Since an act of Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965, the program has provided grants to local, state and federal agencies for the acquisition, conservation and maintenance of public lands.
Instead of being funded by taxpayer dollars, the bulk of funds for the Land and Water Conservation Fund come from offshore oil and gas drilling fees.
While authorized to provide $900 million every year, the fund is usually bankrolled at a fraction of its potential. According to Dwayne Meadows, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, despite this funding discrepancy, the Land and Water Conservation Fund stills provides resources for valuable projects.
"It funds access to public lands. It funds wildlife projects. It funds trails, like the Continental Divide Trail. It funds a lot of things," Meadows said. "It also funds rodeo grounds and local community golf courses and boat ramps which are huge for our fishing community and things like that. And small campgrounds and city parks."
While enjoying broad bipartisan support in Congress, the Land and Water Conservation Fund was allowed to expire on September 30.
Representatives Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Rob Bishop of Utah introduced legislation in September that would permanently reauthorize the fund. Maria Cantwell of Washington state has introduced a parallel bill in the Senate. Both bills have received committee approval but have yet to be voted on by either body. The fund’s expiration has conservation organizations such as the Wyoming Wildlife Federation calling for permanent reauthorization as soon as possible.
Meadows suggests interested Utahns take action saying.
"I think in the case of Utah, Congressman Bishop has a very strong position in his seat on the House Natural Resources Committee and contacting his office through either a letter or a phone call saying you support it - you want to see it fully funded - is a great way to [get the fund reauthorized]."
More information about the history and impact of the Land and Water Conservation Fund can be found at www.nps.gov/lwcf