WASHINGTON, DC — Moments ago, the Department of the Interior repealed former Secretary David Bernhardt’s Secretarial Orders on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which imposed unnecessary, top-down requirements that delayed the National Park Service’s ability to address its over $5 billion backlog of land acquisition needs.
The Interior Department’s action today restores the intent of the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act, which includes full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and restores the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program.
In reaction to the announcement, Phil Francis, Chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, explained:
“We are deeply grateful to the Biden Administration’s Interior Department for its quick work to ensure LWCF continues to function as intended.
“By large, bipartisan margins, Congress voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act and fully fund the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. The previous administration’s guidance did not adequately address the National Park Service’s (NPS) land acquisition backlog – and added additional layers of bureaucracy – a violation of Congress’ intent.
“Full funding for LWCF was not only meant to improve access to parks, hiking trails, hunting and fishing, and recreational facilities…there are criteria that are equally or more important than just providing access when determining funding. LWCF is also meant to benefit communities across the nation by preserving and protecting our national parks and public lands.
“Congress was clear and explicit about what it wanted from the Department of the Interior – specifically calling for 40% of LWCF funds to go to federal land protection that can be used to help parks begin to meet their land acquisition needs. The NPS has been underfunded for years, creating a backlog of billions of dollars in land acquisition. Our parks protect critical watersheds, viewsheds, and ecosystems. If these lands are not acquired soon, the opportunities could be lost forever.
“LWCF is critical to meeting President Biden’s ambitious 30×30 conservation goals and ensuring communities have the resources they need to conserve land, create parks and trails, and open recreation access. It supports critical conservation tools for communities and will help protect our national parks for the future.”