Land and Water Conservation Fund celebrates 50th anniversary

Contributed Report

The 50th anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is being observed this month. The LWCF has delivered much for the country since its passage in 1965. Federal, state and local governments have received funding to protect natural areas, parks, recreational sites, and monuments, and states in particular have benefited from the Fund's grant program.

In Louisiana, every national park and wildlife refuge, as well as numerous state parks and local recreation sites, has either been purchased or enhanced through the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Some sense of the tremendous role that the LWCF has played in Louisiana can be gleaned from viewing the list of federal projects funded here (http://www.lwcfcoalition.org/louisiana.html), and the over 700 grants that the state has received under the Fund since 1965.

In Ascension Parish, the Fund has helped finance and improve Donaldsonville Riverfront Park (1972), Gonzales Municipal Park (1975), Gonzales City Park (1977), Galvez Park (1983), Geismar Park (1983), Oak Grove Park (1986), Prairieville Park (1986), Stevens Park (1989), and Highway 621 North Ascension Parish Park (2007), among others.

In Louisiana, the LWCF has enhanced outdoor recreation - fishing, hiking, hunting, paddling - and neighborhood recreation - pools, ball fields, and facilities. A new poll of Louisiana small businesses by the Small Business Majority found strong support for the LWCF.

Sportsmen's groups have been key supporters of the LWCF - the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and other groups recently released a report on how the LWCF helps access for hunting and fishing on public lands; Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge was included in their report, but all of the National Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana provide important benefits for the public.

The primary source of revenue for the Fund are fees paid to the federal government for offshore oil and gas production. Part of the revenues from Gulf of Mexico production are specified for the LWCF in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) of 2006 The Fund has an annual spending cap of up to $900 million, but funds are regularly diverted by Congress to other sources, contributing to a backlog of conservation needs and demand in the U.S. The President's FY 2015 budget seeks full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the first time. The House Interior Appropriations Sub-Committee has recommended $350 million.