Offshore Energy Revenues are Essential to LWCF Conservation
Posted June 2, 2020
Whenever someone talks about banning offshore oil and natural gas development, as some in Congress have proposed, they miss the fact that offshore oil and gas pays for the country’s most important conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
Everyone who cares about coastal restoration, wetlands protection, park upkeep, building hiking paths and other recreational areas should be aware that since 1965 the LWCF has supplied billions of dollars for conservation and environmental projects across the 50 states, from Grand Canyon National Park to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore – almost entirely funded by safe and responsible offshore oil and natural gas development.
The Wilderness Society puts it this way: “The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been America’s most important conservation funding tool for nearly 50 years.”
Indeed, last month the Interior Department announced that more than $227 million would be distributed from LWCF to all 50 states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia for specified park and outdoor recreation and conservation. Since the LWCF’s inception, more than $4.4 billion has been sent to state and local governments for more than 44,000 projects.
A few examples of LWCF funding support for states over the past five decades:
Michigan – $342.4 million to places including:
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
- Huron, Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests
- North Country National Scenic Trail.
New Mexico – $322.4 million to areas including:
- Petroglyph, El Malpais and KashaKatuwe Tent Rock national monuments
- Gila, Cibola, Santa Fe and Carson national forests
- Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River.
Minnesota – $266.3 million to places including:
- Voyageurs National Park
- Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
- Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
- Saint Croix National Scenic River
Pennsylvania – $332 million to areas including:
- Flight 93 National Memorial
- Gettysburg National Military Park
- Valley Forge National Historical Park
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail
- Allegheny National Forest
- Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
Virginia – Nearly $368.5 million to places including:
- Rappahannock River Valley and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuges
- Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Historic District
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
Colorado – $281.2 million to areas including:
- Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Uncompahgre, Arapahoe-Roosevelt, Gunnison and Rio Grande national forests
- Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.
Wisconsin – $225.8 million to places including:
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
- Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
- St. Croix National Scenic River
- Ice Age and North Country scenic trails
There’s more, much more. It’s no exaggeration to say that LWCF is the funding backbone for many of the outdoor opportunities Americans enjoy year after year. And LWCF wouldn’t exist without the revenues generated year after year by safe offshore oil and natural gas development.
America’s national and state parks, forests and recreation areas really are brought to us all by offshore oil and natural gas.
People who know resource challenges of the nation’s coastal areas, wetlands, parks and recreation centers know how damaging it would be to cripple LWCF by ending safe offshore development. In this sense, the offshore ban rhetoric heard in recent months is distinctly anti-conservation.
To help protect the LWCF, congressional legislation, the Great American Outdoors Act, would provide permanent, dedicated funding for LWCF – as well as money to start addressing the estimated $22 billion maintenance backlog of the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Indian Education.
Debate over the bill will be important in the national conversation about safely developing our offshore reserves – not only for America’s security and economic interests, but also for important conservation projects.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.