The secretary proposes draconian cuts to the Land & Water Conservation Fund
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has turned his back on Montana, a state he represented in Congress until last year. The latest example is his proposed 2019 Interior Department budget, where the secretary proposes eliminating virtually all funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The premise of LWCF is simple: the United States invests a small portion (up to $900 million annually) of the revenue generated from offshore oil drilling into land conservation, outdoor recreation, and public lands access.
For any good politician from Montana, LWCF is like motherhood and apple pie. It’s one of those rare bipartisan programs that works because its impacts are widely felt by anyone who values protecting and enhancing access for hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping on America’s public lands. And in Montana, that’s virtually everyone.
Sen. Steve Daines, (R-MT):
“LWCF was created in the spirit of reinvesting the revenues from the sale of our national resources into future resources for all Americans — asset for asset.”
Sen. Jon Tester, (D-MT):
“I applaud every effort to increase recreational opportunities for Montanans and this money will go a long way towards doing that. LWCF is a critical boost to Montana’s economy, our western way of life, and our outdoor heritage.”
Rep. Greg Gianforte, (R-MT):
“I will also fight for the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help preserve and expand access for Montanans to hunt, fish, and recreate on public lands.”
Gov. Steve Bullock, (D-MT):
“[LWCF] has ensured that generations of Montanans had access to public lands and waterways that otherwise would be locked up. Montanans demand more from Washington.”
In today’s overheated political environment, you’d be hard-pressed to find a program with stronger and more intense bipartisan support than LWCF. But Interior Secretary Zinke — who is known to harbor future political aspirations in Montana — apparently missed the memo. He’s put forward a budget proposal that effectively zeroes out LWCF.
If Congress was to implement Secretary Zinke’s proposal — an improbability given the broad, bipartisan support for LWCF — important conservation projects would go unfunded, recreation areas could be lost to subdivisions, trophy homes could be built inside national parks like Zion and Glacier, and funds won’t be available to open up new hunting and fishing access on public lands. What’s more, Secretary Zinke’s proposal would leave states and local communities in the lurch, taking away a critical source of money for local recreation facilities, state parks, working forests, and wildlife protection programs…(CONTINUED)