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Montana Cities, Counties Back Full LWCF Funding

Tennis court at Central Park in Billings. It received about $250,000 in LWCF money for reconstruction.
Tennis court at Central Park in Billings. It received about $250,000 in LWCF money for reconstruction.

Correction December 12, 2019: This article has been updated to include that Sen. Jon Tester is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Environmental advocates and political leaders across Montana are pushing for full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million, an amount the country hasn’t been close to since 1998.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which uses tax revenue from off-shore drilling projects to fund city parks, baseball fields and tennis courts. Cities like Missoula encouraged the fund’s reauthorization.

Now, local governments are sending letters and passing resolutions urging Congress for full funding. The Billings City Council passed a resolution just last week.

"It’s important that municipal government elected officials are working and coordinating and encouraging all the other elected officials along those same lines of government, in those parallel whether it’s county or federal because we do work together, we just work in different ways," says Billings City Councilwoman Penny Ronning.

Congress hasn’t approved the LWCF for more than $450 million in the last decade, but communities like Whitefish, Big Horn County and Billings are still pushing for the $900 million of full funding.

This year, a tennis court in Billings received about $250,000 in LWCF money for reconstruction.

Brad Knutson with Billings Parks and Recreation stands under a pavilion by the gated tennis court. He says this court had deteriorated so badly that the city closed it in 2018.

“We’ve had to move a lot of high school tennis away from this site. I’ve had to move a lot of our tennis programming away from our site. It’ll just be great upon completion of this project to have these courts up and going and being able to get everybody playing again," Knutson says.

Montana received roughly $1.6 million in 2019, up from $945,000 in 2018.

Republican Senator Steve Daines and Democratic Senator Jon Tester are co-sponsoring a bill that supports full funding of LWCF.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which Daines and Tester sit on, has earmarked $465 million for LWCF in 2020. The House Appropriations Committee has earmarked about $524 million.

Copyright 2019 Yellowstone Public Radio

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