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Land and Water Conservation Fund
Land and Water Conservation Fund

​​​​​​Land and Water Conservation Fund​

From parks to playgrounds, wilderness to wetlands, bicycle paths to hiking trails, LWCF has helped communities nationwide acquire nearly seven million acres of parkland, water resources and open space. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program was enacted by Congress in 1965 (P.L. 88-578) to create parks and open spaces; protect wilderness, wetlands, and refuges; preserve wildlife habitat; and enhance recreational opportunities.   The need for a nationwide funding mechanism like LWCF first became apparent in the 1950s, when a shortfall in federal funding threatened to limit protection for places where Americans could experience and enjoy the outdoors.

In 1962, President Eisenhower's Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission recommended that Congress establish a source of funding to safeguard important natural areas and provide outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.  In 1965 the Land and Water Conservation Fund was enacted into law, and since has been authorized to continue through 2015.

In 1968, Congress made offshore federal oil and gas drilling lease revenues the primary source to fund LWCF, and in 1977 increased the amount of funds available to up to $900 million per year.  Congress has an uneven history of annual LWCF appropriations, seldom reaching the fully authorized amount of $900 million. This funding program is administered at the federal level by the National Park Service​.

The LWCF program features two funding components:

  1. A federal program that funds the purchase of land and water areas for conservation and recreation purposes through four federal land management agencies – the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.

  2. A state managed (state-side) matching grant program provides funds to states for planning, developing and acquiring land and water areas for state and local parks and recreation facilities.  Funds appropriated annually by Congress through the National Park Service for this program are divided among the states.  These grants require a fifty percent (50%) match of the total project related allowable costs funded with LWCF money.

The amount available from the LWCF for state-side managed grants is determined by the annual Congressional appropriation process. This amount is supplemented by a guaranteed amount set aside each year in a special Treasury account from other qualified off-shore revenues pursuant to the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (P.L. 109-432).

In Colorado, annual state-side matching grant apportionments have ranged from $0 (1996-1999) to nearly $5.4 million in 1979.  In recent years, Colorado's annual allocation has been approximately $750,000.  LWCF state-side matching grants are administered by Colorado's Parks and Wildlife Division as authorized by §33-10-115 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.

Since the inception of the LWCF program 1965, nearly 1,006 LWCF grants totaling more than $70 million have been awarded to state and local park and recreation project in Colorado. Nationwide, the LWCF program has underwritten the development of more than 38,000 state and local park and recreation projects in nearly every county in the nation.

The LWCF program grants broken out by Colorado's Congressional Districts are as follows:

Colorado's Congressional Districts Number of LWCF Projects Total LWCF Grant Funding
# 1 116 $  7,736,582
# 2 176
# 3 253
# 4 147
# 5 112
$  9,622,539
# 6 76
$  4,952,836
# 7 98
$  5,302,336
​$  1,399,454
Totals 1006


The current policy of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission is to allocate the annual Colorado state-side LWCF apportionment to trail projects that come before the State Recreational Trails Committee as trail grant applications from eligible local government entities and projects sponsored by Colorado Parks and Wildlife Division.

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