An earlier blog post this week featured ASCE’s support for legislation to invest in our nation’s public parks by addressing our National Park Service’s deferred maintenance backlog. The Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a critically important program that helps fund public parks infrastructure. Unfortunately, its authorization expired on September 30, and congressional action is necessary to reauthorize it.
Established in 1964, the LWCF uses revenues generated from offshore oil and gas leases to conserve national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. Over its more than 50-year history, the LWCF has supported over 41,000 state and local park projects with $4.1 billion, which has been matched for a total of $8.2 billion. Although the program is authorized for $900 million per year, it routinely receives only half of that during the appropriations process. A recent poll found that an overwhelming majority – 82% – of voters supporting the LWCF. Despite its bipartisan support, there is disagreement in Congress over its length of reauthorization, whether reforms to the program are needed, and if the program should receive mandatory funding.
ASCE has been a longtime proponent of the LWCF; our 2017 Infrastructure Report Card recommends fully funding the program as way to help raise the public parks grade up from a “D+.” ASCE recently submitted a Statement for the Record to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee markup in support of reauthorizing and fully funding the LWCF. Last month, the House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill, H.R. 502, to permanently reauthorize the LWCF. Earlier this week, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee passed a bill, S. 569, to both permanently reauthorize the LWCF and to remove it from the annual congressional appropriations cycle, ultimately providing mandatory funding for the program.