The Senate today voted to pass spending packages for the 2020 fiscal year, which include appropriations for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Senate spending bills, however, failed to fully fund the critical parks and public lands program, approving only $465 million of the $900 million needed to fully fund the LWCF — meaning that Western Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) failed to deliver on this key program that has greatly benefitted his state.
“As expected, Sen. Daines broke his promise to Montanans and the American people. He’s exhausted his public lands talking points, and we see now that he was never serious about securing full and permanent funding for the LWCF,” said Jayson O’Neill, Deputy Director of Western Values Project. “Sen. Daines either doesn’t realize what’s at stake – Montana’s parks, waterways, and public lands – or he just doesn’t care.”
Though Sen. Daines was a co-sponsor of Sen. Joe Manchin’s legislation to fully and permanently fund the program at $900 million, today’s passage of half the necessary funding levels means that Sen. Daines was unable to follow through and that Montana’s public lands will now suffer. He continues to support President Trump’s public lands stance, even though the administration’s proposed budget nearly zeroed out LWCF funding.
Montana has economically benefited tremendously from the LWCF, which has invested more than $619.7 million to protect Montana’s open spaces, historic sites, and recreation areas. Montana’s outdoor recreation industry generates $7.1 billion annually in consumer spending and $286 million in state and local tax revenue, supports 71,000 jobs, which generates $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, and provides a space for nearly 1 million people annually to hunt, fish, and enjoy in Montana’s wildlife. The LWCF also supports improvements to both of Montana’s Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. \
“Inaction and empty promises won’t protect our public lands, parks and Western way of life,” continued O’Neill. “The LWCF needs full and permanent funding now, before our outdoor heritage falls further into disrepair, and before our public lands are sold off to special interests.”
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 Congress by a wide bipartisan margin. But despite being permanently reauthorized, the LWCF still faces an uncertain future with Congress neglecting to fully fund the critical program.
Earlier this summer, Western Values Project launched a campaign calling on three key Western senators — Gardner, McSally, and Daines — to ensure full and permanent funding for the LWCF. The campaign has been urging constituents to visit TellMcSally.org, TellGardner.org, and TellDaines.org to tell their Senator to show leadership on this issue.