Land and Water Conservation Fund Protects Trail Experiences

Major national scenic trails such as the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail traverse thousands of miles across our beautiful country. Hikers attempting a thru-hike or continuous hike of the trails travel through literally scores of national forests and national parks, and scattered parcels of private land. The private land along the trails is shrinking due, in large part, to the success of a federal conservation program.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is used to buy private land from willing sellers to enhance federal, state and local parks and public lands. The fund has been instrumental in protecting the corridor of land which the long distance trails travel through or near to ensure that the trail experience remains the same for the next generation.

In Washington state alone more than 9,000 acres along 500-mile stretch of PCT are currently privately owned. That number was once much higher. Over time private land owners have sold their property into public ownership, often using LWCF funds to make the transaction possible. Created in 1964 the Land and Water Conservation Fund is not funded by taxpayer money.

The fund collects roughly $900 million annually in royalties from offshore oil and gas leases. However, the fund has only been fully funded once in the program’s history, leaving recreation projects across the country without funding. Those dollars are then reinvested in the conservation of lands adjacent to national parks, trails, wildlife refuges and national forests, preserving these public resources for generations to come.

Unless Congress reauthorizes it, the 50-year-old program will expire on September 30, 2015.

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