DENVER, Colo. — The USDA Forest Service announced yesterday the investment of more than $1.3 million of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) projects with funding authorized by Congress under the Great American Outdoors Act. These projects will conserve critical forest and wetland habitat, support rural economic recovery and increase public access in the Rocky Mountain Region. The initial $1.3 million investment for administration will provide support toward purchases of critical inholding areas, recreational access projects, and core acquisition projects across the Rocky Mountain Region at Sweetwater Lake on the White River National Forest, Little Rock Creek on the Shoshone National Forest, Wabash Springs on the Black Hills National Forest and Sand Creek on the Nebraska National Forest.
“These access projects will benefit hunters, anglers, and other recreationists across the Rocky Mountain Region by providing visitors with improved access to public lands and protecting critical wildlife habitat,” said Tammy Angel, acting regional forester.
The Forest Service administers two LWCF programs – the Forest Legacy Program (FLP) and the Land Acquisition Program. Together, these programs conserve critical and strategic lands across the nation’s forests on both private and public lands.
The FLP is a conservation program administered by the U.S. Forest Service in partnership with state agencies to encourage the protection of privately owned forest lands through conservation easements or land purchases.
The Land Acquisition Program was enacted by Congress to create parks and open spaces; protect wilderness, wetlands, and refuges; preserve wildlife habitat; and enhance recreational opportunities.
In total, the Forest Service will invest more than $94 million nationwide to fund 28 projects under the FLP, and $123 million to fund Land Acquisition Program projects, including projects for recreation access and other purposes.
The Forest Service has been administering LWCF projects since 1964 along with the Department of the Interior. The fund provides critical support for Forest Service-led conservation projects such as critical acquisition of non-federal lands inside national forest and grassland boundaries. Now, with full and permanent funding enabled through the Dingell Act and the Great American Outdoors Act, the Forest Service is poised to strengthen its conservation program and provide greater recreation access to national forest lands.
The agency worked with many partners, considered multiple criteria, and used established competitive processes to select projects for fiscal year 2021. During the review, the agency evaluated the environmental, social, and economic benefits of proposed projects, and whether project areas were likely to be converted to non-forest uses or contributed to other conservation initiatives. The Forest Service also considered local needs for recreation access and the level of local support for strategic land acquisitions.
For more information on the Great American Outdoors Act and related projects, visit the GAOA webpage.