Continuing Longtime Advocacy for Land & Water Conservation Fund, Tester Renews Legislative Push for Permanent Funding

Senator’s bipartisan bill would fully fund critical conservation program for future generations

(U.S. Senate) – Continuing his longtime commitment to preserving Montana’s public lands, U.S. Senator Jon Tester introduced bipartisan legislation today to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) for generations to come. For years, Tester was the only member of the Montana delegation to support full, permanent funding for LWCF.

Tester’s bill would not only permanently fund LWCF, which is authorized to receive up to $900 million annually, but fully fund it as well. Since it was established in 1965, LWCF has only been fully funded twice. Last month, Tester slammed the President and his cheerleaders for proposing a 98 percent cut to LWCF funding in his fiscal year 2020 budget the day before signing a landmark public lands package into law that included permanent authorization for the program.

“LWCF has contributed more than half a billion dollars to Montana’s thriving outdoor economy, keeping our public lands pristine for hunters, anglers, hikers, and more,” Tester said. “But the fight to fund the program every year puts our public lands in jeopardy. We’ve got to get rid of this harmful uncertainty for good, and it’s past time for my Senate colleagues to put their money where their mouth is and urge Leader McConnell to fund it permanently after years of delays so our kids and grandkids can enjoy the Last Best Place for generations to come.”

LWCF is funded through offshore oil and gas development revenue and has invested more than $540 million to support Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy. Tester is the only member of the Montana delegation who has consistently supported permanent authorization and full funding for the initiative.

Tester originally introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act in 2009 to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the critical conservation initiative and has reintroduced it every Congress since:

Montana outdoor champions praised Tester for his leadership on LWCF.

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is common sense legislation that will bolster our growing outdoor recreation industry for generations to come,” said Marne Hayes, Executive Director of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. “The outdoor industry is a key component of our state and nation’s economy, and upholding programs like the LWCF with secure, dedicated funding is paramount to protecting the outdoors as an asset to business in Montana. We applaud Senator Tester for his continued work on securing not just permanent reauthorization, but also dedicated, full funding that will protect this fund and the businesses that depend on its benefit, in perpetuity.”

“For much too long, Congress has shortchanged the bipartisan Land and Water Conservation Fund, depriving Montanans of the funding we need to access and enjoy our public lands and waters, to improve the health of our forests and rivers, and to sustain our $7 billion outdoor recreation economy and the 70,000 jobs that it generates for Montanans,” said Ben Gabriel, Executive Director of the Montana Wilderness Association. “That’s why we appreciate Senator Tester’s leadership in trying to secure a steady and reliable stream of LWCF funding, which will raise the quality of life for all Montanans and help us protect and maintain our outdoor way of life.”

“Montana’s outdoor way of life depends on our public lands and there’s no better effort than the Land and Water Conservation Fund to strengthen and expand access to the outdoors,” said Whitney Tawney, Program Director of Montana Conservation Voters. “This visionary initiative may be permanent but it needs funding. Senator Tester continues to put his money where his mouth is. We’ll be holding the rest of the Montana delegation and Congress accountable to ensure LWCF gets the deserved and critical funding it needs.”

“Senator Jon Tester knows how important public land and public access are to hunting, fishing, Montana’s outdoor economy, and our way of life,” said Dave Chadwick, Executive Director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “By once again stepping up in support of full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, he is showing that actions are more important than words. We look forward to working with him to get this bill over the finish line.”

“Half of the fishing access sites in Montana have benefitted from LWCF funding, as have many habitat protection projects that keep our streams and rivers healthy,” said David Brooks, Executive Director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “We are grateful for Senator Jon Tester’s efforts to ensure that full funding of LWCF will continue to provide protection for fish and wildlife, serve the mission of our members, enhance the lives of Montanans, and sustain our state’s robust outdoor recreation heritage and economy.”

“This is one of the smartest investments Congress can make,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has made a lasting impact in every state in America, spurring increased access and more recreational opportunity. This legislation will send meaningful resources to ground that benefit hunters and anglers for generations to come.”

“Let’s talk about momentum. In February, the Senate voted overwhelmingly – 92-8! – in support of permanently reauthorizing LWCF,” said Land Tawney, President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The time is now to carry that momentum forward and invest in our future by ensuring LWCF’s full, dedicated funding. Hunters and anglers are pleased with Senator Tester’s swift action in support of that goal. His support for LWCF, for conservation of important landscapes and increased public access to places where we recreate has never wavered. We look forward to working with the good senator and his colleagues to fully fund LWCF.”

“From increased public land access to protecting working lands and wildlife habitat, all Montanans will benefit from a fully funded, permanently-reauthorized Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Barb Cestero, Senior Regional Representative at The Wilderness Society. “We are heartened by the continued bipartisan efforts to ensure a fully funded LWCF crosses the finish line.”

“Access to outdoor recreation, made possible by LWCF funds, is essential to Montana’s economy,” said Mark Haggerty of Headwaters Economics. “Our outdoor heritage attracts millions of outside dollars, keeps Montana businesses from leaving, and is a powerful recruitment tool for new talent.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is vital for access to our treasured public lands, and hunting and fishing areas that veterans use to recreate in and heal from the trauma of war,” said Garett Reppenhagen, Rocky Mountain Director of the Vet Voice Foundation and an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. “LWCF creates green space in our urban areas with trails and parks the public uses to improve their quality of life. Furthermore, it preserves historical sites and military battlefields like Gettysburg so future generations learn about the sacrifices of service members. Since President Donald Trump has zeroed out LWCF in his proposed budget, we cannot count on the administration to execute the laws passed by our elected representatives. Congress has a duty to follow through on the intentions of the original legislation that past 53 years ago by securing future funding for LWCF.”

“Senator Tester has been among LWCF’s most committed, knowledgeable, and consistent champions in Washington, and we are grateful for his continued leadership in cosponsoring this important legislation,” said Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director of The Trust for Public Land. “In Montana, LWCF has made a difference in just about every community and landscape where protection of – and public access to – our outdoor heritage matters. Senator Tester has always worked to advance this priority program, which Congress just reauthorized in perpetuity. This bill would provide the actual dollars we need to realize the promise of LWCF and protect the places we love, and we thank him for his relentless focus on those needs.”

“On behalf of RMEF’s members, I’d like to thank Senator Tester for joining a bipartisan coalition of senators pushing for full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said R. Kyle Weaver, President and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “As of early September 2018, LWCF provided more than $108 million in funding that assisted 80 different RMEF land projects that permanently protected more than 152,000 acres of wildlife habitat. Now that this critical program has been permanently reauthorized, it’s time to make sure it’s properly funded.”

“The Montana Sportsmen Alliance appreciates all that Senator Tester has done and continues to do on LWCF,” said Joe Perry, a founding member of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance. “Full funding of this crucial program cannot be understated! If not now, When?”

Tester successfully fought to secure $425 million in funding for the LWCF in the March 2018 budget bill after the Trump Administration pushed to give it only $8 million. He was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for this funding. He then secured an additional $10 million in LWCF funding in the February, bringing the total to $435 million for 2019.