Tester Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Permanently Authorize and Fully Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Sportsmen Across Montana Praise Tester’s Efforts to Increase Public Access to Public Land

(Helena, Mont.)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced during his town hall meeting in Helena that he has introduced bipartisan legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a successful initiative that expands public access to public land.

Tester’s bill guarantees that LWCF will never again expire, fully funds the initiative to the annual maximum $900 million, and sets aside a portion of that funding specifically to increase public access to public lands for hunters, anglers, and hikers.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a critical tool that expands public access for folks who hunt, hike and fish on our public lands-at no cost to taxpayers,” Tester said. “There are still too many politicians who are trying to block our ability to increase public access, despite our growing outdoor economy. That’s why it is time to fully fund and permanently reauthorize this successful initiative.”

LWCF expired for the first time in 2015, and has only received its fully authorized amount of funding twice since 1978. LWCF last year received less than half of its authorized level of funding from Congress.

LWCF expands public access to public lands at no cost to taxpayers, but rather it is funded from offshore oil and gas development revenues. LWCF has invested $540 million to support outdoor recreation in Montana since it was established 51 years ago.

Montana’s outdoor economy generates nearly $6 billion in economic activity and supports over 64,000 jobs each year. Montanans have used LWCF to preserve more than 8,000 acres of elk habitat in Meagher County and secured access to over 160 fishing sites statewide.

Montana outdoors organizations praised Tester’s bipartisan bill.

“The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation applauds Senator Tester for introducing legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said David Allen, President & CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “This program is one of the most important conservation tools we use to protect and enhance elk habitat and to secure public access to public lands. We’re grateful for Senator Tester’s leadership on this issue and call on Congress to not only reauthorize this essential program, but also to ensure it’s fully funded.”

“We thank Senator Tester for championing a smart policy that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime, yet provides critical investments that support our outdoor way of life. Improving and enhancing public access to public lands is critical to our growing outdoor economy in Montana,” said Marne Hayes, Business for Montana’s Outdoors Executive Director.

“Sportsmen have long been vocal supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s most popular and successful public access program,” said Land Tawney, President and CEO of the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Seventy percent of the fishing access sites in Montana are paid for in part or in full by LWCF, and places like Tenderfoot Creek, one of the main tributaries of the famed Smith River, now have access and the hunting and fishing opportunities that go with it because of LWCF. Senator Tester has proven himself a valuable ally of hunters, anglers and other public lands recreationists, and we are deeply grateful to his continued support in the form of legislation to permanently authorize and fully fund the LWCF. Today is a good day for America and our outdoor heritage.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a critical tool for conservation and recreational funding, every community across our country has benefited from the non-partisan fund,” said Ben Bulis, President of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “In Montana alone, almost two-thirds of the public fishing access sites were funded by LWCF dollars.”

“Jon Tester understands how important public lands are to our hunting and fishing heritage and our outdoor economy,” said Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “By introducing this bill, he is yet again showing Montana hunters and anglers that he is willing to walk the walk when it comes to protecting Montana’s land, water, and access.”

“Sen. Tester has always stood up for LWCF, the irreplaceable areas it protects in Montana and elsewhere, the critical public recreation access it provides, and the economic engine it represents,” said Dick Dolan, Montana State Director for the Trust for Public Land. “The Trust for Public Land is grateful for his leadership on this bill and his work to secure Montana’s future.”