Public lands package clears US Senate, Montana groups hopeful for House approval

Posted at 4:02 PM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 18:29:01-05

BOZEMAN – A public lands package that secures funding for the Land and Wildlife Conservation Fund (LWCF) passed the U.S. Senate last week and now is on its way to the House of Representatives for approval.

The LWCF is a fund that collects money from oil and gas revenues to develop public lands across the nation. Executive Director of Business for Montana’s Outdoors Marne Hayes said the fund is vital to the Treasure State’s economy.

“It spans industries, it brings people into Montana to recreate,” said Hayes. “It also brings jobs, so it is a critical program for Montana’s economy.”

Back in September, Congress did not extend the funding for the LWCF, so even though it was reauthorized, the money for public lands cannot be used.

“It would be like trying to run a car with no gas,” said Hayes. “So to have the program reauthorized without any funding accomplishes one significant piece but leaves another still on the table.”

That is where Hayes said the public lands package comes in. The bill has gained bipartisan support from Montana’s two U.S. senators. Due to the government shutdown, however, the bill was delayed in getting through Congress.

Winter Wildlands Alliance employee Hilary Eisen says each day the funding isn’t authorized, the American people lose out on about $2.5 million that could go towards parks, trails, and habitat conservation.

“It was a disappointment,” said Eisen. “And you know it has been frustrating, I think, for Montanans across the state that it has taken so long to act. But again we are very grateful for what the Senate has done and very hopeful that the House will follow suit.”

Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News