Tester Pushes Full, Permanent Funding for Land & Water Conservation Fund

(U.S. Senate) – The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources held a hearing today on the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), featuring experts from the U.S. Forest Service, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Department of the Interior testifying about the importance of this critical conservation initiative.

“LWCF is the best conservation tool we have,” Tester said after the hearing. “But the fight to fund the program every year puts our public lands-and the people and businesses that rely on them-in jeopardy. A lot of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle touted their support for permanent reauthorization back in February, so it’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is and fully fund this critical conservation initiative. If they don’t, then many of the public lands we love won’t be around for our kids and grandkids to enjoy.”

In February, 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, reintroducing his bill to fully fund LWCF permanently.

LWCF is currently authorized to receive up to $900 million annually. But since it was established in 1965, Congress has only fully funded the program twice. That’s why Tester first introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act to permanently reauthorize and fully fund LWCF back in 2009 and has reintroduced it every Congress since:

Tester recently grilled Interior Secretary David Bernhardt about the Administration’s proposal to zero out funding for LWCF, making it the second year in a row that the President has attempted to cut funding for LWCF by more than $400 million. Tester fought back, securing $425 million for LWCF in the 2018 budget bill. He was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for this funding. Tester then secured an additional $10 million in LWCF funding in the February appropriations package, bringing the total to $435 million for 2019.

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

Funded through offshore oil and gas development revenue, LWCF has invested more than $540 million to support Montana’s outdoor recreation economy since it was established in 1965. Tester is the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation who has consistently fought to reauthorize and fully fund the popular initiative that Montanans use to increase public access to public lands.