]From world-renowned outdoor destinations like the Sawtooths and City of Rocks to our local city parks and trails, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides critical funding to conservation and outdoor recreation projects across our state and the nation.
Since its inception in 1964, LWCF has invested nearly $300 million of non-taxpayer dollars to protect Idaho’s outdoor recreation heritage, secure access for hunting, fishing, and camping, and ensure our children have local parks and facilities to play in. What better day to celebrate all of our iconic outdoor destinations protected by this important fund than on Idaho Day? Join us as we take a further look at some of our favorite landmarks that have received LWCF funding and explore how full and permanent funding could further improve our wildlife, recreation opportunities, and local economies.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area
With the surrounding area facing development pressures, the Forest Service used the LWCF to purchase 5,000 acres and acquire another 18,000 in conservation easements. These acquisitions expand the area, improve public access, and create a buffer around the Sawtooths to protect wildlife.
For years, funding shortfalls have prevented necessary trail maintenance across our state like the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Currently, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has been working to find a solution to fill these needs. With full and permanent funding, the Land and Water Conservation Fund could help support these efforts throughout Idaho.
The Green Belt
The LWCF doesn’t just fund wild areas like our National Forests, it also funds close-to-home recreation opportunities. In the Treasury Valley, LWCF helped fund the acquisition of the Greenbelt as well as park and path development. For many Idahoans, local green spaces and neighborhood parks offer the closest connection to nature. Additionally, city pathways like the Greenbelt provide safe routes for children, give bicyclists a protected path off of busy streets, and give Idahoans a route to nearby cities.
The full Greenbelt system stretches over 20 miles, with an additional 10 miles of alternate routes and side paths. It connects Idahoans from Eagle all the way to Lucky Peak and Discovery State Parks, and hits many of the most popular recreation spots in the Treasure Valley. These types of extensive pathways can be challenging for Idaho cities to fund in full, so we rely on alternative sources like the LWCF. We’d love to see LCWF get permanent funding so more Idaho cities can start, expand, or improve their own city trails.
Bruneau Sand Dunes
The Bruneau Sand Dunes provide unique recreation opportunities for Idahoans, including sandboarding the dunes and stargazing at the observatory. More than $350k of acquisition and development funds came from the LWCF. These types of investments would not have been possible without the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In total, Idaho has received $300 million in funds, and that number could double if Congress votes to fully and permanently fund the LWCF!
Craters of the Moon
The LWCF has helped conserve buffer areas surrounding Craters of the Moon and the nearby Pioneers mountains, benefitting both migratory wildlife populations, local ranchers, and outdoor recreationists. Additionally, Craters of the Moon has been an economic boon to the local economy. According to their most recent economic report, the National Monument and Preserve saw nearly 250,000 visitors in 2015. Those visitors spent $8.4 million in local communities, supporting 133 jobs and $9.5 million in cumulative benefit to the local economy. Those numbers have continued to improve in the five subsequent years. Protected public lands and maintained trails help boost local economies like the ones surrounding Craters of the Moon. A fully and permanently funded LWCF could help expand and maintain economic benefits to rural Idaho communities.
Coeur d’Alene Parks
Projects within Coeur d’Alene, including Tubb’s Hill Natural Area, City Park, and Veterans Park have received more than $1.25 million in funding from the LWCF. Nearby natural areas in Kootenai County, including Farragut Park, have received millions more in funding. These projects would not have been possible if the tax burden fell on local Idahoans. The LWCF funds come entirely from offshore drilling revenues though, so there is no cost to taxpayers for any LWCF project.
City of Rocks
One of the benefits of the LWCF is that it improves the accessibility of public lands throughout the state. In Cassia County, funds went towards the Smoky Mountain Campground within Castle Rocks State Park, as well as various accessibility projects within City of Rocks. This improved access has allowed Idaho climbers to access the more than 1,000 traditional and bolt-protected rock climbing routes within the City of Rocks.
Give the LWCF full and permanent funding!
Our list only scratches the surface of LWCF projects. More than 550 projects have now been funded in Idaho, reaching every county in some form. Unfortunately, though the program is designed to receive $900 million from offshore drilling, the LWCF has rarely been funded to the full amount.
Thanks to public lands supporters like you though, a bipartisan effort is building for full and permanent funding. In recent days, President Donald Trump has publicly supported the effort and is now calling on Congress to permanently fund the LWCF. The next step is making sure our Idaho Senators Risch and Crapo are on board.