Following Passage of Great American Outdoors Act, Tester Calls on Congress to Keep Foot on the Gas on Public Lands

Senator requests hearing on landmark Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, calls for Great American Outdoors Act funding to be put to use immediately

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is calling on Congress to keep its foot on the gas when it comes to protecting Montana’s public lands. In a pair of letters today, Tester called for a hearing on his Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA) and urged Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to quickly implement the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) and get the projects it funds started immediately.

Writing to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee leaders, Tester said that the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is common-sense legislation that provides a “natural next step” after the success of the GAOA, and that it would protect thousands of acres of public land while strengthening Montana’s outdoor economy.

“Now that Congress has passed the Great American Outdoors Act, it’s critical for us to continue moving the ball forward on collaborative proposals to improve access to our public lands,” Tester wrote. “We need to back up our significant financial investment in our public lands with smart, collaborative management proposals for those lands.”

The result of a collaborative effort between ranchers, recreationists, loggers, mountain bikers, and business owners, Tester’s BCSA is a multi-use proposal that would protect thousands of acres of public land, ensure future generations can access outdoor recreational opportunities, and strengthen Montana’s outdoor economy in the Blackfoot River Watershed.

Specifically, the bill would protect 79,000 acres of wildlife habitat in the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, open 2,013 acres of currently closed land to snowmobiling, and protect 3,800 acres for mountain biking and hiking. It would also require the Forest Service to prioritize its review of future recreational trail proposals from the collaborative group, and to conduct a forest health assessment that will help identify new timber projects on the landscape.

“The Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act is…a natural next step after Congress has heavily invested in its public lands through the Great American Outdoors Act,” Tester continued. “Addressing decades of funding shortfalls is important, but we also need to clear our backlog of decades of collaborative land management proposals that don’t cost a dime, stimulate the economy, improve access to public lands, and protect our most important landscapes. My legislation does just that.”

Tester first introduced the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act at the request of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project with the support of the local timber industry.

In a separate letter to Secretaries Bernhardt and Perdue, Tester wrote that in light of the ongoing public health crisis, outdoor access is more important than ever, and urged them to begin projects funded by the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) as soon as possible.

“Mandatory funding guaranteed in this law will essentially double available annual funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, meaning that even more projects to assist states with local parks and trails are on the table,” Tester wrote. “…I encourage you to work aggressively with communities and stakeholder groups to find a full slate of projects to put Fiscal Year 2021’s $900 million to good use. This is your chance to make up for years of lost time and low funding levels.”

Tester’s GAOA secured full, mandatory funding for LWCF at $900 million a year, and $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on public lands across the United States.

Established in 1964, the LWCF uses revenues from oil and gas leasing to fund conservation and recreation priorities across the nation. Since its creation, the LWCF has invested millions into Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Tester first introduced a bill to fully fund the LWCF in 2009, and until recently was the only member of the Montana delegation to support full, mandatory funding for LWCF.

Tester’s letter on the BCSA is available HERE, and his letter to Bernhardt and Perdue is available HERE.