Montana Senator Jon Tester is blaming Republican leaders in Congress for failing to schedule a vote on the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, or LWCF, before it expires on Sunday.
“There really is no reason not to bring this up and get it voted on especially since the Senate was in two and a half weeks in the month of August," Tester says. "We had plenty of time to do it. It’s got to be a priority of the majority leader in the United States Senate and the Speaker of the House.”
In a press phone call Thursday morning, Montana’s senior senator was joined by a Republican congressman as well as leaders from conservation organizations including the Nature Conservancy and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. They’re worried the LWCF will expire on September 30 and are urging Congress to vote on it.
Montana has used more than $579 million from the LWCF over the past 54 years to preserve stream access, elk habitat, national forests and other open spaces.
Tester highlighted that the fund doesn’t draw from taxpayer dollars. It uses government revenue from offshore oil and gas leases to buy conservation easements and expand access to public lands.
"The Land and Water Conservation Fund is arguably the best tool we have to increase public access to our public lands," Tester says.
Tester’s comments come just one day after Montana’s junior senator Steve Daines, a Republican, made a presentation on the Senate floor urging its members to permanently reauthorize the LWCF.
If the fund isn’t reauthorized by Sunday, the oil and gas drilling revenues that currently fund it will be diverted into the Treasury’s general fund.