Tester’s Great American Outdoors Act with Permanent Full Funding for LWCF Clears Key Senate Hurdle
Montana and national conservation groups applaud Senator for more than 10 years of pushing for full LWCF funding Senator’s bill also includes $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on public lands
After more than a decade of unyielding efforts to guarantee full, permanent funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a bipartisan group of colleagues in a key vote to bring legislation that provides mandatory funding for the program, among other public lands measures, one step closer to the President’s desk.
The Tester-backed Great American Outdoors Act will permanently provide the LWCF with the full $900 million it is authorized to receive annually. In addition, the legislation includes $9.5 billion in funding to address deferred maintenance on American’s public lands and National Parks.
“This key vote is decades in the making—the full, permanent funding for LWCF that we’ve fought for over so many years is almost across the finish line,” said Tester. “Passing this bill means not only full funding for a conservation tool that’s been critical to all Montanans who care about our public lands since 1964, but it also tackles the maintenance backlogs in our National Parks and on our public lands that have hurt our recreation economy in recent years. In short, it’s a victory for the generations of Montanans who will recreate on public lands long after we’re gone, and I’m thrilled Senate Republicans had a change of heart on opposing this bill that opened the door for today’s vote.”
Tester has consistently faced partisan obstruction in previous efforts to provide full, permanent funding for LWCF, and has many times called on his Republican colleagues to apply pressure to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take up legislation. In early March, President Trump abruptly announced his support for full funding of the program, and Senator McConnell promised to bring legislation up for a vote. Until recently, Tester has been the only member of the Montana delegation to support full, mandatory funding for LWCF.
Following a successful cloture vote on the Great American Outdoors Act in the Senate this afternoon, conservation organizations across Montana have applauded Tester’s years-long efforts to fully fund LWCF and address deferred maintenance in Montana’s public lands:
“Our outdoors have a proven track record of fueling Montana’s outdoor recreation economy, which supports $7 billion in annual consumer spending and upwards of 71,000 jobs,” said Marne Hayes of Business for Montana’s Outdoors. “The Great American Outdoors Act, which promises full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, will support our public lands, parks, trails, and public access and address the maintenance backlog on public lands. Passing the Act is paramount in supporting our economy, our outdoors, and Montana businesses and jobs. Thank you, Senator Tester, for your ongoing dedication to Montana’s public lands and economy.”
“Since his arrival to the Senate in 2007, Senator Tester’s stewardship of our public lands has included the fight to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Whitney Tawney, Deputy Director of Montana Conservation Voters. “He has always listened to Montanans and he’s never wavered in his commitment to deliver the funding our communities and our public lands deserve. Thank you, Senator Tester, for protecting our outdoor way of life for generations to come.”
“Today, the U.S. Senate took an important step forward to delivering on a long promise to our public lands and outdoor heritage. Securing full, permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will mean that Montanans will have more public access to enjoy our world class fisheries,” said David Brooks, Executive Director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “Importantly, the Great American Outdoors Act will also do more to invest in our public land assets by addressing decades of maintenance backlogs while restoring and conserving coldwater fisheries and their habitat. It has been a long road to get here, but we applaud the leadership of Senator Tester and his steadfast commitment to getting this deal done for Montana’s anglers and coldwater fisheries.”
“Now is the time,” said Land Tawney, President and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “Dedicating full funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund as well as addressing the maintenance backlogs of our public lands and waters is a promise years in the making through bipartisan leadership and stakeholder collaboration. Passage of the Great American Outdoors Act will lead to enhanced hunting and fishing opportunities on our public lands and waters helping drive Montana’s $2.4 billion outdoor recreation economy. Our state’s outdoor recreation industry will continue to thrive and create jobs that, in turn, conserve our outdoor traditions for future generations. Our country needs a win like this more than ever and we applaud Senator Tester’s for his unwavering leadership to move this across the finish line with his congressional colleagues. THANK YOU Senator!”
“For over 50 years, LWCF has benefitted Montana’s hunters and anglers through improving access to our public lands and protecting key fish and wildlife habitat,” said Alec Underwood, Federal Conservation Campaigns Director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Today’s Senate vote is a major step forward in ensuring a bright future for outdoor recreation and our outdoor heritage.”
“At a time when our country could use a win, the Senate is poised to take us one step closer to fully funding the parks and public lands that are the cornerstone of so many Montana communities,” said Scott Brennan, Montana State Director at The Wilderness Society. “The past months have shown just how critical our national, state and local parks and public lands are to our economies, emotional wellbeing and sense of community. We thank Senator Tester for his leadership in working to fully fund the Land Water and Conservation Fund, and urge Congress to send the Great American Outdoors Act to the President’s desk.”
“As Montana begins the process of recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that we support Montana jobs, business, and families by passing the Great American Outdoors Act,” said Ben Gabriel, Executive Director of the Montana Wilderness Association. “The Act would secure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has provided over $600 million for the creation and maintenance of Montana’s state and city parks, fishing access sites, trail systems, recreation areas, and more. These resources are the bedrock of Montanan’s way of life and our outdoor recreation economy, and I’d like to thank Senator Tester for his leadership in advancing the Great American Outdoors Act and supporting the public lands that Montanans depend on.”
“We at the Montana Sportsmen Alliance are so happy to finally get this bill to the floor and get permanent funding for the LWCF,” said Joe Perry of the Montana Sportsmen Alliance. “Thank you Senator Tester for all your efforts!”
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the most powerful program we have for conserving habitat and opening access on America’s 640 million acres of public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We commend all lawmakers who have put their weight behind the Great American Outdoors Act, and we urge the Senate and House to pass this critical legislation into law.”
Tester originally introduced the Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act in 2009 to permanently After more than a decade of unyielding efforts to guarantee full, permanent funding for the Land Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a bipartisan group of colleagues in a key vote to bring legislation that provides mandatory funding for the program, among other public lands measures, one step closer to the President’s desk.