Brief Summary of LWCF Re-authorization Bills – Aug 2017

The LWCF’s authorization expired in 2015 before Congress included a three-year reauthorization through Sept. 30, 2018, as part of the fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending package. With the program’s sunset nearing, competing proposals have been introduced in the House and Senate to both reauthorize and reform the LWCF. Those bills are below:
  • S. 896 – A bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund – Sponsored by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina
  • S. 569 – Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act – Sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington
  • H.R. 502– To permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund – Sponsored by Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona
  • H.R. 2863 – Land and National Park Deferred Maintenance Act “LAND Act” – Sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho
  • S. 1460 – Energy and Natural Resources Act of 2017 – Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
Simpson’s “LAND Act” would extend the Land and Water Conservation Fund through 2024 while also addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance needs at the National Park Service, or NPS, and other Department of Interior bureaus. The bill would authorize $450 million annually in mandatory funding, with $220 million of that amount dedicated to the Stateside Program. The act would also dedicate $450 million annually to deferred maintenance needs.
“Conserving land and water is vitally important to ensuring access to our public lands,” Simpson said in a statement. “However, ensuring we take care of public lands is equally important. That is why I am proposing a solution that honors the commitment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund while creating a new fund to help our National Parks, and other land managers, address the maintenance backlog.”
The bills introduced by Burr, Cantwell and Grijalva would each permanently authorize the LWCF at its full level of $900 million annually. They also all set aside a portion of the annual LWCF funding for projects that provide recreational public access to existing federal land. A bill to permanently authorize the fund was approved in the Senate last year, but the legislation died in the House.
“The LWCF has a proven track record of making good on the promise of conserving our parks, open spaces and wildlife habitats for the benefit of future generations of Americans,” Burr said in a statement. “My colleagues and I offer this bill to permanently extend the LWCF, a program that preserves our natural heritage but does so without asking American taxpayers to shoulder the burden.”
The bill introduced by Murkowski is a broad energy reform package including a variety of provisions centered on energy efficiency, infrastructure, and federal land management and sportsmen’s access issues. Sec. 5102 of the bill would permanently reauthorize the LWCF at its full level of $900 million annually, with a 40 percent guarantee of funding for a state suite of programs including the Stateside Program.
House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop would like to see the fund used to also maintain existing public lands and to address the National Park Service’s maintenance backlog. The NPS has a current backlog of more than $11 billion in deferred maintenance needs. A NPS report released in 2016 details the needs by state and park.
Bishop would also like to see reforms made to the program that restore more funding to the Stateside Program. When the program was first created, 60 percent of the funding went to states and 40 percent went to federal land acquisition. The percentage going to the states has been in steady decline. Since 1997, states have received an average of 12.5 percent of LWCF.
“Unfortunately, the Stateside Program has been gradually crowded out over the years by the federal government’s powerful drive to acquire more and more land,” Bishop said in an op-ed. “Originally, 60 percent of the fund went to the states; in 2015, a mere 16 percent went to the Stateside Program, about one-quarter of what was originally envisioned when Congress created the fund in a bipartisan effort.”
The projects supported by LWCF have a direct impact on the quality of life in communities throughout the country and also support a vibrant economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the outdoor recreation economy generates 7.6 million direct national jobs, $887 billion in consumer spending, $268 billion in federal tax revenue, and $59.2 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Jeff Stockdale – Council of State Governments