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Montana Lawmakers Push To Reauthorize LWCF Before Year's End

Sen. Steve Daines speaking at a press conference in support of reauthorizing LWCF in Washington D.C. on Nov. 29, 2018.
Facebook Live screenshot November 29, 2018
Sen. Steve Daines speaking at a press conference in support of reauthorizing LWCF in Washington D.C. on Nov. 29, 2018.

Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester threw their support behind an effort to revive the Land and Water Conservation Fund Thursday.

The fund expired in September. U.S. Senate and House attempts to permanently re-authorize it have languished since.

Since the 1960s, the LWCF has harnessed government revenue from offshore oil and gas leases to increase recreation opportunities and access to public lands. It’s widely considered a feat of bipartisan cooperation.

At an outdoor press conference in Washington, D.C. Thursday morning, Republican Daines joined several of his GOP and Democratic colleagues in making the case to permanently reauthorize and fully fund the LWCF at $900 million annually.

"It costs the taxpayer zero! This should not be a tough debate but that's the debate we're in right now. And as Cory [Sen. Cory Gardner, R-CO] said let's get these lame ducks to start flying. Let's get this done before the end - let's finish the job.”

Democratic Sen. Tester said reauthorizing the LWCF should be Congress’s top priority.

"We were here six, eight months ago. We were talking about this same issue on a day a little warmer than this and I'll tell you, we're here today and we need to get this done."

LWCF has funded nearly $580 million for projects in Montana, like the Tenderfoot Creek land acquisition and a conservation easement spanning 8,500 acres along the Rocky Mountain front.

Montana’s Senators Thursday also promoted the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act that would permanently bar new mining on national forest system land outside Yellowstone National Park.

Colin Davis is a founding member of the Yellowstone Gateway Business Coalition, a group of hundreds of Park County land and business owners supporting that proposal.

“We’re more determined than ever. We’re very enthusiastic. We’re very hopeful. It’s the Christmas present, we’re waiting for.”

Davis says Montana’s entire delegation is dedicated to ensuring passage of these bills before Congress adjourns for the Christmas break.

If the bills fail to pass next month, they’d have to be reintroduced next year and repeat the entire legislative process.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at
Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.
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