After allowing the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire on September 30, 2018, all eyes have been on Congress as PA Highlands Coalition partners and conservation advocates across the country worked to permanently reauthorize the program and to secure full and dedicated funding.
On Tuesday, February 26th, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in support of a package of public lands bills (S.47) including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This package had sailed through the Senate on February 12th by a vote of 98-2 and passed the House by a margin of 363-62 in February 2019. S.47, the Natural Resources Management Act, now heads to the president’s desk for his expected signature.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a national conservation program that uses revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling to support open space, park, and trail projects across the country. LWCF provides the funding stream for the Highlands Conservation Act, allocating millions of dollars to the Pennsylvania Highlands every year. In order to protect the Highlands, it is critical to protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Valued resources in the Pennsylvania Highlands such as French Creek State Park, the Appalachian Trail, and many county and local parks have been granted LWCF funds. This is in addition to numerous conservation projects completed by Coalition partners using Highlands Conservation Act funds.
However, reauthorization for LWCF is only one part of the whole story. While it is a major victory for LWCF to be permanently reauthorized, these projects cannot be completed without adequate funding. LWCF is authorized to receive $900 million from Congress each year; however, it consistently receives less than half of that amount through the appropriations process.
For LWCF to be as efficient, impactful, and successful as possible, Congress must dedicate the full $900 million of oil and gas revenue authorized to LWCF. Many national and state parks, battlefields, and working forests have been conserved with LWCF funds in addition to its protection of the four-state Highlands region.
We thank all the partners that have made this success possible, and look forward to utilizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect the unique assets of the Pennsylvania Highlands region.