BREAKING: Tester’s Landmark Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act Clears Senate
Montanans Praise Tester’s Leadership as YGPA & Bill to Permanently Reauthorize LWCF Take a Big Step Towards Becoming Law
(U.S. Senate) —“God doesn’t make places like this everywhere,” U.S. Senator Jon Tester said as the Senate passed his landmark legislation to protect the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park.
Tester’s Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act was included in a bipartisan legislative lands package that cleared the Senate today 92-8, pushing it one step closer to the President’s desk.
“There are simply some places you shouldn’t dig or drill, and the doorstep of Yellowstone Park is one of them,” Tester said. “By permanently protecting the gateway to our nation’s first national park, we can protect thousands of jobs and billions of dollars that flow into Montana’s economy every year.”
The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act will permanently withdraw federal mineral rights on roughly 30,000 acres of the Gallatin National Forest and prevent proposed mines from expanding onto unclaimed public land adjacent to the Park. Tester worked with a coalition of local residents and small-business owners to craft and introduce the bill after a pair of mining companies announced plans to expand their operations around the Paradise Valley back in 2015. Two leaders of that coalition praised Tester’s efforts on a conference call with Montana media today.
“Words cannot express the gratitude we feel toward Montana's delegation right now,” said Colin Davis, owner of Chico Hot Springs. “We wouldn't be anywhere without Senator Tester's unwavering leadership and his commitment since day one. Now, we just need one final push to permanently protect our jobs and way of life in the Paradise Valley.”
“Senator Jon Tester has been the champion from the opening bell nearly four years ago when foreign gold miners came gambling with our future on the border of Yellowstone National Park,” said Caroline Byrd, Executive Director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “Thank you, Senator Tester, for making the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act your priority to permanently protect 30,370 acres of public land in Paradise Valley Montana from inappropriate gold mining. Moving this bill one step closer to becoming law is a testament to Senator Tester's unwavering leadership and commitment to the people of Montana.”
The public lands package also includes Tester-backed legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Funded through offshore oil and gas development revenue, LWCF has invested more than $540 million to support Montana’s outdoor recreation economy since it was established in 1965. Tester is the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation who has consistently fought to reauthorize and fully fund the popular initiative that Montanans use to increase public access to public lands. He was also the only member of the delegation who opposed legislation to cut $16 million from LWCF last year.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a driver of Montana’s $7 billion outdoor economy,” Tester added. “Hunters, hikers, and anglers will now have the long-term certainty they need to increase public access to our public lands and preserve these outdoor spaces for generations to come.”
Last week, Tester called on his colleagues to take up additional legislation to fully fund LWCF at $900 million annually, something that has only happened twice since LWCF was established over 50 years ago. He is sponsoring not one, but two bills to do just that.
Montana outdoor business leaders praised Tester for his leadership on the legislative lands package.
“Montana businesses thrive thanks to our outdoor assets and valuable policies like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, that protect our public lands and the economic advantages they provide,” said Marne Hayes, Executive Director of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. “Business for Montana’s Outdoors couldn’t be more pleased by the good work to get LWCF finally across the finish line to permanent reauthorization. We are hopeful that the next step to safeguard this program for all Montana businesses is full funding, and we are grateful to Senator Tester for his tireless work to this point in securing the permanent reauthorization that was so critically needed for LWCF.”
“Today is a victory for conservation and Montana’s public lands,” said Scott Brennan, Montana Director of the Wilderness Society. “This bipartisan legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land Water and Conservation Fund, a vital conservation program affecting every Montanan from Ekalaka to Eureka. It also protects public lands on the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park. We appreciate Senator Tester’s tireless efforts to protect Yellowstone and secure LWCF’s future. It’s now time to fully fund this important conservation program for the benefit of all Montanans.”
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund plays a crucial role in protecting habitat for fish and wildlife and providing access for hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers,” said Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Foundation. “Senator Tester has fought for LWCF for years. The overwhelming bipartisan vote that S. 47 saw today is a direct result of Senator Tester's hard work to reach across the aisle while also keeping up the pressure on his colleagues. Future generations of Montanans are going to be able to experience the outdoor opportunities that we enjoy today because of Senator Tester's leadership on protecting our public lands.”
“After decades of bipartisan advocacy, I'm thrilled to see that Congress is making LWCF a priority,” said Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director of the Trust for Public Lands. “Senator Tester’s long-standing leadership has been instrumental in the passage of permanent LWCF reauthorization as part of S.47, and we look forward to continuing to work with him to conserve and provide access to Montana's most special places by securing full-funding for LWCF.”
“This is a great day for our country's public lands and waters. AFFTA has long stood by the conservation, restoration, and protection of our wild and natural spaces and we applaud the Senate for their bipartisan support of the lands package and restoring the LWCF,” said Ben Bulis, President of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “We're also grateful for the leadership of Senator Tester and his dedication to ensuring permanent protection of the clean water an unspoiled lands of the Yellowstone Gateway. We urge the House to take up the bill quickly and follow the Senate's lead.”
“During his tenure, Senator Jon Tester has been an outspoken champion of LWCF. The Nature Conservancy appreciates his endless efforts to obtain permanent reauthorization in the Senate,” said Mark Aagenes, Director of External Affairs at the Nature Conservancy in Montana. “From protecting Montana ranchlands to providing better access for recreation, LWCF is all about growing our local economies. As a person who has made his living from the land, Sen. Tester knows first-hand how important programs like LWCF are to protecting our lands for future generations. We hope the House will take swift action so this critical program has the certainty and funding it deserves.”
“We could not be more pleased with the passage of the public lands package,” said Rick Potts, Interim Executive Director of Montana Conservation Voters. “Making LWCF permanent and protecting the Yellowstone Gateway in perpetuity ensures Montana will continue to be the Last Best Place and solidifies Senator Tester as Montana’s strongest public lands champion in Congress.”
“Montana’s hunters, anglers and public landowners from all walks of life tip their hat to Senator Tester for his leadership in pushing the sweeping public lands package over the finish line,” said Land Tawney, President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “In particular we are excited to see permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the No. 1 access tool in this country. The House now must listen to the people and follow suit. Public lands are a place where we should and can come together. Today is a good day!”
“Today’s vote sends a strong message that we can find consensus in our support for our public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has united sportsmen and women, businesses, and conservationists, because we all know how important it is to the future of public lands access. We urge the House to build upon this momentum and work together to pass legislation that permanently reauthorizes LWCF and strengthens our outdoor recreation economy.”