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Oil Spill Bill Could Fill MT Parks and Trails Fund

June 30, 2010

BOZEMAN, Mont. - Congress' "oil spill bill" is being discussed today. It could finally mean full funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Over the years, that fund has helped Montana communities pay for parks, trails and preservation of open space. Offshore drilling fees are supposed to fill the fund, but payments were diverted in recent years; a proposal to restore that money stream may be made in today's Senate debate.

Swan Valley rancher Melanie Parker says the fund was tapped in her community to make sure old timber-company properties were kept intact and publicly-accessible.

"I just think it's about as important as any one program can be for conservation and for maintaining our rural way of life."

The fund is the only pot of federal or state money available for large-scale projects that small communities cannot afford on their own, Parker adds.

Matt Parsons, marketing manager for Northern Lights Trading Co., Bozeman, has his fingers crossed that full funding for the LWCF will be restored soon. He's interested in the way the money is used to enhance recreation opportunities and guarantee public access.

"Thousands of hospitality and outdoor recreation businesses depend on the preservation of Montana's natural assets."

A new Zogby poll released this week shows 81 percent of Montanans support using offshore oil and gas drilling fees for conservation of natural areas and water. Both Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester have supported legislation to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund in the past.



Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT