Land and Water Conservation Fund Poses Problems for Western Cattlemen

A cow grazes at the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.
( Bureau of Land Management )

A conservation funding program that has not been reauthorized by the federal government has the potential to cause complications for cattle producers, particularly in the Western U.S.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was created 54 years ago and uses funds from federal offshore oil and gas leases to conserve millions of acres of land on national parks, monuments and historic sites. In September funding for LWCF expired and there was a recent attempt to push a bill through before the end of the year that failed in Congress.

The LWCF has transformed from a program that does maintenance on park property to actually acquiring land, says Ethan Lane, Executive Director of the Public Lands Council (PLC) and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) Federal Lands.

Since the program started $18.5 billion has been accumulated, with 65% of the funds spent on purchasing land. “That’s a cause of concern for ranchers in the West,” Lane tells AgriTalk in a recent radio interview.

There is currently more than $21 billion in funding for LWCF, enough money to fund the program’s $900 million annual budget for 20 years. PLC and NCBA worry that a full reauthorization of LWCF would give the program a “blank check” to continue purchasing rural lands and placing more regulations on ranchers.

To hear more on Lane’s thoughts about LWCF and other government programs that could impact cattle ranchers listen to his interview with AgriTalk below: