5 Incredible Species Helped by the Land and Water Conservation Fund
One Vote Will Impact Over 100 Species
Often called America’s most successful conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) — at no cost to taxpayers — expands and supports parks, forests, wildlife refuges, seashores, rivers, lakes, and much more in nearly every zip code in the United States. For more than five decades, this important fund has also improved and increased habitat for hundreds of species of wildlife — many threatened by extinction.
Meet five of those species and find your state on our map to learn more about how LWCF has helped wildlife in your community.
The Florida panther’s historic range once extended from Florida to Louisiana and throughout the Gulf Coast states and Arkansas. Sadly, there are now fewer than 200 of these big cats left. Florida panthers can be found prowling Everglades National Park or the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Both of these protected areas were funded with help from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Since 1965, Florida has received more than a billion dollars from LWCF to support some of the most important wildlife areas in America.
Mississippi Sandhill Crane
The Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge provides safety for its namesake endangered species, the Mississippi sandhill crane. Considered one of the rarest birds in North America, the Mississippi sandhill crane – with its blazing red head and up to seven-foot wingspan – is imperiled. With approximately 100 cranes left, this refuge is the only place on earth to see these majestic birds in the wild.
Money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund helped support the refuge, which was created to protect the bird and its rapidly diminishing habitat. Overall, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided approximately $149 million to the state of Mississippi since its inception.
The National Park Service estimates that more than half a million caribou migrate through the Central Brooks Range of Alaska – an area protected by Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Caribou are vitally important to the Native people who live in the arctic. These wild animals have one of the longest migration patterns of any mammal on earth, with Porcupine caribou sometimes traveling up to 3,000 miles per year. This migration pattern can be disrupted by oil development and caribou populations are further threatened by climate change.
Both the park and refuge — along with many other areas that are critical for wildlife habitat– have been supported by the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Alaska has received $156 million in funding over the years.
More than 55 species of honeycreepers — differing greatly in appearance and size — once lived on the islands of Hawaii. Now, fewer than 18 species survive, with most of those also in danger of extinction. Known for their vivid plumage and beautiful songs, the birds have mostly fallen victim to avian malaria. One of the places that honeycreepers thrive is in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where the high altitude is a deterrent to the malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
Hawaii has received an estimated $249 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to protect areas across the islands, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
Not far from Park City, Utah, the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest is home to 300 species of wildlife. The area was once home to a robust population of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, but they died out in the early 1900s from over-hunting and disease. Four decades ago, wildlife officials reintroduced bighorns to this forest area and — after some initial problems getting started — bighorn sheep now can be seen on high mountain slopes during the summer and in the foothills near rocky cliffs in the winter.
The Uinta National Forest has been assisted throughout the years by the Land and Water Conservation Fund, most recently by the acquisition of properties improving connectivity of the forest in 2012. Overall, Utah has received over $196.5 million from LWCF to support and protect wildlife areas.
How You Can Help Protect These Species
This spring the Land and Water Conservation Fund was permanently reauthorized under the John Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act. It was an important first step, but now Congress needs to also ensure that the fund is permanently and fully funded. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is entitled to receive $900 million every year, but only twice in its history has Congress actually fully funded it. This year, White House budget advisors tried to zero out funding. Congressional budget leaders restored funding to $524 million, which is still woefully short of what it is due.
Now a bipartisan group of leaders have introduced a full-funding bill to make sure that money will no longer be wrongfully taken away from this important conservation program. Permanent full funding of LWCF will mean that our treasured public lands and the diverse wildlife that call them home will be protected for generations to come.