With the passage of the John D. Dingell Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act in March of 2019, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was made permanent. However, the Act did not guarantee full funding for LWCF, instead leaving Congress to decide how much money the Fund receives every year.
LWCF was created in 1964 to fund the acquisition of land from willing sellers that are important to conservation. LWCF is not paid for by taxes, instead receiving its funding from fees paid to the U.S. Treasury for oil and gas drilling in ocean waters. This essentially makes this Fund a separate bank account within the Treasury that can be used exclusively for conservation purposes.
Over the years, LWCF has been tapped for for a variety of land preservation purposes, from buying private landowners’ parcels within existing National Park or National Forest lands, to preserving habitat for threatened and endangered species, to creating natural areas in cities for both wildlife and peoples' benefit.
LWCF has greatly benefitted the A.T. in adding open space around the Trail to create a 250,000-acre greenway that traverses 14 states, from Maine to Georgia. The A.T. landscape connects significant public lands in the eastern United States and protects scenic vistas, wildlife habitats, forests, meadows, wetlands, farmlands and areas of historic significance.
Through LWCF, it has been possible to preserve scenic open spaces along the Trail, improve recreational access for millions of residents in the Eastern United States, support sustainable tourism in hundreds of communities, and ensure that important wildlife migratory routes remain intact.
If not for the LWCF, the Appalachian Trail as we know it would not exist today.