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Program Key for Funding MT Outdoor Recreation Set to Expire

Supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund say it's helped Montana's outdoor recreation economy at places such as Glacier National Park. (m01229/Flickr)
Supporters of the Land and Water Conservation Fund say it's helped Montana's outdoor recreation economy at places such as Glacier National Park. (m01229/Flickr)
August 13, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – With less than two months before it expires, conservation groups are calling for permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a program that has received bipartisan support in the past.

Montana has received nearly $600 million since the fund was created more than 50 years ago.

It's helped protect a wide range of landscapes, including Glacier National Park and grizzly bear habitat on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Dave Chadwick, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation, says the program is crucial for the outdoor recreation economy, which supports more than 70,000 jobs in the state.

"Acquiring crucial parcels that open up access to other areas of public land,” he states. “Of course, 70 percent of the fishing access sites in Montana have been funded in part with LWCF funds, and really these dollars have touched every corner and every community in this state."

The program receives funding from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas offshore.

Funds also are used to build playgrounds, swimming pools, urban bike paths and other facilities.

The LWCF's Forest Legacy Program has supported timber jobs and sustainable logging in Montana as well. It's set to expire on Sept. 30.

Chadwick says the program has played an "immeasurable role" in keeping Montana the way it is today.

"The need is only going to grow in the future, and fully funding and authorizing the program is really going to help us keep Montana so that in 20, 30, 50 years, future Montanans are going to be able to enjoy everything we love about the Treasure State today," he points out.

Montana's U.S. senators have supported fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund. In most years, Congress raids the fund to spend on other projects.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT