Federal Land Conservation Programs
The federal government is a vital source of funding for land and natural resource conservation in America — helping to save great parks and public lands, productive farms and ranches, vital wildlife habitat, healthy watersheds, and more. Federal funding typically leverages contributions from state, local, and private sources — enabling the protection of some of the highest priority resources in the country.
But public funding for conservation is never guaranteed. In fact, many of our nation’s most important conservation programs are seriously underfunded or in danger of expiring! Maintaining these programs requires dedicated, coordinated, and effective political advocacy, by the Alliance and our partners. Building support for federal conservation programs is one of the Alliance’s top policy priorities.
This overview of six major conservation programs may help you find the right match for your conservation project. You can follow the links to more in-depth information.
The 2014 Farm Bill was a big win for conservation! It provides billions of dollars for a suite of conservation programs, including $1 billion over ten years for conservation easements. By far the largest source of federal funding for land conservation, the Farm Bill supports conservation easements on farm and ranch land, grasslands, wetlands, and forests. It also funds conservation partnerships and sustainable land management practices.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
This fund is one of our best resources for creating and improving public lands. It uses a portion of revenues from offshore oil drilling to protect public lands, including parks, trails, forests, shorelines, and historic sites. Its legacy is outstanding: more than 3 million acres enjoyed by over 500 million people every year. But Congress regularly withholds up to two-thirds of its funding — and the program is in danger of expiring in 2015!
North American Wetlands Conservation Act
This program protects extensive wetlands and other habitats for migratory birds — while strengthening local economies, providing clean water supplies, and protecting communities from storms and floods. It has helped to protect 26 million acres in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Grants through the program are so competitive that they leverage an average of $3.20 for every federal dollar. But the program has expired and could disappear unless Congress reauthorizes it!
This program helps prevent the fragmentation or destruction of environmentally significant forests, at a time when we’re losing over half a million acres of private forest land every year! The program protects privately owned forest land through voluntary conservation easements or sale of land to the U.S. Forest Service and state governments.
Endangered Species Grants
Through habitat conservation, threatened or endangered species can join the ranks of success stories like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the California condor. Over half of currently listed species rely on habitats on private land — which can be protected with funding through Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act.
America’s Great Outdoors
The Alliance and hundreds of land trusts helped shape America’s Great Outdoors, a new agenda for conservation and recreation in America. This agenda established a vision for reconnecting people with nature, conserving and restoring natural resources, and forging partnerships for conservation. America’s Great Outdoors now helps to guide federal conservation policies.