Gettysburg National Military Park. The Appalachian Trail. Allegheny National Forest. The Flight 93 National Memorial. More than 1,200 state and local parks.
What do all these places have in common?
They’re all here in Pennsylvania, and they all exist thanks, in part, to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1964. The idea was simple: use a small portion of offshore drilling fees to protect important land, water, and cultural heritage for all Americans to enjoy.
The fund was created with public outdoor recreation access in mind. Places that receive funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund are permanently protected for outdoor recreation.
The Tower of Voices honors the lives lost on Flight 93 during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Land and Water Conservation Fund contributed $10 million to support the creation of the Flight 93 National Memorial. Photo credit: National Park Service
How Does the Fund Help Pennsylvania?
The fund supports not only federal lands, but also DCNR’s statewide recreation and conservation grants through the fund’s State Assistance Program.
DCNR’s Bureau of Recreation and Conservation manages these grants and was founded in part to manage Land and Water Conservation Fund projects.
The State Assistance Program has distributed more than $178 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants to support Pennsylvania’s state and local parks, trails, and historic sites.
For example, the fund has supported the construction or renovation of more than 100 community swimming pools with a combined $13 million.
Recent projects have focused on renovations to existing parks, connecting trails together, and acquiring land to support future outdoor recreation opportunities.
In all, the State Assistance Program in Pennsylvania has supported more than 1,600 projects in 95 percent of the state’s counties.
One in five Pennsylvania parks have received Land and Water Conservation Fund support. A few of the many places that exist or have been improved thanks to the fund include:
- Fairmount Park (Philadelphia)
- Fort Hunter Park (Dauphin County)
- Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area (Lancaster County)
- Ohiopyle State Park (Fayette County)
- Schenley Park (Pittsburgh)
The view from Baughman Rock in Ohiopyle State Park. The Land and Water Conservation Fund provided nearly $1 million to expand and improve the park.
Why Is the Permanent Funding Important?
Since the 1970s, the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s legislation has authorized it to receive up to $900 million each year. But in practice, it rarely received that much.
Until July 22, 2020, when Congress passed the Great American Outdoors Act. The act permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund at its full level.
The act passed with strong bipartisan support in both chambers.
The act means Pennsylvania will continue to see an ongoing federal investment in our state’s outdoor spaces.
Every year, more than 100,000 migrating snow geese stop at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area. Visitors from across the globe come to watch this amazing spectacle. The Land and Water Conservation Fund provided more than $1 million to help establish Middle Creek. Photo credit: Jacob Dingel, Pennsylvania Game Commission
That investment supports a major economic driver in Pennsylvania. Outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania generates more than $29 billion in consumer spending annually and sustains more than 250,000 jobs.
Even better, the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s State Assistance Program will increase nearly 50 percent thanks to the Great American Outdoors Act.
Before the act, Pennsylvania received about $8 million annually from the State Assistance Program. After the act, that number will increase to an estimated $12 million.
“Permanent funding allows DCNR to grow the recreation and conservation grant program to more fully reach all Pennsylvanians with parks and natural lands,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “These public spaces are invaluable to our quality of life and our economy.”