Trump pushes 90% cut to America's most important public lands program; here's what the Land and Water Conservation Fund does

As part of a budget proposal that amounts to a Valentine to special interests, the Trump administration wants devastating cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has been called America's most important conservation tool. Learn more here.

President Trump's Fiscal Year 2019 federal budget proposal would cut the long-running and popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to the bone, reducing its budget by roughly 90%. LWCF was designed so there would always be money available for its core purpose of protecting land in order to complete national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other protected sites, without burdening American taxpayers. For over 50 years, it has drawn on revenues from oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf to pay into thousands of projects nationwide, gaining popularity across the political spectrum.

But despite broad bipartisan support for the program, billions of dollars have been diverted from the Land and Water Conservation Fund by Congress over the course of the program’s life to pay for unrelated expenses, leaving many outdoor projects unfinished and parcels of land unprotected. In recent years, funding for LWCF has hovered around one-third of the full authorized level, even as new pressures intrude on wildlands and shared spaces become developed, fragmented or otherwise damaged. 

The Trump proposal would devastate this popular program already hanging on for dear life, representing the single largest cut in the already weakened Department of the Interior's budget. We will ask lawmakers to reject Trump's reckless budget and persist with a larger campaign to demand permanent reauthorization and full funding for LWCF.


Map: A sampling of LWCF treasures, state by state

Explore our full LWCF USA map information guide!

Click the map to enlarge or download and view a PDF version. 


Explore our full LWCF USA map information guide!

 Explore LWCF projects near you

Enter your zip code at top left to see projects near you. National projects are pin drops (approx. location)
To view state matching grant projects, click a county. Data available in "show related records" (Data thru 2014) 
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LWCF pays our lands and waters back

Signed into law in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is a far-reaching program whose core purpose is intuitive yet visionary: paying the planet back for some of what we take out of it.  

Companies that drill for (publicly owned) oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf off our shores pay a portion of their revenues into the Land and Water Conservation Fund—that source makes up the vast majority of the fund--and that money goes into a trust to acquire “inholdings,” or pieces of private land within the borders of national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other protected sites.  

When the federal government buys inholdings, it can make a piece of public land “whole” and simpler to manage as a complete landscape. This makes it easier to protect wildlife habitat and make the place accessible for outdoor recreation—all without relying on taxpayer money. Parks benefiting from this program range from the Grand Canyon to Gettysburg National Military Park to, in all likelihood, a hiking trail or ballfield near you. The LWCF was designed so there would always be money available for this purpose, without burdening American taxpayers. 

Key facts about the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Trump's attacks on it: 

  • Trump cuts would be devastating. The Trump administration has proposed a roughly 90% reduction for LWCF's budget.

  • Long list of successes. LWCF has been used to protect iconic landscapes in all 50 states, and for more than 41,000 state and local projects. 

  • Projects often serve multiple purposes. Oftentimes, a successful LWCF project serves multiple purposes--and does far more than just extend a boundary on a map. For example, inholdings acquired next to Arizona’s Sycamore Canyon Wilderness, in the Coconino National Forest, helped preserve the trailheads of two hiking trails plus important archaeological resources and streams that provide drinking water for Phoenix. In Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park, LWCF funds helped pay to relocate a road that frequently washed out, causing expensive flooding. The project greatly reduced overall maintenance costs and allowed visitors access to popular areas of the park. 

  • Preventing LWCF money from being siphoned away is a perennial struggle. Despite broad bipartisan support for the program, billions of dollars have been diverted from the Land and Water Conservation Fund by Congress over the course of the program’s life to pay for unrelated expenses, leaving many outdoor projects unfinished and parcels of land unprotected. In recent years, funding for LWCF has hovered around one-third of the full authorized level, even as new pressures intrude on wildlands and shared spaces become developed, fragmented or otherwise damaged. 

  • LWCF will expire later this year. In late 2015, after months of fighting whipped up by a few extreme lawmakers, Congress struck a deal for a three-year extension of LWCF after the program's authorization lapsed. That means that later this year, we will be gearing up for another fight to ensure it survives. We will demand permanent reauthorization and full funding for LWCF—stay tuned for how you can help.