New Interactive Map Reveals How the Land and Water Conservation Fund Makes Our National Parks Whole

Sep 24, 2015


SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

DENVER—The Center for Western Priorities today unveiled a new interactive map revealing the impacts the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has had and could have on making America’s national parks whole. In an analysis of new National Park Service data, CWP determined that LWCF has protected 2.2 million acres of national parks since it was created in 1965.

As America prepares to celebrate the National Park Service centennial in 2016, this park-by-park mapping project highlights national treasures that could have been threatened without LWCF funds, including large swaths of Arizona’s Petrified Forest, critical pieces of Utah’s Zion National Park, and more than half of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Other park units exist entirely thanks to the LWCF, including Colorado’s Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Kansas’s Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, and South Carolina’s Congaree National Park.

CWP’s map reveals that 172 national parks—or 43 percent of all parks—in 44 states are at potential risk of development because of unprotected private lands within park boundaries.

When Congress establishes a new national park, private lands sometimes remain within the boundaries of the park—areas known as inholdings. Inholdings can be at risk of development, as occurred when a luxury home was built inside Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado. Congress grants the National Park Service limited authority to acquire private inholdings from a willing seller. If a property owner wants to sell his or her inholding to the National Park Service and protect the land for future generations, the only source of federal funding available to make the purchase is the LWCF.

CWP Policy Director Greg Zimmerman said, “Without LWCF, landowners who want to help make our parks whole by selling their property to the National Park Service would have little choice but to sell their land to another party and potentially risk development within the park.”

John Gardner, Budget and Appropriations Director at the National Parks Conservation Association said, “It’s critical that Congress renew this proven, effective tool for protecting our parks. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is essential for protecting wildlife habitat, reducing incompatible development, and improving efficient management of our national parks.” Encouraging Congress to act quickly, Gardner added, “LWCF reauthorization will be a wise investment in ensuring access to public lands for hiking, fishing and other outdoor recreation while supporting public access and local economies.”

Permanently protecting national park inholdings with LWCF is also a smart fiscal decision. In April 2015, Deputy Interior Secretary Michael Connor told Congress strategic acquisitions “can reduce maintenance and manpower costs by reducing boundary conflicts, simplifying resource management activities, and easing access to and through public lands.” In 2016, planned LWCF protections in Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park and Preserve are expected to lead to significant firefighting cost savings over time.

CWP’s new interactive map lets reporters and the public see how many acres of each park have already been protected using LWCF, how many remaining acres Congress has given the National Park Service authority to protect in the future should they become available through a willing seller, and the parks where the agency has proposed to protect land in 2016 with LWCF funds.

The LWCF is funded by royalties on offshore oil and gas drilling. Unless Congress acts, the LWCF will expire entirely on September 30, 2015, significantly threatening the National Park Service’s ability to continue making our national parks whole.

CWP’s map is available at To embed the map on your website, or for interviews and more information on LWCF projects in your area, contact Media Director Aaron Weiss at 720-279-0019, or Advocacy Director Jessica Goad at 720-565-0906.