Tester says conservation fund critical to public lands access

by David Jay

BILLINGS – The re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LCWF) will help ensure access to public lands, according to Sen. Jon Tester.

The Senator talked about that Wednesday in a telephone town hall meeting, saying the fund has a tremendous impact in Montana.

Tester and several other Senators support LCWF and the Forest Legacy Program.

He said public lands help the economy, with outdoor recreation bringing in $6 billion dollars to Montana each year, along with 60,000 jobs.

During the phone meeting, Tester said he does not support the state taking over federal public lands. As a former state senator, he said it would be difficult to balance the budget.

He also talked about passing a forest management bill that includes increased timber cut, increased recreational opportunities and preservation of Montana’s landscape.

And he is sponsoring the “Making Public Land Public Access Act.”

“It is absolutely critical that we have access to our public lands,” Tester said. “I think if you’ve got public lands and you don’t have access to it, it doesn’t do you much good. This Making Public Lands Public Act will set aside at least 10-million and maybe far more than that, if we can get land and water conservation fund fully funded for access for folks.”

Sen. Steve Daines also supports reauthorizing LCWF. He along with Tester, signed a letter to appropriations committee members in March.

A Tester spokesman said about 7,000 listened in on the town hall meeting.