Missoulian: Act will protect LWCF

by Jon Tester

Seven billion dollars. Seventy-one thousand jobs. That’s what the outdoor industry does for Montana. That’s why, for the last 20 years I’ve been involved in public service, I’ve been an advocate for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF helps the outdoor industry, it helps the economy, it helps employment, and it helps the environment. It helps ensure Montana is the Last Best Place, and that it stays that way.

So I’ve got some good news on that front. This week, the Senate passed my Great American Outdoors Act, landmark legislation that will not only invest $9.5 billion into addressing maintenance backlogs on public lands across the country, but will finally fully and permanently fund the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

As I’ve been telling folks in Washington since 2009, when I first sponsored legislation to fully and permanently fund the LWCF, this is the best conservation tool we have at the national level. It has invested more than $600 million into Montana’s public lands since its inception in 1964. Without it, we would miss out on vital resources that help our state create and maintain areas like the Blackfoot Clearwater watershed, where LWCF funding helped to consolidate former timber lands.

To many of us, fully funding this critical conservation initiative was plain old common sense. Unfortunately, common sense often comes in short supply in Washington, D.C. For decades, partisan politicking, buck passing, and lobbying from special interests have obstructed this program from doing its job to the fullest extent, preventing our state from receiving money that supports those 71,000 jobs and our $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.

But now, after years of Montanans’ hard work and unwillingness to take no for an answer, the Senate this week finally passed the Great American Outdoors Act with overwhelming bipartisan support. This Montana grassroots momentum finally allowed us to break the dam and spur Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump to reverse their opposition to LWCF. I welcome their change of heart, which is a testament to what we can accomplish in Washington when we put the will of the people above petty party politics and do the right thing for the country.

So, as the Great American Outdoors Act heads to the House of Representatives, we should applaud the tireless work of the conservation advocates, Main Street business owners, and other folks across Montana who poured decades of their lives into getting this done. We owe you all a huge “thank you” for what you’ve done to make sure these lands stay pristine for our kids and grandkids, and their kids after that.

I am proud to have stood with you every step of the way.

And I look forward to celebrating with all of you … when we are able to do so safely, of course … on the public lands that make Montana what it is: the Last Best Place.