Maryland is filled with hidden treasures of natural beauty. A true “America in miniature,” our wonderful state has towering tree-covered mountains in the west, and long stretches of sand-covered beaches on our Eastern Shore, and is home to the bountiful Chesapeake Bay.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has supported or enhanced the protection of many of the most special parks and other natural areas across the state. The Fund was permanently authorized in 2019, but that does not guarantee that the $900 million put into the LWCF account every year will be spent on conservation. Over the 55 years of the program, billions of dollars have been siphoned from the fund for other non-conservation purposes. In fact, this past fiscal year 2020, only $495 million was appropriated to LWCF—far short of full funding, and yet the highest amount in 15 years.
That means the money that should have gone to increasing recreation opportunity for all, protecting our parks from being sold off to the highest bidder, providing close-to-home playgrounds and ballfields to support healthy kids and families, safeguarding our drinking water supplies, and keeping working forests in sustainable operation instead of subdivided and developed — went somewhere else.
There has been unprecedented bipartisan support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act in both the House and Senate. On March 3, President Trump announced via Twitter that he would sign permanent LWCF funding legislation and funding for our National Parks. Since then, major developments are underway to introduce and pass such a joint bill in the Senate, by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Cory Gardner (R-CO). We expect the House to introduce similar legislation soon. (Information from: https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/fundlwcf)
So, what can we do to help the fight to #FundLWCF?
It is crucial that our elected officials hear from the people who love our public lands, benefit from LWCF in their home communities, enjoy having open space in their cities and towns, like having their drinking water protected, and want to secure access to lands and waters for recreational activities.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has provided funding to help protect some of Maryland’s most special places and ensure recreational access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.
Maryland has received approximately $231.8 million in LWCF funding over the past five decades, protecting places such as the Assateague Island National Seashore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Monocacy National Battlefield and the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
Forest Legacy Program (FLP) grants are also funded under LWCF, to help protect working forests. The FLP cost-share funding supports timber sector jobs and sustainable forest operations while enhancing wildlife habitat, water quality and recreation.
For example, the FLP contributed to places such as the Broad Creek in Dublin and the Coastal Bay project in Snow Hill. FLP has directly protected 2,014 acres in Maryland. The program assists states and private forest owners to maintain working forest lands through matching grants for permanent conservation easement and fee acquisitions, and has leveraged approximately $4.6 million in federal funds to invest in Maryland’s forests. These forests enhance air and water quality and provide wildlife habitat and recreational access.
LWCF state assistance grants have further supported hundreds of projects across Maryland’s state and local parks including Conquest Waterfront Preserve in Queen Anne’s County and Seneca State Park in Montgomery County.
Active outdoor recreation is an important part of the Maryland economy. The Outdoor Industry Association has found that active outdoor recreation generates $14 billion in consumer spending in Maryland; provides 109,000 jobs that generate $4.4 billion in wages and salaries; and produces nearly $951 million annually in state and local tax revenue. Further, the U.S. Census reports that each year over 2.7 million people hunt, fish, or enjoy wildlife-watching in Maryland, contributing over $1.6 billion in wildlife recreation spending to the state economy.
Funding in Maryland
Federal Total $ 134,400,000
Forest Legacy Program $ 4,600,000
American Battlefield Protection Program $ 3,000,000
Habitat Conservation (Sec. 6) $ 3,500,000
State Program Total State Grants $ 85,300,000
Total $ 231,800,000