Tester-Led Effort for Full, Permanent Funding for Land and Water Conservation Fund Gains Traction in Senate
Senator has led push for full, permanent LWCF funding since 2009, now supported by Trump, McConnell
After years leading the push to protect our nation’s public lands and Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today celebrated the announcement of bipartisan legislation that mirrors his own—now supported by President Donald Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“I’m thrilled the President and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have changed their position and now back my bipartisan legislation to fully and permanently fund the LWCF,” said Tester. “So today is a good day—we’ve been fighting tooth and nail for decades to get full funding for this critical conservation program that sustains our state’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy and protects our Montana way of life for generations to come.”
Tester will be an original co-sponsor of the legislation announced today, which also includes $6.5 billion in mandatory funding to help address the backlog of deferred maintenance projects in our National Park System.
Since its creation, the LWCF has invested more than $540 million into Montana's $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy. Tester successfully fought to secure $495 million in funding for the LWCF in last year’s budget bill after the Trump Administration pushed to gut the program, and he was the only member of Montana's delegation to vote for that funding.
Tester originally introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act in 2009 to permanently reauthorize and fully fund this critical conservation initiative and has reintroduced it every Congress since.
Today, at a hearing with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Tester welcomed the Administration’s sudden decision to reverse course from its Fiscal Year 2021 budget proposal, which cut funding from the LWCF by 97 percent to just $14.7 million.
“I’m pleased that the Administration has reversed course and is now backing permanent, full funding for the best conservation tool we have at the federal level: the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” Tester told Bernhardt. “As you well know I’ve been a supporter of this fund since I joined the U.S. Senate, and I’m encouraged by where we are today. I’m pleased by some of my colleagues who in the past blocked strengthening LWCF are now on board. It’s a good day, no doubt about that.”
Established in 1964, the LWCF uses revenues from oil and gas leasing to fund conservation and recreation priorities across the nation. Congress permanently reauthorized the program last year, but it has yet to be funded at an acceptable level.
Recent LWCF land acquisitions in Montana include 8,200 acres of prime elk habitat in Tenderfoot Creek, 6,400 acres in the Stillwater State Forest and 422 acres on the Falls Creek Property along the Rocky Mountain Front, in addition to parks, soccer fields and fishing sites across the state.