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Commonwealth's Counties

U.S. Senate passes bill permanently reauthorizing Land and Water Conservation Fund

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a program that safeguards and preserves public land and water resources across the Commonwealth and country.

The LWCF was established by Congress in 1964 to protect and enhance America’s public lands and waters, including parks, forests, wildlife refuges, recreational areas, and historic lands, such as Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields. Entities eligible to compete for LWCF funding include counties, cities and towns, park and recreation authorities, tribal governments, and state agencies.

Since the program’s inception, the LWCF has successfully distributed over $4.1 billion in state grants (matched for a total of $8.2 billion), funding nearly 42,000 state projects and protecting 2.37 million acres of land. Virginia has seen firsthand the benefits of the LWCF. In the 53 years it’s been active, the LWCF has successfully provided over $358.2 million in funding for over 400 projects across the Commonwealth. Examples of such projects include the Rappahannock River Valley Wildlife Refuge, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Historic District, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, to name a few.

Despite over five decades of success with the program, Congress initially allowed the LWCF to expire in 2015 before eventually reauthorizing the program through 2018. On September 30, 2018, Congress once again allowed the LWCF to expire.

In the Fall of 2018, VACo sent a letter to Senator Mark Warner in support of the Land Water Conservation Fund and asking him to support legislation permanently reauthorizing the Fund due to its sizeable impact on Virginia. Following this initial letter, VACo continued to work with and correspond with Senator Warner’s state and Washington, D.C. offices to highlight the critical importance of the LWCF.

Now, months later, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s S. 47 – the Natural Resources Management Act, which permanently reauthorizes the LWCF, has officially passed the full Senate 92-8. VACo thanks Senator Warner and Senator Tim Kaine (who also supported the bill) for their hard work and will continue to support and promote the LWCF to the rest of the Virginia Congressional Delegation.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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