We’re celebrating 50 days of access wins made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has invested more than $16 billion in conservation and outdoor recreation since 1965.
The LWCF has helped to establish new public fishing areas, open new access into landlocked public lands, and acquire land specifically to benefit fish, wildlife, and the sporting public. The program is incredibly popular among hunters and anglers, and it enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. It’s the perfect example of a balanced conservation program, because it uses dollars raised from a small portion of federal offshore oil and gas drilling fees—not the American taxpayer’s wallet—to invest in our natural resources and outdoor recreation opportunities.
In December of 2015, Congress reauthorized the program for three years and funded it at $450 million for 2016—an increase of nearly $150 million over the previous year. But the LWCF funding stream needs to be reauthorized again before October 2018.
TRCP and its partners in the LWCF Coalition are calling on Congress to permanently reauthorize LWCF, and fully fund the program at $900 million. Two bills, S. 569 and H.R. 502, would permanently reauthorize the program and set aside 1.5 percent of program spending specifically for public access projects. S. 569 would also fully fund the program.
America’s sportsmen and women understand that the LWCF has been critical to creating more outdoor recreation opportunities in American and, therefore, driving spending in rural communities nationwide. Now is the time to reauthorize LWCF.
Here are just a handful of the places where the LWCF has improved access and opportunity for hunters and anglers. Keep checking back as we continue our 50 Days of #AccessWins. And take action to help this valuable tool working for outdoor recreation across the country.
Since its inception more than 50 years ago, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $268 million in Colorado. In turn, these projects have opened and expanded thousands of acres for recreational access – including more than 10,000 acres since 2011 – which fuels Colorado’s $28 billion outdoor recreation economy. Check out a great LWCF project that enhanced public access and improved fish and wildlife habitat in Colorado.
Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch
Situated along the Yampa River, the Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch offers incredible hunting and fishing opportunities. The ranch sits along a major Rocky Mountain elk migratory route, providing some of the best big game hunting in Colorado, while the Yampa River cuts through the canyon and makes for some of the most picturesque fishing in the country.
In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management used LWCF funds to acquire 920 acres of land near the canyon, including 2.8 miles of river frontage. The key partner in this project was Western Rivers Conservancy, which purchased the ranch in 2012 to protect the area from further development and to create new recreational access to the vast public lands adjacent to the ranch. WRC’s efforts at Cross Mountain were instrumental in creating the sportsmen-recreation access line-item, an LWCF funding source that helps guarantee reliable funding for recreational access projects that benefit all Americans.
Prior to the acquisition, the ranch sat on private land surrounded by 88,000 acres of public land, making those public lands difficult to access. The Cross Mountain Canyon Ranch LWCF project is a perfect example of the program completing the federal estate, not expanding it, by eliminating the lands “checkerboard.”
Since 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested $250 million in Minnesota’s parks, forests, and wildlife refuges, opening and enhancing hunting and fishing opportunities in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Every year, Minnesotans spend more than $4 billion on hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching. By conserving quality wildlife habitat and ensuring sportsmen’s access, LWCF is a critical program for Minnesota’s $16-billion overall outdoor recreation economy. Check out some great Minnesota LWCF projects below:
Wolf Island, Superior National Forest
In 2013, the U.S. Forest Service completed acquisition of Wolf Island, situated on Lake Vermillion in Minnesota’s Superior National Forest. Wolf Island provides a destination for boaters and canoers on Lake Vermillion, and features prime access to fish for walleye, muskie, northern, and largemouth bass. Long-term public access to the lake had been in jeopardy, as much of the shore is privately held and had seen rapid development in recent years. Thanks to the conservation work from The Trust For Public Land and only $1.7 million in federal LWCF funding, Wolf Island will remain in the public’s hands for decades to come.
Stony Point, Chippewa National Forest
Leech Lake, in north central Minnesota, features some of the best pike and muskie fishing in the state. Much of the lake resides in Chippewa National Forest, home to some awesome grouse habitat and providing public hunting access for deer, grouse, and waterfowl. So when 40 acres of land along Leech Lake’s shoreline were proposed for development, conservationists and the Forest Service collaborated to protect these public lands.
In 2017, the Forest Service purchased a 40-acre inholding on Stony Point from the Trust for Public Land, utilizing $1 million in LWCF funds. Prior to TPL’s involvement, proposed development on Stony Point threatened to disturb sensitive wetlands and harm water quality. Having now been added to the surrounding Chippewa National Forest, Stony Point will continue to provide fishing opportunities in Minnesota’s third-largest lake.
Koochiching-Washington Forest Legacy Project
In recent years, the LWCF Forest Legacy Program has conserved and protected access and habitat in Minnesota’s Koochiching and Washington State Forests. The Forest Legacy Program combines federal and state funding to protect public access and wildlife habitat in America’s working forests. In the Koochiching-Washington Forest project, more than 51,000 acres were purchased, which opened and improved sportsmen’s access on almost 440,000 acres of state forests.
Today, the Koochiching and Washington Forests can support more about 1,100 deer hunters annually, and provide pristine fishing opportunities in addition to all sorts of outdoor recreation activities. The project helped protect parts of 13 lakes and 90 ponds, 47 miles of shoreline and 44 miles of rivers and streams, in addition to 19,000 acres of wetlands. Situated in the heart of the prairie pothole duck factory, these protected wetlands are expected to help sustain game bird populations across the region.
Over the last 50 years, LWCF has invested more than $235 million into Arizona’s iconic landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead, and helped spur recreational opportunities in cities, rural areas, and remote deserts all across the state. Outdoor recreation in Arizona spurs $21 billion in consumer spending per year, and roughly $1.4 billion in state and local tax revenue, while sportsmen flock to the renowned wildernesses to hunt desert species unique to the region. While LWCF has contributed to hundreds of projects in AZ, below are just a few of the more recent projects enhancing sportsmen’s access to public lands.
ET Ranch, Santa Teresa Wilderness
The Santa Teresa Mountains in Southwest Arizona offer some of the most remote hunting and outdoor recreation opportunities in the West. For generations, sportsmen have set out in the desert terrain of the Santa Teresa Wilderness Areas – which together total more than 32,000 acres – to hunt mule deer, white-tail, black bears, or even coatimundi and javelinas.
In 2017, the Bureau of Land Management and the Trust for Public Land partnered to provide permanent public access to the Santa Teresa Wilderness Areas by acquiring the ET Ranch. The 600-acre ET Ranch sits on a service road at the mouth of Fourmile Canyon near Jackson Mountain. Formerly privately owned, public access to the road – and therefore the Wilderness Areas – was in jeopardy. However, with only $480,000 in federal LWCF funding – from a specific recreation access account – combined with state, local, and non-governmental support, the ranch was purchased and added to the BLM-managed North Santa Teresa Wilderness.
Along with TPL, another TRCP partner organization – the National Wild Turkey Federation – provided financial support for this project, while local sportsman’s groups provided grassroots support. Projects like these underscore the collaborative, local nature of LWCF, as well as the power that a unified sportsman’s voice can have in protecting public access.
Packard Ranch, Coconino and Prescott National Forests
The Coconino and Prescott National Forests in central Arizona border each other near the confluence of the Verde River and Sycamore Creek, immediately due-South of the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness. These lands provide impeccable opportunities for hunting mule deer, white-tailed deer, as well as Merriam’s turkeys, in addition to providing access to the Packard and Parson’s hiking trails. Not only do these lands enhance recreation access, but also the river and creek provide a critical source of clean drinking water in a region which is usually quite dry.
However, in the middle of all of these protected lands is the 139-acre Packard Ranch which, until recently, was an “inholding” of private property wholly surrounded by public lands. That is, until the U.S. Forest Service utilized LWCF funds to guarantee public access for generations to come.
With $2 million in LWCF funding between 2008 and 2010, the Packard Ranch was acquired by the Trust For Public Land and opened for public access. In 2012, the U.S. Forest Service completed acquisition of the ranch, adding Packard Ranch to the Coconino National Forest and guaranteeing protection of public access to this “side door” into the Coconino National Forest, Prescott National Forest, and the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.
August 26- September 1
Over the life of the program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $279 million to enhance wildlife habitat and open recreation access in Idaho’s most iconic refuges, forests, lakes, and parks. Whether expanding Natural Recreation Areas or reducing the public lands checkerboard, LWCF projects exist in every Idaho county and help make the state a destination for America’s sportsmen. The LWCF Forest Legacy Program is especially important in Idaho, where sustainable timber production helps to support wildlife habitat and economic development. More than 1 million people hunt, fish, or wildlife-watch in Idaho each year, and the outdoor recreation economy supports more than 78,000 Idaho jobs. Let’s check out a few recent LWCF projects that enhanced sportsmen’s access in Idaho:
South Fork of the Upper Snake River
A recent U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service study found the South Fork of Idaho’s Upper Snake River to be the most valuable, unique, and biologically diverse ecosystem in the state. More than 330,000 people fish and float the river each year, supporting nearly 400 jobs in southeastern Idaho. The river hosted the 1997 World Fly Fishing Championships, and remains a top destination for water-based recreation in the Gem State.
Over the last 20 years, local conservation partners led by The Conservation Fund have protected more than 20,000 acres along the Upper Snake River. These projects provide some of the best fish and wildlife habitat in the country, including the largest native cutthroat trout fishery outside of Yellowstone National Park. Additionally, LWCF funds help ensure protection of migration corridors used annually by moose, elk, black bears, and other migratory game species.
Last year, $1.8 million was approved for the Special Recreation Management Area and the Area of Critical Environmental Concern, both overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. This year, $2.3 million in LWCF funding has been requested to continue the on-the-ground conservation work that makes the South Fork so diverse, unique, and valuable to Idaho’s economy.
The Clagstone Meadows project utilized LWCF’s Forest Legacy Program to improve wildlife habitat, preserve public access, and support sustainable forest operations near the southern shore of Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho’s panhandle. In 2015, using a $5.5 million investment from the FLP as well as some Pittman-Robertson funding, more than 14,000 acres were placed under permanent conservation easement, with more than 10,000 of those acres becoming permanently accessible to the public.
The Trust For Public Land carried out this project in partnership with Stimson Lumber Company, who under the easement will continue responsible management and harvest of the working forests. Meanwhile these working forests provide great wildlife habitat for a number of big and upland game, including black bears, mountain lions, and elk, while more than 1,200 of the acres provide access to Lake Pend Oreille. Now under management of the Idaho Fish and Game Department, Idaho’s sportsmen and women can permanently pursue their outdoor traditions on these lands.
Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area
Few places in America provide a wilderness experience to match the Frank Church-River of No Return in central Idaho. In 2012, LWCF funding was used to acquire the Morgan Ranch, an old homestead that is adjacent to Prospect and Sulphur Creeks. The property is just upstream from the creeks’ confluence with the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, and is surrounded by National Forest Service land, including the LWCF-protected Sawtooth National Recreation Area.
Because of its location on Sulphur Creek, development of the Morgan Ranch property would have significant impact on spawning and rearing habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and bull trout. Meanwhile, the Wildness Area is adjacent to eight National Forests, which have established and preserved migratory corridors for big horn sheep, black bears, and several other game species. The addition of the Morgan Ranch to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, now the second-largest protected wilderness in the nation, lets the public enjoy it as unspoiled natural land.
Description courtesy of the LWCF Coalition.
For more than five decades, Illinois sportsmen have had seen public access established and expanded thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF investments in Illinois wetlands and wildlife refuges provide some of the most important upland habitat in the Mississippi Flyway. The program has invested more than $213 million in Illinois, where the outdoor recreation economy directly supports 200,000 jobs and $26 billion in annual consumer spending. From the Shawnee National Forest to the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and at several National Wildlife Refuges across the state, wildlife habitat and sportsmen’s access has been created and enhanced by LWCF. Check out a recent LWCF project that enhanced hunting and angling opportunities:
Mid America’s Great Rivers Project, Shawnee National Forest
Located in Southern Illinois, just north of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Shawnee National Forest is comprised of 280,000 acres of streams, lakes, prairies, waterfalls, woodlands, and rocky outcroppings. Its proximity to the Ohio and the Mississippi, while being smack-dab in the middle of the Mississippi Flyway, make Shawnee NF a destination hunt for Illinois waterfowlers. Meanwhile, visitors can fish in 11 lakes and 52 ponds, while 30,000 acres of wilderness areas provide remote small game hunting, hiking, and camping access. Shawnee National Forest has received nearly $11 million from LWCF over the lifetime of the program, most recently receiving $2.2 million in 2015 as part of the Mid-America’s Great River project, which helped protect habitat while reducing the public lands checkerboard.
Public access to Pennsylvania’s parks, refuges, and open spaces has been secured and expanded for the past 50 years thanks in large part to investments totalling more than $310 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Hunters and anglers in the Keystone State rely on this access, as well as healthy fish and wildlife populations requiring ample protected habitat. Pennsylvania’s outdoor recreation economy generates nearly $30 billion in consumer spending each year, and directly supports more than 250,000 jobs. LWCF is a critical tool for protecting the lands and waters sportsmen and women enjoy – check out a few recent projects that expanded access in Pennsylvania:
Michaux State Forest is located in south-central Pennsylvania, and contains more than 85,000 acres of forestland protecting headwaters in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Immediately adjacent to the state forest is a property known as Eagle Rock, a large parcel of working forestland that provides quality habitat for a number game species. Eagle Rock is known for its deer, turkey, and grouse hunting, in addition to scenic hiking and biking trails.
In 2015, The Conservation Fund teamed up with state wildlife and forestry officials to permanently conserve Eagle Rock, which was under increasing pressure to be developed as nearby cities sprawled outwards. By working through LWCF’s Forest Legacy Program, these conservation partners were able to add the 1,100-acre Eagle Rock property to Michaux State Forest, while ensuring sustainable timber operations on the property for years to come. With only $1.5 million in LWCF funding – which does not come from taxpayer coffers – coupled with more than $2.0 million in state funding, Eagle Rock will be managed by state officials and provide hunting access in southern Pennsylvania for decades to come.
The Northeast Connection
Located on the eastern ridge of the Poconos, the Delaware Gap National Recreation Area provides great hunting and fishing for sportsmen along the Delaware River and its tributaries. Whether you’re hunting whitetail deer or black bear, or casting a fly for brook trout, the 70,000-acre area provides fantastic recreation opportunities less than two hours from both Philadelphia and New York City.
Using LWCF funding matched by local contributions, the National Park Service completed acquisition of a 1,054-acre, retired Girl Scout camp in 2018. The property is part of the “Northeast Connection” project, which aims to connect the recreation area with the 20,000-acre Delaware State Forest nearby. Another portion of the connection involved a 3,700-acre conservation easement on lands owned by adjoining hunting and fishing clubs, where owners now partner with local game officials to offer hunter safety courses. Once complete, this project would create a 155,000-acre block of of contiguous public lands with forests, streams, and wetlands providing key wildlife habitat.
The Northeast Connection project, which also uses Forest Legacy Program dollars to support local timber jobs, shows the critical importance of providing reliable funding for LWCF. Conservation doesn’t happen overnight, and continued support for LWCF will be necessary to protect access, habitat, and headwaters in the Delaware River Basin.