Tester’s New Bill Will Keep Public Lands in Public Hands

Senator Helps Introduce the America’s Public Land Act, Secures $435 million for LWCF

(U.S. Senate) – Just days after helping pass a historic public lands package that permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), U.S. Senator Jon Tester has secured $435 million for the popular initiative and is introducing a new bill to keep public lands in public hands.

“Our public lands are what make Montana the Treasure State,” Tester said. “They’re the heart of our outdoor way of life and the backbone of our economy. But there are short-sighted elected officials out there who want to sell our public lands, do away with our outdoor economy, and make Montana a different place. That’s why we must always fight to keep our public lands in public hands.”

Tester—a longtime member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of seven Senators tasked with negotiating a budget deal to prevent another partial government shutdown—helped craft the legislation that funds the Interior Department, including $435 million for LWCF—a $10 million increase over last year.

Tester also helped introduce a bill this week to reaffirm the importance of our public lands and protect them against federal land transfers. The America’s Public Land Act would prohibit any Secretary of the Interior or Agriculture from selling or transferring management authority of public lands to states or local officials, except when expressly authorized by Congress. The America’s Public Land Act also reaffirms that the policy of the United States is: To retain public land in federal ownership unless the disposal has been authorized by an Act of Congress.

To retain management authority – including the ability to determine use – over public land, except in any case in which a non-Federal individual or entity is authorized by Congress to exercise management authority.

That retention of public land and the management authority over public land is in the public interest.

Tester has been a longtime champion for public lands, drafting legislation, fighting for funding, and working with folks on the ground to ensure Montana’s public lands stay in public hands. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a historic public lands package that included two of Tester’s landmark pieces of legislation: The Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act and a bill to permanently reauthorize LWCF. But Tester made it clear that permanent reauthorization was just the first step towards securing the mandatory full funding LWCF needs. That’s why he plans to introduce additional legislation to fully fund LWCF at $900 million a year. Read more about Tester’s work to keep public lands in public hands HERE.