December 17 2015
By Jack "Found" Haskel
The Land and Water Conservation Fund lives on! This week, Congress reauthorized three more years of this crucial funding source, which pays for parks, trails and public places across the nation.
It was included in Congress’ omnibus appropriations agreement announced yesterday. Funded at $450 million in 2016, the money will be spread far and wide across the country.
This 50-year-old program, paid for through leases on offshore oil and gas exploration, expired in September. The fund allowed Congress to spend up to $900 million annually to buy land for public use, from backcountry trails to city parks and playgrounds.
Over the last 15 years, approximately $25 million from the fund has been used to acquire and permanently protect more than 18,000 acres along the PCT. We’ll put any future funds from this program to good use, as there are many private properties on and near the PCT that are for sale. Without a permanent protection, they could be developed.
“The LWCF program has been crucial to protecting special places along the PCT,” said Megan Wargo, PCTA’s land protection director. “With its temporary reauthorization we will be able to act on a number of time-sensitive land acquisition opportunities along the trail that might otherwise have been lost to development or resource extraction.“
Our ultimate goal of permanent and full re-authorization ($900 million annually) of the LWCF still stands, and we’ll continue to work toward it. Today, however, we’re celebrating along with hundreds of fellow organizations, representing millions of you as part of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition. You mobilized to write letters and make phone calls to Congress and shared the cause of conservation on social media. Bottom line: your advocacy worked!
Amy Lindholm, The Wilderness Society’s LWCF campaign director said this: “Though short of our ultimate goal, restoring LWCF’s authorization for an additional three years is a huge accomplishment. Moreover, a 50 percent increase in funding over last year’s enacted level means that many, many critical projects will move forward this year, which is amazing!”
Thank you to all of the members of Congress who voted in favor of conservation, as well as the hundreds of fellow conservation groups in the LWCF Coalition who worked tirelessly to get this funding approved.
And a very special thanks to all of our members for caring about the PCT and taking action to support it!