America’s most important public resource for parks and conservation funding is in immediate jeopardy. For over 50 years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to protect public land and create parks for people to enjoy. Distressingly, Congress allowed LWCF to expire in September, but we still have a chance to revive and reauthorize this critical program. Congress must act now, or this program that enables hikers, hunters, bikers, birders and all those who enjoy parks and the outdoors will be lost forever.

The Trust for Public Land works with communities across the country to save the places that matter to them. In our near-50-year history of creating parks and protecting land for people, LWCF has been our most important public funding source for saving thousands of places like the Ophir Valley near Telluride, Colorado; the Sturgeon River Gorge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan; Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in Virginia; the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Georgia and portions of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails.


In a future without LWCF, everyone who works for parks and conservation will have a much harder time protecting places like these from private development, pollution, trail closures, and wildfire damage.

But LWCF doesn’t only save wide open spaces in remote places.  It’s also an essential source of funding for creating and reinvigorating neighborhood parks, where we forge an everyday connection with nature—and each other. If the program disappears, communities will struggle to afford the parks they already manage, and the much-needed opportunities to expand and improve city parks and trails will be fewer and further between.

LWCF is funded entirely by fees from offshore oil and gas drilling. As drilling and the burning of fossil fuels take resources that belong to all of us, it makes sense to provide some compensation to all citizens. This ingenious solution is at the root of LWCF’s longstanding popularity with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle—and the voters they represent back home. But in recent years, a vocal minority in Congress has sought to harpoon that proud bipartisan legacy, allowing the program to expire.

We’ve been in this position before. When LWCF was set to expire in 2015, The Trust for Public Land helped lead the charge to reauthorize the program and secured a three-year extension. Since then, we’ve been working non-stop to reauthorize the program permanently, and guarantee its full funding.

We’ve joined a national coalition of organizations, powered by tens of thousands of individuals. The movement to save LWCF has united hunters and anglers, hikers and bikers, skiers and climbers, urban planners, small business owners, artists, celebrities, athletes, city park advocates, ecologists, wilderness fans, ranchers and loggers, and the outdoor industry—to name just a few. And everyday Americans, in every state, at every point on the political spectrum have called, written, emailed, and met with their representatives, urging them to permanently renew this crucial program—because they understand how important public lands are to their families and communities.

This fall, Congress finally caught the fever: both the House and Senate Committees on Natural Resources passed bills that would permanently reauthorize LWCF. It was a big milestone, and it put us closer than we’ve ever been to saving this crucial program. Disappointingly, the legislation stalled when Congress took an extended break for the mid-term elections, and Congress failed to pass it during the lame duck session. Congress must act now. Every day that passes means no funds are being deposited into the LWCF account.

This is where you come in. Congress needs to know just how important this program is to the people they’ve been elected to serve. Please contact your representatives and urge them to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Regas is president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land.