Land and Water Conservation Fund

In 1958, increasing consciousness of public health, environmental issues and an expanding need for recreational space combined into a bipartisan mandate which created the United State Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC).  Largely as a result of ORRRC’s work, the Kennedy Administration introduced funding legislation in 1963 that would establish a “Land and Water Conservation Fund” (LWCF) to assist States in planning, acquisition and development of recreation resources as well as finance new Federal recreation lands.  With true bipartisan support in both Houses of Congress, the bill was passed and signed into law on September 3, 1964 (Public Law 88- 578, 16 U.S.C. 460l-4).  The Act established a funding source for both Federal acquisition of park and recreation lands and matching grants to state and local governments for recreation planning, acquisition and development.

Since those early days, LWCF grants have had substantial long-term effects on the Country’s overall attitudes and policies toward outdoor recreation, leaving three lasting legacies;

  • First: the notion, basic to the LWCF Act, that States must assume a leadership role as providers of recreation opportunities.
  • Second: that local governments develop recreation plans as a condition for any type of Federal or State recreation assistance.
  • Third: one of the most important legacies of LWCF grants has been long-term protection of recreation resources.  The provision of Section 6(f)(3) of the Act requires all property acquired or developed with LWCF assistance be maintained perpetually in public outdoor recreation use. Consistent enforcement over the years has and will ensure permanency of LWCF’s contributions to the National recreation estate.

To this day, the Land and Water Conservation Fund program continues to build a permanent legacy for future generations.  The source of this legacy may not always be obvious to the millions of Americans, old and young, who want places to hike in the woods, watch wildlife, picnic, sit under a tree, or walk the dog.  In time some may even forget its existence, but the thousands of recreation lands and opportunities created and protected by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act will remain as perpetual monuments to the foresight of its authors and the American people.