Federal Land Management Agency Projects
Within the current boundaries of our national parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, and many other public lands units, there is still a great deal of privately owned land. While not all of this land can or should be acquired, many such inholdings are critically important from either a visitor or a natural resource perspective. LWCF allows purchase of property or scenic/conservation easement interests from willing sellers, protecting against incompatible uses while also allowing private owners to continue traditional land-based activities like forestry and agriculture, or to invest in land better suited to development. Agency personnel and local partners work to identify pressing needs and conservation opportunities, elevating projects to the national level for prioritization according to set criteria, resulting in national rankings included in the president’s budget proposal each fiscal year. Congress then decides upon a set level of LWCF appropriations for each agency, enabling certain projects to proceed. Annual need far outstrips that available annual funding, placing undue burdens on landowners and leaving many key resource areas at risk.
Within the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are four land management agencies:
The National Park Service (NPS) utilizes LWCF funding to protect against development at our national parks, seashores and lakeshores, and recreation areas; national historical parks and historic sites; national battlefields and military parks; and the national trails system.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) utilizes LWCF funding to conserve land within its system of national conservation lands including national monuments, national recreation areas, areas of critical environmental concern, and special recreation management areas.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) utilizes LWCF funding for conservation within national wildlife refuges, hatcheries, and other FWS areas, and increasingly to acquire easements for the purpose of protecting wildlife habitat on privately owned lands in designated conservation areas.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) utilizes LWCF funding to protect land within our national forests and national grasslands.
Forest Legacy Program (FLP) Administered by the USDA Forest Service in cooperation with state partners, the Forest Legacy Program is a voluntary program designed to provide conservation value to working forests in the face of development pressure. Using funds from LWCF, the program provides grants to states to permanently protect forested properties through conservation easements or by outright purchases. FLP projects typically restrict development, require sustainable forestry practices, and protect other public values like clean water, wildlife habitat, and public access for sportsmen and other recreation enthusiasts. Now working in 48 states and territories, the program is highly competitive and focuses on projects with strong conservation partnerships. To date, the program has helped protect over 2.6 million forested acres in 53 states and U.S. territories. A total of $783 million in federal funds have leveraged $939 million in non-federal funds and donations.
Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (“Section 6”) The Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (CESCF) provides funding to states and territories (as authorized under Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act) for species and habitat conservation on non-federal lands; local partners match at least 25 percent of project costs. The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Recovery Land Acquisition grants under CESCF are funded through LWCF. The HCP Land Acquisition program promotes voluntary conservation in areas where landowners, states, and other stakeholders have agreed on conservation and development goals. Combined with state, local and private contributions toward habitat protection, this competitive grant funding has been an important and effective mechanism to avoid land-use conflicts and to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, providing additional protected habitat while allowing development to proceed in other areas with a minimum of red tape. Recovery Land Acquisition grants similarly provide states and landowners an opportunity to protect habitat essential to listed species as a problem-solving alternative to the regulatory process; grant funds are matched by states and non-federal entities to acquire these habitats from willing sellers in support of approved species recovery plans.
American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) In addition to funding the acquisition of sacred ground within the boundaries of existing national battlefields, national military parks, national historical parks, national historic sites and national monuments by the National Park Service, LWCF helps to protect land outside those boundaries through the American Battlefield Protection Program. In cooperation with state, local and private partners, ABPP has protected more than 26,000 acres since 1999 with over $80 million from LWCF.
Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) Enacted in 2004 to address the growing need for protection of drinking water supplies in America’s most densely populated metropolitan corridor, the Highlands Conservation Act (HCA) seeks to protect the forested hills running through Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania that provide a plentiful supply of clean water to the cities of the Northeast. The HCA authorized funding from LWCF to protect lands with the highest conservation value in the four-state region. Since then, more than $14 million in LWCF funding has leveraged more than $35 million in state, local and private matching funds to protect 5,500 acres, providing trails and recreation opportunities as well as safe clean water for the 25 million Americans who live within an hour’s drive.
state & local assistance
Administered by the National Park Service, the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program provides matching grants to state, local and tribal governments to create and expand parks, develop recreation facilities, and further local recreation plans. Each year, funds are distributed to every U.S. state and territory using a population-based formula. Ranging from active recreation facilities to natural areas, these funds are a vitally important tool to renovate existing sites, develop new facilities, acquire land for state and local parks and promote statewide recreation planning. Over 42,000 grants totaling over $4 billion have supported protection of three million acres of recreation lands and over 29,000 recreation facility projects, driven by local priorities and matched with local dollars, to provide close-to-home recreation opportunities that are readily accessible to all Americans.
Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP) Established by Congress in 2014 and administered through the National Park Service, the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program is funded through the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program. ORLP is a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to urban areas – jurisdictions of at least 50,000 people – with priority given to projects located in economically disadvantaged areas and lacking in outdoor recreation opportunities. These awards help urban communities address outdoor recreation deficits by supporting projects in cities and densely populated urbanized areas that create new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks, and form connections between people and the outdoors. Over $16 million in ORLP grants have been awarded to 30 communities hoping to improve close-to-home access to the outdoors.
Top Photo Credit: Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, GA via Craig Tanner