Tester: ‘the time has come’ to Fully Invest in Land & Water Conservation Fund

Senator calls on Leadership to protect public lands, Montana’s $7.1 billion recreation economy

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today defended Montana’s outdoor heritage and called on Congressional leaders in both parties to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as they set their 2020 federal funding priorities.

In a bipartisan letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Tester joined his colleagues in calling this a “historic opportunity” to reach the landmark conservation program’s full potential to expand access to public lands for future generations.

“This investment would protect and conserve our national parks and public lands, support the nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy, and finally fulfill the original promise of the LWCF,” Tester and his colleagues wrote. “The time has come to match permanent authorization with permanent funding—as envisioned in 1964—to ensure much-needed investment in our public lands and continuity for the state, tribal, and non-federal partners who depend on them. We strongly urge Congressional leaders to seize the historic opportunity and enact legislation to accomplish this longstanding priority in the 116th Congress.”

Established in 1964, the LWCF is a critical conservation tool that uses revenues from oil and gas leasing to fund conservation and recreation priorities across the nation. Congress permanently reauthorized the program this year, but it has yet to be funded at an acceptable level. President Trump proposed cutting the LWCF budget by 98 percent this spring, and the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee set its funding at just $524 million last spring – less than two-thirds of the $900 million LWCF is authorized at.

Since its creation, the LWCF has invested more than $540 million in Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy. Tester successfully fought to secure $425 million in funding for the LWCF in the March 2018 budget bill after the Trump Administration pushed to gut the program, and he was the only member of Montana’s delegation to vote for that funding. He then secured an additional $10 million in LWCF funding in the February appropriations package, bringing the total to $435 million for 2019.

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:

Read the full letter HERE.