The Interior Department took steps to strengthen the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by rescinding Trump administration policies that significantly undermined the landmark conservation program. Secretarial Order 3396 revokes an order signed on November 9, 2020 (Secretarial Order 3388) that unilaterally imposed new restrictions to inhibit the availability of LWCF funding for federal land and water acquisitions.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been crucial to protecting public lands, conserving wildlife habitats and improving access to outdoor recreation. Interior’s actions today affirm our support for one of America’s most successful and popular conservation programs,” said Shannon A. Estenoz, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Fish and Wildlife and Parks. “We look forward to further strengthening this successful program to ensure that all communities – from hikers and sportsmen to urban and underserved communities – have access to nature and the great outdoors.”
In addition to rescinding the November 2020 Bernhardt policy, Secretarial Order 3396 instructs the National Park Service to revise the Land and Water Conservation Fund Assistance Manual to remove the restrictive policies implemented in the previous order, and to reinstate pre-existing implementation of the LWCF state assistance program and Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program. The ORLP program is the only LWCF competitive grant program dedicated to addressing the recreational gap in underserved urban areas.
Since its inception in 1965, the LWCF has funded $4 billion worth of projects in every county in the country. Last year, Congress permanently funded the LWCF at $900 million per year with wide bipartisan support. At no cost to taxpayers, the LWCF supports increased public access to and protection for federal public lands and waters – including national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and recreation areas – and provides matching grants to state and tribal governments for the acquisition and development of public parks and other outdoor recreation sites.