BOZEMAN – The U.S. Senate recently passed Public Lands Package 928, a bill that includes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which helps fund fishing access sites, trails, and playgrounds around the nation
“It spans industries it brings people into Montana to recreate,” said Marne Hayes, Business for Montana’s Outdoors Executive Director.
Hayes is talking about the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a fund that invests money from oil and gas revenue to develop public land.
Congress did not extend the funding in September, so even though it is authorized, LWCF cannot use it.
“It would be like trying to run a car with no gas,” Hayes said. “So to have the program reauthorized without any funding accomplishes one significant piece but leaves another still on the table.”
That is where the public lands package comes in. The bill has gained support from both of Montana’s senators. But, due to the government shutdown, the process of getting this bill through Congress was halted.
However, with the shutdown over, the bill has officially passed the Senate and is on its way to the U.S. House of Representatives before ending up at the president’s desk for a final signature.
Winter Wildlands Alliance Hilary Eisen says each day the funding isn’t extended the American people lose out on about $2.5 million money that could be going toward parks, trails, or habitat conservations.
“It was a disappointment, and you know, it has been frustrating,” Eisen said. “But again, we are very grateful for what the Senate has done and [are] very hopeful that the House will follow suit.”
Both Eisen and Smith say this program is extremely crucial not only to access but also to the state’s economy. The fund has provided around $587 billion to the Treasure State.
-Mederios Babb reporting for MTN News