Conserving land and improving outdoor recreation
The Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is our nation’s most important program to conserve lands and improve outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the United States.
LWCF works with federal, state, and local efforts to invest in:
- Recreational areas, trails, and waterways for paddling, hiking, biking, hunting, and fishing
- Access to national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other public lands
- Creating and improving state and local parks, natural areas and wildlife habitat
- Preserving historic and cultural sites and conserving working forests, farms, and ranches
- Safeguarding rivers, watershed, water supplies, and clean water
- Local economies and jobs through increased outdoor recreation
Minnesota benefits from the LWCF
LWCF has helped protect the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, and the Saint Croix National Scenic River—some of Minnesota’s most special places.
Minnesota has received approximately $252 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades.
Active outdoor recreation is an important part of the Minnesota economy and the US Census Bureau reports that each year 3.7 million people participate in hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching in Minnesota. Our passion for the outdoors has economic impacts. The Outdoor Industry Association found that active outdoor recreation:
- contributes $16.7 billion annually in consumer spending to Minnesota’s economy
- supports 140,000 jobs which generate $4.5 billion in wages and salaries
- produces $1.4 billion annually in state and local tax revenue
LWCF is not funded by taxpayer dollars. Instead a portion of offshore drilling fees are designated to protect important land and water for all Americans. The program is authorized to receive up to $900 million each year, but most of these funds have been diverted elsewhere. LWCF has been around for more than half a century, but in that time more than half its intended funding has been raided for other, non-conservation purposes.
Over the past five decades, LWCF has touched every state and had an important impact in Minnesota.
What's happening now
The Great American Outdoors Act (S. 3422) and Economic Stimulus in the Time of COVID-19
On June 17, 2020, the US Senate voted 73-25 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act. The bill then passed in the US House of Representatives on July 22, in a 310-107 vote. The President is expected to sign the bill soon.
The Land & Water Conservation Fund will permanently receive $900 million in annual funding, and $9.5 billion over a period of five years will be dedicated to public lands maintenance and infrastructure.
This is a huge success for the country and state. Bipartisan support for this legislation underscores the literal and figurative common ground we have in public lands. Our fundamental need for outdoor spaces has become obvious as the pandemic has stripped away so many other venues for entertainment, physical activity, and stress-reduction.
The investment in public lands will benefit wildlife, water quality, visitor safety, and recreation access while creating much needed jobs.