Land and Water Conservation Fund

Harpers Ferry view from the hill
Cecelia Mason / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, led in part by West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, have introduced a bill that would permanently fund a popular land conservation program that has provided money for conservation and recreation access in 54 of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

Janet Butler / USFWS

The Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge’s namesake is apparent upon stepping outside its visitors center in Williamstown, West Virginia. Gazing past bird feeders and the forested bank of the Ohio River, a skinny island looms large.

“So Buckley Island is right across the water from us,” says Michael Schramm, visitor services manager at the refuge.

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

On this West Virginia Morning, last month, President Donald Trump signed into law the Natural Resources Management Act, a public lands bill that reauthorized a little-known, but important program -- the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Millions of dollars from the LWCF have been spent across the Ohio Valley.

As Brittany Patterson reports, reauthorization of this program is a rare bipartisan win, and some of the bill’s provisions will make long-awaited public lands projects in the region a reality.

Whiterwater Rafting Gauley River
AP Photo / Jeff Gentner

The U.S. Senate this week overwhelmingly voted to reinstate a popular program that uses revenue generated by offshore oil and gas drilling to protect public lands.

 

In a 92-8 vote, the Senate passed the "Natural Resources Management Act," a sweeping public lands package. In addition to permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the bill places more than 1 million new acres of wilderness under protection, including the the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area in Randolph County.

 

Congress will return to session after Labor Day to a full schedule. They will consider long term funding for the nation’s roadways, the Iran nuclear deal and an education bill replacing No Child Left Behind.

The full schedule has the conservation community worried about the impending expiration of a little-known program for buying park and forest land. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has generated almost $17 billion during its 50-year history.

About $10.5 billion of that has been spent to buy 5 million acres of public land, mainly out West, but West Virginia has also benefited from the fund. Think Harpers Ferry, the New River Gorge and the Monongahela National Forest. 

Wwkayaker22 / en.wikipedia.org

  West Virginia is sharing part of more than $43 million in federal funds to help states with parks, outdoor recreation and conservation projects.

The U.S. Department of Interior said West Virginia is getting more than $463,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The fund was established by Congress in 1964 to ensure access to outdoor recreation resources and to provide money to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands.