Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Life after LWCF

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Life after LWCF

Article excerpt

At midnight, October 1, the light flickered out on one of the nation's most popular and successful legislative programs. But the political battle over the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is sure to rage on into the winter, as lawmakers debate how to divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars it receives each year.

Legislative Update

Despite the efforts of a bipartisan group of congressional supporters, the LWCF was allowed to expire on September 30. While this certainly could lead to long-term, negative impacts with regard to federal support for conservation and outdoor recreation, little or no impact will be felt by state, regional and local park agencies that hope to receive funding from the State Assistance Program.

The most immediate impact is the inability of the government to accrue new revenues from offshore energy exploration and production to fund the various programs currently supported through the Act. The unspent balance of existing revenues has been identified at $20 billion; therefore, there is ample revenue available to fully fund the LWCF for the next year, and about 20 more beyond that. This situation highlights the fact that the LWCF has only been "fully funded" at its authorized amount ($900 million) a couple of times during the 50-year life of the program--even while ample revenues, NOT individual taxpayer dollars, have been generated to fund it.

So, congressional appropriators (those who control the funding for each federal agency and program) remain able to approve funding for LWCF as part of their annual spending for the Department of the Interior and National Park Service. However, the program's expiration means oil and gas companies have stopped paying into it. That has increased the stakes for the program's long-term outlook and added pressure on its supporters in Congress.

Senate and House supporters are seeking opportunities to attach reauthorization as an amendment to legislation moving through Congress this fall.

Additional Action in Committee

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee recently included LWCF reauthorization as part of a comprehensive "Energy Reform" bill (S. 2012) it reported to the full Senate for consideration. The measure would permanently reauthorize the LWCF, but would not include any mandatory funding. …

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