Looking back, it remains one of the most significant conservation outcomes in the history of this nation. Looking ahead, the funding generated by the program will be used to conserve landscapes and open public access to them across the nation.
Two years ago on August 4, 2020, President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act into law. That action cemented decades of frustratingly unsuccessful efforts to finally, fully and permanently, appropriate $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation played an intimate and key role in getting LWCF across the finish line. In March 2020, Senators Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) secured a meeting with President Trump and several staffers in Washington D.C. Daines and then reached out to RMEF to acquire high-quality maps, photos and other details about its Falls Creek project, which permanently protected 442 acres of wildlife and riparian habitat along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and greatly improved access to 27,000 acres of public land beyond.
“This is a landmark accomplishment and a tremendous victory for conservation!” Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO, said at the time. “It simply cannot be overstated how vital this program is for our public lands, wildlife and outdoor recreation.”
First created in 1964, LWCF makes funding available to lawmakers to appropriate $900 million annually from federal offshore drilling fees for the conservation of important land, water and recreational areas for all Americans to enjoy.
“This program is absolutely crucial for elk, other wildlife and hunting access,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “LWCF further improves public access to public lands by directing federal agencies to open lands for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting unless specifically closed.”
“With that one act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is forever guaranteed to be funded at least $900 million per year ensuring there are conservation and recreation projects in every state and in communities large and small,” said Lesley Kane Szynal, co-chair of the LWCF Coalition. “We look forward to building on this win and continuing the fight to conserve the outdoors that make our nation great and ensure equitable access to outdoor spaces for all Americans no matter where they live.”
(Photo source: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)