BOZEMAN – Montana Senator Steve Daines and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski met at the Wild Sheep Foundation on Sunday to talk about the recent passage of the Public Lands Package.
“As I said when it passed through the Senate,” said Daines. “It did take public lands to bring a divided government together.”
The Public Lands Package passed through the House 363-62 and through the Senate 92-8. This package of bills included the funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which over its lifetime has poured over $500 million into Montana for outdoor recreation.
However, even though President Trump signed the bills into law, his proposed budget contradicts that because it calls for cuts to the Interior Department. This would, in turn, cut the LWCF by 98 percent.
“I have always said since I have been back in Congress,” said Daines. “Whether it was under President Obama or President Trump, the Presidents always propose a budget and then Congress decides what they are going to do on the appropriations side.”
Both Daines and Alaska Senator and U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski believe the funding will be accounted for because of the overwhelming bipartisan support of public lands access.
“Right now for Interior,” said Murkowski. “Coming out of the administration, are 11 percent reduction from the year prior. That is gonna be challenging for us but again how can we work to support the support of the clear intentions of the Congress is what I think you will see.”
Besides the LWCF, Daines mentioned there is another pressing problem needing to be solved. That is the close to $12 billion overall National Park backlog of infrastructure projects, which he said is something all parties are coming together to find a solution for.
“Not arguing about who gets credit, not arguing about who gots the biggest ego here,” said Daines. “And they are setting that aside and we have a solution going forward. So I am cautiously optimistic we will get that through sometime this next Congress. We are gonna keep fighting for that too.”
Reporting by Mederios Babb for MTN News