Tester at Great Falls Celebration: ‘Today we celebrate a monumental victory in the battle to keep public lands in public hands’

Senator addresses public lands advocates at event honoring his central role in passing his Great American Outdoors Act, LWCF full funding

On the eve of Public Lands Day, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today addressed a socially distanced and masked up crowd of public land advocates and community members who gathered to celebrate his central role in the passage of his Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA)—which included full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and was signed into law earlier this year.

Tester spoke about the critical work that Montana’s public lands advocates and citizens did to get the GAOA across the finish line, thanking them for their tireless efforts:

“Politics in America move slowly until they don’t, and it often takes years of garnering immense, grassroots support in order for the folks in power to start listening,” said Tester. “But you’ve done it. You didn’t let Washington ignore your demands. And that’s why I’m so proud to be standing here today, because y’all made me listen many years ago. And I’ve been fighting with you ever since.”

Tester continued: “So today we celebrate a monumental victory in the battle to keep public lands in public hands.”

The event, hosted by the Montana Wildlife Federation, honored Tester’s work to gain permanent funding for LWCF at $900 million per year—efforts he has championed since 2009. LWCF has invested more than $540 million into Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy, and the GAOA will additionally invest $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on public lands across the country.

Tester also spoke about the importance of voting in the November 3rd election and the impact of electing strong leaders who will defend Montana’s public lands:

“Our state, and our country, need level-headed leaders …who are going to make bold strides towards fighting climate change,” said Tester. “ Leaders who ground their policy in solid science, and who are going to listen to the every-day folks who truly make our state the Last Best Place. Because Washington would look a whole lot better if it learned a thing or two about how Montanans do business.”

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, in the face of widespread, bipartisan support on the ground built over years of grassroots work by public lands advocates across the country, 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.