Tester to Bernhardt: Beyond Unacceptable to Eliminate Funding for LWCF

Senator slams Interior Department budget that slashes public access funding

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester today defended Montana hunters and anglers by holding the Trump Administration accountable for proposing massive cuts to the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Tester questioned Interior Secretary David Bernhardt during a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the agency’s decision to slash funding for LWCF by 98 percent in its annual budget. Tester called on Bernhardt to reverse course and support bipartisan legislation that mandates LWCF receive its maximum $900 million each year.

“Funding for LWCF is more important than ever before,” Tester told Bernhardt. “These ecosystems are going away. It is beyond unacceptable for you to eliminate funding for this successful initiative.”

After successfully fighting to permanently reauthorize LWCF earlier this year, Tester is now sponsoring a bill to ensure LWCF receives its fully authorized amount of $900 million annually.

Since it was established in 1965, LWCF has only been fully funded twice. Tester recently slammed the President 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 initiative that uses offshore oil and gas revenues to pay to increase public access to public lands.

During the hearing, Tester also pushed Bernhardt to provide more certainty to the Blackfeet Tribe over the agency’s inconsistent attempt to extinguish the last remaining oil leases in the Badger-Two Medicine-adjacent to the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park.

Tester also emphasized the need for the Interior Department to prioritize funding for Montana’s rural water projects, which still need millions of dollars to complete and provide clean water to communities across central and northeast Montana.