June 22, 2015
RMEF Applauds Senators, Backs Efforts to Maintain Vital Conservation Funding
MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is urging the U.S. Senate to approve permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
“We applaud Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines for their efforts in advancing the LWCF out of committee toward a full Senate vote,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This funding is crucial in assisting our ongoing efforts to permanently protect and provide public access to important habitat for elk and other wildlife.”
Since 1990, RMEF has utilized more than $85 million in LWCF funding across 62 projects in ten different states in partnership with federal agencies to protect, conserve and open access to some of the most vital elk country in the United States. Among them are the successful high-profile protection and public access projects of Tenderfoot (Montana) and Headwaters of the John Day (Oregon). Other states with RMEF projects that received LWCF funding include Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.
Now in its 50th year, the LWCF helps conserve wild and undeveloped places, cultural heritage and benefits fish, wildlife and recreation. Its funding comes from royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf. The royalties bring in $900 million annually, most of which is diverted to other federal programs.
Senator Tester (D-MT) pointed out to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that the original 2016 version of the bill included just $292 million for LWCF, $14 million below the levels from a year ago. He went a step further by calling on committee members to fully fund LWCF at $900 million but was voted down.
Senator Daines (R-MT), a member of the same committee, then pushed for an amendment restoring LWCF levels to 2015 levels while also ensuring four critical Montana LWCF projects receive full funding. The bill will now be considered by the full Senate.
“LWCF funds have protected land in every state. In Montana alone, that’s a $237 million investment in our forests, waterways, recreation sites and parks. Congress needs to reauthorize this vital funding before it’s too late. Failing to do so means we, as a country, will turn our backs on outdoor recreation, wildlife and wild places,” added Allen.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire on September 30, 2015.