If you are a parent concerned about connecting your children to nature and assuring future opportunities for them to enjoy the outdoors, then you need to know about the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The LWCF is a federal program that conserves irreplaceable lands and improves outdoor recreation opportunities throughout the nation.
To date, it has permanently protected nearly five million acres of public lands including some of America’s most treasured assets such as Grand Canyon National Park, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the White Mountain National Forest and Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, the nation’s first federal refuge. And that's just one purpose of the fund. Another function of LWCF is to support land protection in local communities by providing grants to states to support the acquisition and development of state and local parks, natural areas and recreational facilities in every one of our 50 states. Chances are, there is a trail, park, waterway or outdoor area near you that has benefited from the LWCF. Imagine that --- a fund specifically designed to protect and conserve the places where you recreate with your kids, whether it's the local park where you meet for playgroup each week, or a national park where you head each year for your fabulous family vacation. Yes, it does exist!
The congressionally authorized level of $900 million annually is enough to ensure that all Americans have access to quality outdoor recreation. But here's the crux, the program has been chronically underfunded, which has lead to a number of missed opportunities for investing in important areas that would benefit our children, families and society as a whole. In fact, funding has fallen drastically in the last few years to total less than $100 million in 2007. Just think about all those missed opportunities to protect fish and wildlife habitat, provide public access for recreation, preserve our nation’s most notable historic and cultural sites and protect scenic vistas and natural areas right around the corner --- all of which are being lost every day to development.
In light of the major economic and financial issues facing families today, it is even more important to assure access to nature, as it provides a respite from stress and never-ending opportunities to relax and enjoy time together as a family inexpensively and often for free. We need natural places, and the reality is that they are quickly disappearing, leaving behind more concrete and less green.
Now is the Time
With a major election now behind us, and changes on the horizon regarding the national budget and funding for federal programs in 2011, now is the time to educate yourself on this important issue. As it stands now, it is possible to assure full funding by the end of this congressional term. It will take support from Congress and most importantly, you! Visit the LWCF Coalition page to learn more about the fund and what you can do to help ensure the best quality of life for your kids and family, from the land we hike to the water we paddle and for our enjoyment of the great outdoors as a whole.