The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition (LWCF Coalition), is advocating for a funding appropriation in the next stimulus package for infrastructure investments at national, state, and local parks, along with other public lands. Federal leaders have previously expressed support, but momentum has since stalled due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Since its creation in 1964, the LWCF has used federal money to protect national parks, areas around rivers and lakes, national forests, and national wildlife refuges from development, and to provide matching grants for state and local parks and recreation projects. In more recent years LWCF now issues grants to protect working forests, wildlife habitat, critical drinking water supplies and disappearing battlefields, as well as increased use of easements. These types of projects all contribute to the health and welfare of nearby residents, as well as outdoor recreation revenue, and the areas tourism sector which has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 economic downturn. Maryland’s tourism industry has been ranked as the 17th hardest hit state in the nation. According to the Maryland Office of Tourism’s latest available annual report, tourism holds a spot on the list of top ten highest job producers in the state. Also evident is the effect of outdoor recreation in Maryland.
From a LWCF fact sheet on Maryland:
Active outdoor recreation is an important part of the Maryland economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $14 billion in consumer spending in Maryland, 109,000 jobs which generate $4.4 billion in wages and salaries, and produces nearly $951 million annually in state and local tax revenue. Further, the U.S. Census reports that each year over 2.7 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Maryland, contributing over $1.6 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.
Since its inception, the LWCF has provided over $231 million in grants to fund projects in Maryland, including more than $85 million to state and local parks, which have become increasingly important through the COVID-19 crisis as people seek safe ways to spend time in open spaces and continue to exercise. This type of funding is a useful way to both protect important environmental areas and enhance communities.
Despite the described benefits and an approved limit of $900 million annually, the LWFC is routinely appropriated lower levels of funding. As the next round of federal coronavirus relief funding is prepared, LWCF is working to receive a full appropriation to continue providing grants. Money spent by LWCF would likely help some elements of the struggling tourism industry once the crisis has subsided, and regardless provide support to both parks and natural resources. The funding in the Great American Outdoors Act helps achieve these objectives by permanently fully funding LWCF. Earlier this year the President tweeted support for the bill and it was scheduled to be voted on, but the COVID-19 crisis has since put the proposal on hold.
For more information on the purpose and advocacy of LWCF, visit the coalition website.