Celebrating 50 years of the PCT
as a National Scenic Trail.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Over the last 17 years, almost $36 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been used to acquire and permanently protect about 23,000 acres along the PCT. With 10 percent of the Pacific Crest Trail and a number of important viewshed properties along it still owned by private individuals and companies, it will take the real spending power of the federal government to completely protect the trail in the coming years.

Protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect places like this on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Protect the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect places like this on the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo by Florian Astor.

The PCTA expanded its Land Protection Program for just this purpose. We are raising money for our Land Protection Fund from private sources and working with other nonprofit partners and landowners to purchase select properties along the trail as opportunities with willing sellers arise. But our goal is only to hold those in trust until Congress appropriates money from the LWCF.

The LWCF is in danger of expiring if Congress does not renew it. That would be detrimental to the PCT and our efforts to protect those last private parcels. Surely, without this money, development, timber, energy and mining projects would push in on the trail and the landscapes around it.

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund?

The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been called one of the best conservation programs in the country. Passed by Congress in 1965, it is a federally run land protection program that sets aside $900 million a year from lease payments made by companies drilling for offshore oil and natural gas. This money comes at no direct cost to taxpayers and is mitigation for environmental damage.

The LWCF has purchased land in all 50 states. It has built serene parks and walkways along downtown rivers and playgrounds for children in inner cities. It has provided money to set aside property for national parks and wildlife refuges. It has saved sacred battlefields and other historic and cultural sites. It has protected forests and crucial wildlife habitat, including many special places along the PCT.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical for protecting places like the Trinity Divide in California.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical for protecting places like the Trinity Divide in California.

The LWCF was the sister legislation to the 1964 Wilderness Act, a landmark piece of legislation that reshaped the future of America’s public land. Since passing the Wilderness Act, Congress has protected 109 million acres of the country’s most special landscapes as wilderness, backed by the ideal that future generations will be able to experience them just as those who came before. Much of that land was purchased with LWCF dollars.

About half the Pacific Crest Trail runs through wilderness. Large and untrammeled landscapes like those along the Pacific Crest Trail give us the ability to wander and seek respite from the din of the modern world. They also provide clean air and water to our cities while serving as wildlife sanctuaries. In them, humans, plants and animals thrive.

Here’s our Land Protection Q&A

Why we care about the Land and Water Conservation Fund

The program expired in 2015 and Congress gave it a three-year reprieve. Time’s up. On Sept. 30, 2018, the LWCF expired without a vote from Congress.

Conservation and recreation groups, including the PCTA, have been pushing for full funding and reauthorization ever since. Despite the program’s accepted effectiveness and popularity, Congress has been unable to get permanent reauthorization across the finish line.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund helped us protect Landers Meadow for the benefit of the American public.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund helped us protect Landers Meadow for the benefit of the American public.

It’s even popular with members from both political parties. As of Oct. 5, 240 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have cosponsored the reauthorization bill, H.R. 502, more than enough to pass it. In the Senate, S. 569 has 48 bipartisan cosponsors.

Reauthorization and full funding of the LWCF is essential. So far, full funding of the LWCF has not been a priority for Congress. While $900 million is available for land protection each year, Congress has only once earmarked the full amount. Instead, the remainder has been absorbed into the general budget year after year.

How you can help save the LWCF

  • Contact your Senator or Representative and tell them that you support the reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Urge them to bring the issue up for a vote.
  • Write and submit a letter to the editor to your local newspaper voicing your support for the LWCF and urging Congress to act.
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