WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two Montanans, Jon Tester and Ryan Zinke, faced off Thursday in the U.S. Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee over funding to support public lands.
Zinke, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, has proposed deep cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Tester, a Democratic senator, wanted to know why.
In March, Congress voted to secure $425 million for the fund, which has been used to create public fishing access sites and public access to hiking trail and hunting areas.
Zinke, a former Montana congressman and state lawmaker, has proposed gutting the amount to $8 million in an effort shore up money for maintenance.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund “is funded at a pittance, $8 million when it should be $900 million. Why should we think this proposal is going to be any different, if it’s going to be similar to LWCF?” Tester asked.
“The proposal, which is bipartisan, was also recommendation from numerous commissions studies, but it also expands it, and the idea is this, it’s a sound and prudent policy,” Zinke replied.
Tester then noted that the water and conservation has been sound policy for decades
Tester added: “LWCF is a sound and prudent policy too, to take off shore drilling revenues and put $900 million towards this project in 1978. And they’re not near as much now as they once were in ’78, and we’re funding it, at what, one percent of what it should be?”
“And this is why there are two branches of government and why I’m committed to work with you,” Zinke said.