Since the creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965, approximately 4.1 million acres have been acquired for the National Park Service using funds from this source. As of December 31, 2020, the number of acres within National Park Service authorized boundaries totals more than 85 million acres, yet more than 2.6 million acres remain in private ownership. As of December 2020, there was a backlog of approximately 11,989 tracts of land containing over 1.7 million acres which are identified for acquisition and for which appropriated funds are not available. The current estimated cost to acquire these 1,798,878 acres is over $2 billion. Currently, less than one percent of the backlog is acquired annually due to funding constraints.
In many cases, landowners are anxious and willing to sell their property and they have waited decades for funding to become available. As a result, some landowners end up selling their property to another private party rather than continue to wait. Most property within National Park Service boundaries is highly desirable and appealing to developers and investors. Development threats are common throughout several units in the National Park System and each year the cost of acquisition continues to increase along with property values. Significant resource damage and destruction have occurred due to the inability to acquire property and often the damage to the resource is irreversible.
Last updated: March 1, 2021