Tester Backs Bipartisan Legislation to Keep Army Corps Fees in Montana
Senator’s bill ensures federal user fees at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreational sites will be spent in Montana
As Montana’s champion for public lands, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today joined the bipartisan Lake Access Keeping Economies Strong (LAKES) Act that ensures fees collected from visitors to the Fort Peck dam and reservoir are retained and used by localU.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) units to improve Montana recreation opportunities.
“Montana’s public lands and waters are critical to the thousands of jobs created by our state’s $7.1 billion outdoor economy, and I’ll always fight to ensure that federal fees collected in the Treasure State are used to keep it the Last Best Place,” said Tester. “Places like Fort Peck Lake provide countless recreational and economic opportunities for Montana families, and it’s only right that the fees collected to access these waters are used to improve them. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in supporting this bill and am looking forward to getting it passed in the Senate.”
Tester’s bill ensures that fees collected from visitors to recreation areas operated by the USACE are retained by local USACE units, including the Fort Peck dam and reservoir, as well as adjacent recreation sites. These funds can then be used to operate, maintain, and improve those sites for the visitors who pay the fees at those sites, which is authorized for all other federal land and recreation management agencies with similar facilities. Day use fees for recreation sites at Fort Peck are already collected, but there is no current requirement for funds collected at local sites to be used at those local sites.
In Montana, USACE-managed recreation sites include the Libby and Fort Peck dams and reservoirs, as well as adjacent recreation sites. These areas span more than 150,000 land acres, 263,000 water acres, and 1,500 miles of shoreline. Over 720,000 visitors enjoy these areas annually, supporting 328 jobs and more than $31 million in related economic impacts.
A longtime public lands advocate, Tester has long fought to secure funding to improve access, make infrastructure improvements, and preserve Montana’s outdoor heritage. He championed the GAOA, legislation that secures permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and allocates $9.5 billion to address maintenance backlogs on public lands across the United States.