Montana Outdoors Organizations Praise LWCF Proclamation

Montana Outdoors Organizations Praise LWCF Proclamation

HELENA – Montana sportsmen and women are praising the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission for today’s proclamation in support of Senator Max Baucus’ bill to reauthorize the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

The LWCF uses offshore oil leases—not taxes—to invest in state and federal parks, trail systems and waterways.  In Montana, the Fund is used for everything from Fishing Access Sites to making public land more accessible.

In their proclamation, fish and wildlife commissioners also called for full federal funding of LWCF to the tune of $900 million per year.  Over the years, more than $17 billion has been diverted from LWCF to pay for unrelated spending.  This year the U.S. House of Representatives zeroed out funding from the LWCF.

“The Commission knows well that The Land & Water Conservation Fund is responsible for over 70 percent of Montana’s Fishing Access Sites and has been used in a number of recent conservation easements and acquisitions that increase the public’s access to public resources,” said Skip Kowalski, president of the Montana Wildlife Federation. We’re extremely grateful to our Fish & wildlife Commission for taking a stand in favor of increased public access to public land & water. and the sustainable, growing economy that revolves around bountiful, responsible access. ”

The Fish and Wildlife Commission’s proclamation notes that access to public water, wildlife and land helps “ensure a vibrant, economically resilient sector of Montana’s economy.”

According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation is responsible for pumping more than $5.8 billion into Montana’s economy every year.  It also supports more than 64,000 jobs in the Treasure State.

“This bill is a common sense approach to expanding public access to the land Montanans hold dear without asking taxpayers for a dime,” said Baucus, who has been a stalwart supporter of LWCF through his 35 years in the Senate.  “Outdoor heritage fuels our economy and supports jobs – investing in it today will pay dividends over the long haul.”

Baucus has said passing his Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act is one of his top priorities to accomplish before his final term ends in 2014.

What Montanans are saying about the importance of the LWCF:

  • “Access in Montana is controversial. Some places see roads gated, locked off from the public who have a right to access these places. When programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund are actually funded, our ability to access public lands increases. Places like the Marshall Block WMA, Fish Creek WMA & many of our state parks have benefited from the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Montanans have been directly affected by the wise use of these funds to increase access to public lands in places like the Tenderfoot Drainage of the Belt Mountains and the purchase of the Marshall Block & Fish Creek Wildlife Management Areas in western Montana,” -John Gibson, President of the Public Land and Water Access Association

  • “The middle of hunting season is a good time to recognize the importance of the Land & Water Conservation Fund. Many hunters will enjoy access and quality habitats provided by LWCF & not realize it. LWCF is one of the most important access programs in Montana for carrying on our sporting heritage. This bill needs to pass.  The Fish & Wildlife Commission has made a sound financial decision as well as one that helps people enjoy their public lands” -Land Tawney, President of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

  • “It’s important to recognize that programs like LWCF have been utilized to increase access to public lands as well as conserve some our most important wildlife habitats along the Rocky Mountain Front, Upper Blackfoot, Gallatin National Forest, Belt Mountains and many other places in Montana.  LWCF has been a huge success in Montana. It’s time to finally fund the Fund and keep it going for future generations.” -Dan Vermillion, Chairman of the Fish & Wildlife

  • “Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks depends onthefederal Land & Water Conservation Fund to ensure access to public lands and wildlife. We’ve leveraged LWCF dollars with private funding and hunting license dollars to ensureMontanans will always have places to hunt geese along the Missouri River, mule deer on the Marias, and elk in the Upper Blackfoot. This program meansthat Montana's hunting traditions and local economies will have a bright future. Access matters to Montanans, and LWCF is one of our best tools for new public access to both private and public land." – Jeff Hagener, Director, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

Read the full proclamation below:

The Land and Water Conservation Fund(LWCF) is a Federal Programthat was established byan Act of Congressin 1964 to provide funds and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and water, and easements on land and water, for the benefit of all Americans. The main emphases of the fund are recreation and the protection of national natural treasures in the forms of parks and protected forest and wildlife areas.

Whereas: Montana’s Outdoor Heritage is vital to the quality of life of our citizens and the United States as a whole.

Whereas: Public Access to public water, wildlife and land help ensure a vibrant, economically resilient sector of Montana’s economy.

Whereas: The Land & Water Conservation Fund has been vital in helping the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks fund operations in State Parks for the benefit and enjoyment of all Montanans and visitors to the Great State of Montana.

Whereas: The Land & Water Conservation Fund is responsible for helping fund the acquisition of approximately 70% of all Fishing Access Sites in Montana.

Whereas: The Land & Water Conservation Fund has been judiciously and efficiently used to ensure future hunting and angling opportunity through the purchase of strategic pieces of land.

Whereas: The Land & Water Conservation Fund has been instrumental in conserving vital habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species, ensuring their eventual delisting and return to State Management.

Whereas: The ability to connect with Montana’s outdoor spaces, publicly owned wildlife, rivers and streams is one of Montana’s greatest assets.

Whereas: the Land and Water Conservation Fund stateside assistance program has greatly improved the quality of life for all Montana citizens through projects on school playgrounds, city parks, increased recreational opportunities in towns and state lands for non-consumptive users,

Whereas: Protecting working landscapes through conservation easements ensures that farmers and ranchers will be able to pass their operations down to their children while preserving Montana’s unique and vibrant landscape.

Whereas: Senators Max Baucus & Jon Tester have long advocated for access to public lands and waters, fought for funding of the Land & Water Conservation Fund, and helped ensure Montana’s economic diversity through their stalwart championship of the Land & Water Conservation Fund.

Therefore, be it resolved in acclimation of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission acting in regular session on November 14th, 2013 in Helena Montana that the Land & Water Conservation Fund should be reauthorized with no sunset date. Be it further resolved that the United States Congress must fully fund the Land & Water Conservation Fund to the full amount of $900 million per year from offshore mineral leasing royalty without diversion to other programs.

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