Environment America highlights 12 outdoor destinations, brought to you by the Land and Water Conservation Fund
WASHINGTON -- America is beautiful for many things, including purple mountain majesties and fruited plains. But protecting and preserving America’s natural wonders requires sustained stewardship -- and money.
Since President Lyndon Johnson signed the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) into law in 1965, the program has funded thousands of projects in all 50 states -- from national parks to local youth sports fields. But while Congress passed and President Trump signed a bipartisan bill in March that permanently reauthorizes LWCF, it has yet to be permanently, fully funded. In fact, over the years, Congress has raided $22 billion from the fund.
As millions of Americans get ready to embark on their July 4th vacations, sightseeing and picnics, Environment America is highlighting a dozen iconic destinations funded by LWCF, from the Grand Canyon in Arizona to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.
“Despite how long LWCF has been around, most Americans are unaware of how the Fund enhances their quality of life and the environment around them,” said Steve Blackledge, senior director of Environment America’s Conservation Program. “We were encouraged by the overwhelmingly bipartisan effort to permanently reauthorize America’s best conservation program -- now it’s time for Congress to deliver again with full funding.”
Two weeks ago, a bipartisan group of representatives unveiled legislation in the House that would permanently allocate the full annual allotment of $900 million to LWCF. That bill has passed out of committee, and heads to a full floor vote. The Senate also held a hearing Tuesday on similar legislation.
Here’s Environment America’s list of iconic LWCF-funded destinations:
Established 100 years ago this year, Grand Canyon National Park “overwhelms our senses” with its stunning geological formations, and now has over 5 million visitors every year.
The Eastern United States --
Perhaps the most fabled hiking trail in the world, The Appalachian Trail stretches nearly 2,200 miles from Mt. Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia.
The beloved Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, providing 1.5 million acres of protected wetland habitat to many rare and endangered species.
Spanning 867,000 acres across 26 counties, the Chattahoochee National Forest protects thousands of miles of streams and rivers, 850 miles of hiking trails and dozens of campgrounds and recreation areas.
Acadia National Park is the “Crown Jewel of North Atlantic Coast,” with nearly 50,000 acres of rocky coastline, seven peaks over 1,000 feet and 158 miles of hiking trails. More than 3.3 million people visit the park every year.
Maryland and Virginia --
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America and a mecca for boaters, anglers and wildlife enthusiasts. The National Park service describes it as “an ecological, cultural, and recreational treasure of national and international importance.”
The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore features towering bluffs up to 450 feet high that offer spectacular views of Lake Michigan. The protected area also includes miles of sand beaches, lush forests and clear, inland lakes.
Wild Horse Island in Flathead Lake is the largest island in a freshwater lake west of Minnesota (2,160 acres) and used by the Kootenai Indians to pasture horses. Montanans frequent the park to kayak, fish, bird watch and much more.
Originally created in 1936 to provide habitat and protection for bighorn sheep populations, the Desert National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 1.6 million acres and six major mountain ranges, making it the largest U.S. wildlife refuge outside of Alaska.
New Jersey --
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area boasts 67,000 acres of forest, mountains and valleys, 100 miles of hiking trails and bountiful wildlife.
North Carolina --
Straddling the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most-visited National park, world-renowned for its biodiverse forests and beautiful, ancient mountains.
Gettysburg National Military Park commemorates the Battle of Gettysburg, and features “battlewalks,” living history demonstrations and horseback-riding.
Environment America is a national network with affiliates in 29 states. Our staff and members work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. Environment America is part of The Public Interest Network, which runs organizations committed to our vision of a better world, a set of core values, and a strategic approach to getting things done.