Key Federal Conservation Programs Face Deadlines

LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND

The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund or LWCF, is slated to expire next month unless Congress acts to reauthorize the program. LWCF has been used to fund hundreds of state and local park projects and to acquire lands for the state’s national parks, forest and seashores. It is funded by royalties from off-shore oil and gas production, not taxpayer dollars.

North Carolina’s US Senator Richard Burr has been a driving force for permanently reauthorizing and fully funding LWCF, including recently casting a deciding vote in defeating a budget recission bill proposed by the Trump Administration. The bill would have cut $16 million from the fund. Senator Burr has led the fight on LWCF in the US Senate and deserves the thanks of the conservation community.

At this time, it is unclear what legislation may be used as a vehicle for moving LWCF reauthorization forward. CTNC will continue to track developments and update our advocates. Thank Senator Burr for his continued leadership. 

FARM BILL

the Farm Bill, another important federal conservation program, is reauthorized by Congress every five years. Both the House and Senate have passed competing versions of the Farm Bill, which contain $500 million/year and $400 million/year respectively for farmland preservation. North Carolina typically receives $3-4 million in federal farmland funds per year, although this number has increased significantly recently.

The current Farm Bill expires in late September. The final Farm Bill will be hammered out in conference committee staring in late July and likely approved before the November elections. Both the House and Senate versions contain many of the priorities requested by the national land trust community, including increasing funding for agricultural easements and improving the administration of the federal farmland preservation program.

The Senate version also contains provisions to allow land trusts to use federal farmland preservation funding to place easements on farms they are planning to sell to new farmers. These “buy-protect-sell” provisions will assist land trusts in selling protected farmland to new farmers at affordable prices. Thank Senator Tillis for his continued leadership.

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