Tester: LWCF is a critical tool for outdoor access, economic development

Senator cosponsors bipartisan LWCF bill, questions Interior Secretary about full funding of LWCF

(U.S. Senate) – As Congress begins the budget process for next year, Senator Jon Tester wants to make sure lawmakers understand the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and today he sponsored a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize it.

Tester, during an Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, questioned Secretary Sally Jewell about the future of LWCF and its economic impact in states like Montana. LWCF uses funds from offshore oil and gas receipts to support conservation easements, land acquisition, and state and local efforts that increase access to hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation.

Tester’s bill would permanently reauthorize LWCF, which is set to expire at the end of the Fiscal Year.

Tester brought Secretary Jewell to Montana last March and showed her how local ranchers and conservationists used LWCF to protect over 600,000 acres in the Blackfoot River watershed.

“What we’ve got is what we’ve got, and if we destroy it, we’ll no longer have special places on this earth,” Tester told Jewell. “I appreciate the support you’ve plugged into LWCF. It’s money that will be paid back multiple times over.”

Tester also pointed out that LWCF is a critical tool for communities to attract new business and retain skilled workers. In Montana, counties with greater access to public lands have a higher per capita income than their neighbors.

The Senator last month spoke to a summit in Bozeman about the importance of keeping public lands public to the state’s economy.

Tester is also the cosponsor of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, which includes his Making Public Lands Public Access Act that requires at least 1.5 percent or $10 million of LWCF funding to be used to improve access to existing federal land.