s a small investment with a very big dividend.”
— Melanie Parker Outfitter and member of Swan Valley School Board, MT

The power of lwcf

  • The $214 million that DOI spent on land acquisition in 2010 created an estimated $442 million in economic activity—more than doubling the return on investment-- and about 3,000 jobs.

  • The LWCF state grants program further supports America’s state park system, which contributes $20 billion to local and state economies.

  • According to the Outdoor Industry Association, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, paddling, and other outdoor recreation activities contribute a total of $887 billion annually to the economy and supports 7.6 million American jobs.

  • Whether manufacturing, retail or service related, most of these jobs are sustainable resource or tourism-based jobs and cannot be exported.

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, MN via NPS flickr

Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, MN via NPS flickr

Top Photo: Roberto Clemente State Park, NY