Frequently Asked Questions about the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Use the quick reference guide below to discover answers to common questions. More detailed information can be found on the Planning Tools and Articles page.

What is the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant program?  

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) Program is a federal program authorized by Congress for the purpose of acquiring federal lands and assisting states and local governments with funds to acquire lands and develop and renovate outdoor recreation facilities. The LWCF was passed by Congress in 1965 and permanently reauthorized in March 2019. LWCF funds are appropriated by Congress to the U. S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service (NPS), and NPS allocates the funds through state agencies as a grant program to state and local governments.  

The LWCF is a matching assistance program that provides grants for 50% of the cost for the acquisition and/or development/ redevelopment of outdoor recreation sites and facilities. The allocation may vary from state to state. 

Who is eligible?

The State agency through their State Liaison Officer (SLO) can apply for LWCF assistance on behalf of eligible subrecipients. Eligible subrecipients (ie. local agencies) may vary by state. Your first steps is to contact your state grant coordinator for eligibility guidelines and to learn how to apply for LWCF funding. The state must also have a current 5-year master plan (SCORP) for parks and recreation on file, and requests must align to the states SCORP.

Where do I find information on my state’s guidelines?

The NPS maintains a list of state level contacts/websites for each state and eligible territory, which can be found here. (note, we are currently working on a more up to date resource!)

What is a SCORP

Each state must prepare a Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) every five years to remain qualified for stateside LWCF. The objectives of the SCORP and its associated planning process are to:   

  • Fulfill the purposes of the LWCF Act;                                              
  • Provide each State the maximum opportunity and flexibility to develop and implement its plan;                                                        
  • Describe the role of the LWCF in the State's provision of outdoor recreation resources and the State’s policies for use of its LWCF apportionment;    
  • Provide a basis for determining each State's LWCF eligibility; and;   
  • Ensure relevant, influential and timely planning for the State's use of its LWCF apportionment.
  • Outline the state’s goals for providing quality parks and recreation opportunities throughout the state. 
  • Provide recommendations for operations, administration, planning, development, and recreation programs. 
  • Provide guidance to federal, state, and local units of government, as well as the private sector, in delivering quality outdoor recreational opportunities to state residents and visitors. 

How do I find my State’s SCORP?

The Society for Outdoor Professionals maintains a database of each state’s SCORP, which can be found here.(note, we are currently working on a more up to date resource!) 

Where are funds from?

The primary source of revenue for the LWCF is from the revenues of federal oil and gas leases on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Fund is based on a simple concept: take revenues from the depletion of offshore oil and gas, and use them to conserve parks, wildlife refuges, forests, open spaces, trails, and wildlife habitat. 

How is funding apportioned? 

LWCF monies are apportioned to the States by the Secretary of the Interior each fiscal year in accordance with the apportionment formula contained in the LWCF Act, and through the States to local governmental jurisdictions.  LWCF assistance is provided on a matching basis, up to 50%, to individual projects that are submitted through the State Liaison Officer (SLO) to the NPS for approval. 

How is funding received?

Because the LWCF is a reimbursement program, the project sponsor does not receive the grant funds once the application has been approved. Rather, the sponsor is reimbursed up to 50% of the actual costs of the project. The sponsor must have the local matching 50% of the project costs available when the application is submitted. Also, since the state acts as the eligible recipient of funding, in order to receive the money reserved for the project, a reimbursement request must be submitted to your state grant coordinator.

What are local sources of funding?  

Project sponsors may use a combination of appropriations, bond issues, force account labor, and donations of land, cash, labor, materials, or equipment to match the grant. Other federal funding sources generally cannot be used as the local share of the project.

What amounts are available?  

Each state has a minimum and maximum request. Contact your state’s program administrator for amounts, timelines, and guidelines. 

Who administers the LWCF program? 

Funds are provided through the NPS of the U.S. Department of the Interior, but the program is administered at the state level.

What types of projects may be funded? 

Grant applications may consist of land acquisition and/or facility construction or renovation for local public parks for outdoor recreation. New parks or additions to existing parks may be funded. Recreational spaces that are acquired or developed using LWCF assistance must be maintained and remain open for public outdoor recreation in perpetuity.

The land acquisition or development may not be started until final approval is received from the NPS. All land to be developed must be controlled by the subrecipient through direct ownership. Examples of types of projects include:

  • Acquiring park or natural area
  • Picnic areas
  • Recreation amenities, such as playgrounds, ballfields, court facilities and golf courses
  • Water oriented facilities for boating, swimming, and access to lakes, rivers and streams
  • Natural areas and interpretive facilities
  • Campgrounds
  • Fishing and hunting areas
  • Winter sports facilities
  • Amphitheaters and bandstands
  • Trails
  • Roads, restrooms, utilities, park maintenance buildings
  • Nature Centers

 All facilities should be universally designed for persons with disabilities and the  subrecipient’s facilities, programs and activities must be open to the public without discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age or disability.

How do I apply? 

The first step is always to contact the lead agency in your state that manages LWCF grant distribution. Agency staff will provide information regarding new grant cycles, project criteria and specific documentation. To view a complete list of lead agencies from each state, see “Where do I find information on my state’s guidelines” above. 

The LWCF manual online also provides helpful guidelines for application. 

The State prioritizes and selects eligible projects for LWCF assistance through its Open Project Selection Process (OPSP see Chapter 2, page 11 of the manual) and is responsible for ensuring the development of the project proposal and completion of the federal grant application according to federal requirements. States shall provide guidance to subrecipients to ensure all application requirements are met. 

For project proposals and grant applications that are complex in nature and/or have eligibility concerns, applicants should consult with their state early in the planning process.  States will consult with NPS prior to formal project submission.