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Land and Water Conservation Fund: MT Supporters Say “Down But Not Out”

Congress allowed funding the the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire. Courtesy:
Congress allowed funding the the Land and Water Conservation Fund to expire. Courtesy:
October 5, 2015

HELENA, Mont. – Down but not out. That's how supporters in Montana size up the battle over the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has a major impact on outdoor recreation in state.

Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says the clock ran out on funding last week when, for the first time in 50 years, Congress refused to reauthorize the program.

He says the decision puts funding for access to public lands and rivers at risk.

"Seventy percent of the fishing access back in here in Montana are paid for in part or in full, by the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” he states. “That's access for hunters, anglers – anybody that wants to recreate on the great waters of Montana."

Some opponents of the fund say it puts too much priority on federal projects and land acquisitions.

Tawney says the availability of high quality outdoor recreation is a big reason folks are moving to Western states, and without the fund, Montana could lose the ability to provide quality access.

Joel Webster, director of the Center for Western Lands with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, says the decision to allow the fund to expire means $2.5 million is being lost every day nationwide that could be funding valuable quality of life projects at both the state and federal level.

"Washington, D.C. politics has gotten in the way,” he says. “And the thing is, what's crazy about this is the Land Water and Conservation Fund has broad bipartisan support, and so if the thing could only get a vote, we feel pretty confident that it would pass."

The fund used up to $900 million annually in royalties paid for offshore drilling to fund public land acquisitions and a variety of recreation, hunting and fishing projects.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MT