Tester Demands Interior Secretary and Forest Service Produce LWCF Priority Project List After Departments Miss Deadline

Interior and Forest Service missed a statutory deadline to submit a list of projects to Congress as required by Senator’s Great American Outdoors Act

U.S. Senator Jon Tester today took Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and the Forest Service to task after the land management agencies missed a statutory deadline to submit a list of priority Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) projects to Congress, as required by Senator Tester’s landmark Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA).

“I am writing to you regarding the Department of the Interior’s and Forest Service’s failure to meet the statutory requirement to submit a list of Land and Water Conservation projects to the Senate today,” wrote Tester. “Ninety four days ago, the President signed the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act into law, which required the Department to submit a list by November 2nd. The Department of the Interior missed this statutory deadline. This is unacceptable and must be corrected immediately. I urge the Department to uphold it role in administering LWCF and provide the project list to Congress.”

Under Tester’s Great American Outdoors Act, the Department of Interior and Forest Service are required to provide a list of proposed projects to be funded by Congress through the Land and Water Conservation Fund by November 2nd. Without such a list, priority projects that have languished in funding for years could fall through the cracks.

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. Earlier this year, Tester wrote to Secretary Bernhardt and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue urging them to quickly submit a list of projects to Congress so that funding could get to communities 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 in August. “…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.”

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 to Bernhardt can be found HERE.

Tester’s August letter to Bernhardt and Perdue can be found HERE.