The LWCF is the principal source of funds to purchase land for national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests, and other federal areas. The program has helped protect some of America’s most treasured assets including Grand Canyon National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, White Mountain National Forest, and portions of America’s first national wildlife refuge, Pelican Island.
Despite LWCF’s strong track record of success over the past 44 years, the program faces enormous challenges. Lands with significant historic, cultural, and wildlife values are rapidly being converted to other uses. Factors that are responsible for this trend include increasing land values, population growth, and the development of the rural-urban fringe. Yet, in the face of escalating development pressures, funding for the LWCF has declined precipitously in the past seven years. Authorized at $900 million annually, this level has been met only once. The recorded balance in offshore oil revenues credited to, but not appropriated from, the LWCF is approaching $17 billion. LWCF funding for federal land acquisition has dropped from $445 million in Fiscal Year 2001 to $130 million in Fiscal Year 2008.