Land and Water Conservation Fund Protects Trail Experiences
One of the nation’s most important conservation program is at risk of expiring in September if Congress doesn’t act soon. Learn why it's critical for Washington’s trails.
One of the nation’s most important conservation program is at risk of expiring in September if Congress doesn’t act soon. Learn more about this 50 year old program and why it's critical for Washington’s trails.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) travels 2,660 miles from Canada to Mexico close along the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. Hikers attempting a thru-hike or continuous hike of the trail travel through 25 national forests and seven national parks, and scattered parcels of private land. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the tool that a broad coalition of groups and agencies are using to complete the trail and ensure a seamless experience for hikers.
Conserving views and trail experiences for the public
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is used to permanently protect land threatened with development by working with willing seller private landowners to add land to national, state and local parks, trails and other public lands. The fund has been instrumental in protecting the corridor of land which the PCT travels through or near to ensure that the trail experience remains the same for the next generation.
In Washington state more than 9,000 acres along 500-mile stretch of PCT are currently privately owned. That number was once much higher, but the work is far from done. Over time private landowners have sold their property into public ownership, often using LWCF funds to make the transaction possible.
One recently funded project protected Pyramid Peak, located just north of Norse Peak Wilderness:
An underfunded program that needs your support
Created in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been called one of America’s most successful conservation programs. The fund is not funded by taxpayer dollars, but instead reinvests a portion of royalties from offshore oil and gas leases into conserving land for all Americans.
Unless Congress reauthorizes it, the 50-year-old program will expire on September 30.
The fund is supposed to receive $900 million annually in royalties from offshore oil and gas leases. However, the fund has only been fully funded once in the program’s history, leaving recreation projects across the country without funding. Those dollars are then reinvested in the conservation of lands adjacent to national parks, trails, wildlife refuges and national forests, preserving these public resources for generations to come.
What can you do?
There are three bills pending in Congress that show bipartisan support for the LWCF program. These bills were offered by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Congressman Mike FItzpatrick (R-PA) calling for reauthorization of LWCF. Please join these champions in requesting that LWCF be renewed before it’s too late!
WTA deeply thanks Sens Cantwell and Murray and Reps Reichert, Kilmer, Larsen, DelBene, Smith, McDermott and Heck for standing up and supporting the reauthorization of LWCF – all are cosponsors on one of the three pending bills while Sen. Cantwell is the lead sponsor on a bill.
Other LWCF projects in Washington state that have helped trails
- Carbon River – LWCF funding allowed for the Ipsut Creek campground to be relocated safely above the floodplain, and the conversion of a historic farm house into a new visitor center.
- Alpine Lakes Wilderness – Many areas in the state’s most popular wilderness have been protected by LWCF, including portions of the Ingalls Creek and Chiwaukum Creek trails, Eightmile Lake and lands along Waptus River and Pratt Lake.
- Sacagawea Heritage Trail – The 23-mile educational and recreational trail along the Columbia River in the Tri-Cities was supported by LWCF funds to reestablish public access between the river and downtown Kinnewick and extend wetland trails.
- To learn more about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, visit The Wilderness Society’s page on LWCF and the LWCF Coalition’s Washington state page.
- To learn more about how LWCF has helped Washington state, check out the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition’s “Land and Water Conservation Fund: 50 Years in Washington state.”
- Spokesman Review Editorial: Congress must extended the Land and Water Conservation Fund.