Land and Water Conservation Fund

Photo credit: Casey Stemler/USFWS

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Created by Congress in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was designed to safeguard natural areas, water resources, and our cultural heritage, and to provide recreation opportunities to all Americans. National parks such as Rocky Mountain, Grand Canyon, and 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 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) were to be put into a fund specifically for LWCF activities. Unfortunately, often the royalties intended for this fund are shifted to funding activities elsewhere in government. The money set aside for LWCF projects is intended to create and protect national parks, national forests, and national wildlife refuges, to fund conservation easements, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects.

The Dakota Grassland Conservation Area and the Dakota Tallgrass Prairie Management Area (shown in the map to the right) are an example of the very few LWCF acquisition areas within the PPJV. LWCF funds can only be spent within an area encompassed by an approved acquisition boundary. Once funding specific to the LWCF area is provided, willing and interested landowners can sell their land in fee title or place a permanent conservation easement on their property. From a landowner's perspective - it’s completely voluntary!