After Tester Push, Interior Reverses Burdensome Land and Water Conservation Fund Order

Senator: “This reversal is a victory for Montana’s private property owners”

Following an aggressive push by Montana’s senior Senator, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today announced that the Department of the Interior had rescinded its recent Secretarial Order which undermined the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) by placing additional burdensome federal regulations on private landowners and their property.

“This reversal is a victory for Montana’s public lands and for private property owners who know the federal government has no business telling Montanans what to do with their own land,” said Tester. “Now that this federal overreach has been rolled back, we can focus on getting back to using the LWCF the way it was intended: working with folks on the ground to protect our most important landscapes and create new recreational opportunities. I’ll continue to push back hard on federal overreach and on burdensome regulations that restrict our freedoms and jeopardize our public lands.”

The Secretarial Order, signed at the 11th hour of the previous Administration any public input, required private landowners to obtain written support from county and state governments before they can voluntarily initiate a land sale through LWCF. It also required Interior to prioritize projects for the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service over any other bureau, neglecting the Bureau of Land Management’s 245 million acres of public land. Additionally, it relied on LWCF projects to resolve public land access issues, and it constrained all land acquisitions to current boundaries of federal land. This would have significantly impeded Interior’s ability to utilize LWCF to resolve complex land access issues.

Last month, during a meeting with President Biden’s Interior Secretary Nominee, Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Tester urged her to work with him to roll back this order. Last year, he also pushed former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt hard to rescind the policy.

“I am deeply concerned by the Department of Interior’s repeated attempts to undermine LWCF over the last two weeks,” wrote Tester. “Secretarial Order number 3388 issued by the Department today puts further restraints on LWCF, one of our nation’s most critical conservation and public land access programs. I urge you to immediately rescind this anti-public land order.”

Tester continued, “This undercuts what a landowner can do with their own private property, and creates unnecessary, additional levels of bureaucracy that will hamstring future land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.”

Tester has been Montana’s most staunch defender of the LWCF. Last year, Tester pushed his landmark Great American Outdoors Act through Congress and into law, which 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 sponsored 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.