Tester Slams Attempt to Gut Land and Water Conservation Fund

Lee amendment would “cripple” popular LWCF

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today slammed a proposed amendment by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) that would prevent the critical Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) from acquiring land, stripping the program of one of its key functions.

Recent LWCF land acquisitions in Montana include 8,200 acres of prime elk habitat in Tenderfoot Creek, 6,400 acres in the Stillwater State Forest, and 422 acres on the Falls Creek Property along the Rocky Mountain Front, in addition to parks, soccer fields, and fishing sites across the state.

“This dangerous amendment would cripple LWCF, and Montana’s $7 billion outdoor recreation industry would be worse off for it,” Tester said. “I’m going to be focusing on building up this critical program and fighting for the full $900 million in funding it deserves, instead of gutting it from the inside out.”

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 – less than two-thirds of the authorized $900 million.

Since its creation, the LWCF has invested more than $540 million into 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: