The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was for decades an environmental success story: it takes money the feds get from offshore drilling and parcels it out to federal, state and local agencies for parks and conservation land.
Even though it has been politically popular since it started in 1965, Congressional authorization for the program has expired — and reauthorization is still stuck in partisan gridlock.
But the wide geographic distribution of the funds makes LWCF a goldmine for environmental stories by enterprising local and state reporters. And now InvestigateWest, a non-profit watchdog journalism outlet, has made LWCF sleuthing easier by compiling an easy-to-use database of LWCF grants made between 1965 and 2011. Access it here.
It was compiled by Jason Alcorn.
Parks purchased, built or improved with the LWCF funds are obligated by law to remain parks, although InvestigateWest found numerous examples of parks converted to other uses, particularly state and local parks. So the next time there’s a controversy over converting a park to some other use or putting in a commercial concession, you might check to see if the park is in the database. If so, the state or local government is under federal obligation to replace the parkland with recreational amenities of equal financial and physical value.
Full disclosure: journalist Robert McClure, executive director of Investigate West, has long played an editorial role with the Society of Environmental Journalists' WatchDog.