BREAKING: Tester’s Great American Outdoors Act with Permanent Full Funding for LWCF Passes Senate
Senator: “Today, we made history… a moment Montanans have been working towards for decades”
Completing his years-long efforts to grant full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led the Senate in passing the Great American Outdoors Act—legislation that will fund LWCF at $900 million annually and allocate $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on public lands across the United States.
“Today, we made history,” said Tester. “This is a moment that Montanans have been working toward for decades, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the years of relentless hard work from the folks back home who know just how critical LWCF is to our state’s economy. Not only will this landmark bill provide even more resources for our $7.1 billion outdoor recreation industry and the 71,000 jobs that support it, but it will help create and maintain our unmatched public lands for our kids and grandkids, and the many generations that follow.”
After a series of successful procedural votes over the course of the last week, Tester’s bill today passed the Senate by a 73-25, garnering widespread bipartisan support. The Great American Outdoors Act now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives before it can head to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Tester is thanking the conservation groups, small business owners, and other Montanans who have worked tirelessly for decades to secure full and permanent funding for LWCF. His efforts to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, and his years-long fight to authorize permanent full funding for LWCF, has been applauded by conservation organizations in Montana and across the country:
“We appreciate Senator Tester’s recognition of and strong support for LWCF,” said Kyle Weaver, President and CEO at Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president. “Thanks to this vital conservation program, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation directly completed more than 80 land protection and public access projects that conserved more than 152,000 acres of habitat for elk and other wildlife. We strongly urge the House of Representatives to follow his lead, approve this legislation and help push it across the finish line.”
"Today's U.S. Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act will ensure critical investments in our public lands for generations to come – during a time when we need access to our public lands and waters most," said Alec Underwood, Federal Conservation Campaigns Director with the Montana Wildlife Federation. "This bipartisan legislation will benefit Montana's hunters and anglers by increasing access to public lands and waters while also protecting our cherished fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation opportunities. We thank Senator Tester for his dedication to protecting public lands and working to secure full and dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and we urge swift passage of this critical legislation in the House.”
“In Montana, our parks and public lands are the heart of our communities,” said Scott Brennan, Montana State Director at The Wilderness Society. “The Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act gets us a step closer to Congress keeping a promise to Montanans to invest in the natural, cultural and recreational resources that anchor our communities. We thank Sen. Tester for his work to get us to this point, and look forward to getting the Great American Outdoors Act signed into law and full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund over the finish line.”
“Our outdoors have a proven track record of fueling Montana's outdoor recreation economy, which supports $7 billion in annual consumer spending and upwards of 71,000 jobs,” said Marne Hayes of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. “The Great American Outdoors Act, which promises full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will support our public lands, parks, trails, and public access and address the maintenance backlog on public lands. Passing the Act is paramount in supporting our economy, our outdoors, and Montana businesses and jobs. Thank you, Senator Tester, for your ongoing dedication to Montana’s public lands and economy.”
“Since his arrival to the Senate in 2007, Senator Tester's stewardship of our public lands has included the fight to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Whitney Tawney, Deputy Director of Montana Conservation Voters. “He has always listened to Montanans and he's never wavered in his commitment to deliver the funding our communities and our public lands deserve. Thank you, Senator Tester, for protecting our outdoor way of life for generations to come.”
“Montanans love our outdoor heritage, public lands and open spaces,” said Mark Aagenes, Director of External Affairs at the Montana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “The Great American Outdoors Act is a critical investment in conservation, it secures resources needed to care for our public lands and helps us seize future opportunities to enhance the places where we work and play. The Senate’s overwhelming vote to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund and invest in our national parks and public lands reflects the importance of these places to our economy, our communities and our well-being. We’re grateful to Senator Tester for his long-time leadership, dedication and passion brought to protecting Montana’s amazing outdoors.”
“Today, the U.S. Senate made good on a long promise to our public lands and outdoor heritage by passing the Great American Outdoors Act,” said David Brooks, Executive Director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “Securing full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund means that Montanans will have even more public access to enjoy our world class fisheries. Importantly, this legislation will also invest in our public lands by addressing decades of maintenance backlogs while restoring and conserving coldwater fisheries and their habitat. It has been a long road to get here, but we applaud the leadership of Senator Tester and his steadfast commitment to getting this deal done for Montana’s anglers and coldwater fisheries. Thank you.”
“Now is the time,” said Land Tawney, President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Dedicating full funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as addressing the maintenance backlogs of our public lands and waters is a promise years in the making through bipartisan leadership and stakeholder collaboration. Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act will lead to enhanced hunting and fishing opportunities on our public lands and waters helping drive Montana’s outdoor economy. Our state’s outdoor recreation industry will continue to thrive and create jobs that, in turn, conserve our outdoor traditions for future generations. Our country needs a win like this more than ever and we applaud Senator Tester's for his unwavering leadership to move this across the finish line with his congressional colleagues. THANK YOU Senator!”
“We’re thrilled that the Great American Outdoors Act is now one step closer to becoming law,” said John Sullivan, Chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Montana’s sportsmen and women have a special appreciation of LWCF’s importance to public access and hunting and angling opportunity, and we welcome the overdue support for our public land management agencies. Sen. Tester and other conservation champions in the Senate answered the call of hunters and anglers to support our public lands, and we hope members of the House of Representatives follow suit.”
“As Montana begins the process of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, it's crucial that we support Montana jobs, business, and families by passing the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Ben Gabriel, Executive Director of the Montana Wilderness Association. “The Act would secure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has provided over $600 million for the creation and maintenance of Montana’s state and city parks, fishing access sites, trail systems, recreation areas, and more. These resources are the bedrock of Montanan’s way of life and our outdoor recreation economy, and I'd like to thank Senator Tester for his leadership in advancing the Great American Outdoors Act and supporting the public lands that Montanans depend on.”
“Since his earliest days in Washington, Senator Tester has been among the truest friends and staunchest supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the real-world impacts it has had all across Montana,” said Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director of The Trust for Public Land. “From Madison River access and winter elk habitat at Taylor Fork to water protection for Bozeman and Whitefish to working forests all across the state, LWCF has been an absolute mainstay of the Montana lifestyle and economy. Today’s bipartisan Senate vote is a huge step towards actually delivering on the promise of full, dedicated, permanent LWCF funding to meet critical conservation and public access needs into the future. The Trust for Public Land deeply appreciates Senator Tester’s steadfast efforts, now and over many years, to bring about this historic moment, and we urge the House to pass the bill as soon as possible to address now-or-never conservation recreation priorities.
“Senate passage of the Great American Outdoors Act is a major step toward a potential historic conservation achievement,” said Glenn Marx of the Montana Association of Land Trusts. “Senator Jon Tester was the first to identify the goal of full and permanent LWCF funding as a national policy priority. We in the Montana land trust community are grateful for his longstanding commitment to this goal and we also salute his never-ending efforts that helped make Senate passage a reality today.”
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the most powerful program we have for conserving habitat and opening access on America’s 640 million acres of public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We commend all lawmakers who have put their weight behind the Great American Outdoors Act, and we urge the Senate and House to pass this critical legislation into law.”
“The Great American Outdoors Act is the single greatest piece of conservation and outdoor recreation legislation passed in decades,” said Jessica Turner, Executive Director of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “It is proof that the outdoors crosses party lines and resonates with all Americans. We applaud Senate Republicans and Democrats for working together tirelessly to get this done. The entire outdoor recreation industry thanks every Senator who supported this bill and looks forward to the House moving quickly to pass this measure so we can finally fully fund LWCF and begin the much-needed work on rebuilding infrastructure on our public lands and waters.”
“For over a decade, Senator Tester has championed the Land and Water Conservation Fund for Montana’s families,” said Becky Edwards of Mountain Mamas. “We extend our heartfelt thanks to Senator Tester for his tireless work as the Great American Outdoors Act passes successfully through the Senate! Thank you for supporting Montana kids’ ball fields, fishing access sites, parks, playgrounds, and the livelihoods of so many families.”
“As a Montana-based company with a mission to connect people to the outdoors and each other, we at Kampgrounds of America, Inc. recognize the need for investment in our public lands and waters and stand in support of the Great American Outdoors Act. We applaud the efforts of Senator Daines and Senator Tester in working to advance this landmark legislation which will support the outdoor recreation economy and make the outdoors more accessible,” said Toby O'Rourke, President and CEO of Kampgrounds of America, Inc. “Our campgrounds in Montana and across the country serve millions of camping guests who embrace the benefits of being outside. Further, we know from our research that people are prioritizing the outdoors more than ever as the nation emerges from months of stay at home orders, and we believe that outdoor recreation can play a vital role in our nation’s recovery both from a health and economic standpoint. Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act will help enable that recovery through ensuring necessary improvements are made to outdoor recreation infrastructure, vital jobs are created and that America’s outdoor spaces can be enjoyed for years to come.”
"We at the Montana Sportsmen Alliance are so happy to finally get this bill to the floor and get permanent funding for the LWCF,” said Joe Perry of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance. “Thank you Senator Tester for all your efforts!”
Tester has consistently faced partisan obstruction in previous efforts to provide full, permanent funding for LWCF since he originally introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act in 2009. He has many times called on his Republican colleagues to apply pressure to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up legislation. In early March, President Trump abruptly announced his support for full funding of the program, and Senator McConnell delivered on his promise to bring legislation up for a vote. Until recently, Tester has been the only member of the Montana delegation to support full, mandatory funding for LWCF.