Tester proposes new bill to try and salvage Land & Water Conservation Fund
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Jon Tester is upset with some members of Congress for playing what he calls “irresponsible games” with the budget, torpedoing a program that’s been key to preserving public access to thousands of acres of Montana lands over the past 50 years.
Tester made the pointed remarks this morning, as he bemoaned a decision to not fund continuation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the first time in 50 years.
The fund is filled by dollars charged to the oil industry from revenues for offshore oil leases and then funneled back to pay for land acquisition, access and wildlife habitat across the country. The LWCF isn’t included in the continuing resolution to head off a government shutdown, meaning the program expires at midnight.
In a conference call with reporters this morning, Tester called LWCF the “most important conservation tool we have”, and critical to Montana’s $6 billion recreation economy. He’s introducing a bill attempting to re-authorize the fund for 60 days as a stopgap.
“I’ll be pushing to get it included in any legislation that comes before the Senate, whether it’s a highway bill, a long-term budget deal, or any other initiative. We’ll look for ways to get this Land and Water Conservation Fund revived. If we don’t extend Land and Water Conservation Fund it could do bad things for Montana’s economy, do bad things for our outdoor way of life. And they could literally be locked out of their next adventure.”
Senator Steve Daines is joining Tester in pressing their colleagues to re-authorize the conservation program before it expires tonight.