Tomorrow, Senator Daines will host members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources National Parks Subcommittee at the Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site in Deer Lodge, Montana, to discuss expanding visitation at lesser-known national parks.
However, Daines left Washington D.C. for his summer vacation without ensuring funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – the most important public lands program that provides funding for many of the national parks Daines seeks to increase visitation at – including the Grant-Kohrs National Historic Site itself.
“If Senator Daines really wanted to expand visitation at lesser-known parks and public lands, he would have made sure the Land and Water Conservation Fund received the full and permanent funding it needs before he left D.C. This hearing is just another political ploy from a politician who is more concerned with appeasing Trump and special interest friends than he is with protecting Montana’s outdoor heritage. Senator Daines needs to stop putting these critical parks and public lands program on the back burner, buckle down, and pass the funding he claims to support,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of Western Values Project.
Daines will utilize the Grant-Kohrs Ranch to host fellow senators from the subcommittee. Ironically, the Ranch is a 6,000-acre national historic site that was purchased in 1970 for $250,000 with LWCF funding. When the Trump administration proposed nearly eliminating funding for the LWCF, Daines did not stand up and push back. He also voted for legislation that would have cut $16 million from the fund.
The LWCF is critical to Montana’s public lands and national parks. In addition to the Grant-Kohrs Ranch purchase, it has invested more than $619.7 million in protecting public access and enhancing recreation areas across Montana over the last 50 years. The LWCF is widely supported and doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime. Since its creation in 1964, Congress has only allocated the full $900 million allowed under the act a handful of times, meaning $22 billion in funding to support America’s public lands, parks, and public access have been diverted.
On March 12, 2019, the LWCF was signed into permanent law, after passing both chambers of Congress by a wide bipartisan margin. However, the landmark legislation was passed without funding, leaving the future of the program in peril. Before leaving for summer vacation, the Senate passed a two-year continuing budget resolution, lifting the debt ceiling to avoid another reckless Trump government shutdown. The budget resolution did not include funding for the critical LWCF.