Baucus Introduces Landmark Legislation To Protect Land And Water

BOZEMAN, MT 11/6/2009: The Trust for Public Land today praised Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) for sponsoring a bill that would fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

“We are deeply grateful for Senator Baucus’ longstanding and focused efforts on behalf of the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Deb Love, Montana director of The Trust for Public Land. “With LWCF, we’re investing in the places we love the most, from the blue ribbon trout streams in Yellowstone to the working forests of the Swan Valley, so our children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities we have to enjoy Montana’s incredible outdoor heritage.”

The Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2009 [S. 2747], would ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the federal government’s principal means of assisting in the preservation of outdoor recreation resources including parks, trails, and wildlife lands, would receive full funding at its congressionally authorized level of $900 million without further appropriation. The legislation will revitalize the beleaguered program that has been unable to address backlogged conservation and recreation needs at the state and federal level.

TPL is proud to have worked with Senator Baucus to help communities save their treasured landscapes, ensure public access to rivers and trails, and protect working ranchlands, farms, and forests. In recent years, LWCF funding has conserved headwater tributaries of the Yellowstone River near Cooke City, secured public fishing access at Three Dollar Bridge and Yellowstoneelk winter range in the Madison Valley, and connected migration corridors in the Swan Valley for grizzly bear and other wildlife. Equally important is the program’s grants for state and local providing close-to-home recreation for Montanans in places like Bogert Park in Bozeman and Descro Park Trail in Billings.

“In the Swan Valley, we were looking down the barrel of uncontrolled growth and sprawl that threatened to erode our way of life and community values,” said Melanie Parker, longtime community activist and Executive Director of Northwest Connections. “Senator Baucus has been instrumental in preserving the water, wildlife and working lands that make this place so special.”

The Senate bill, which is co-sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) complements a House provision included in the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act of 2009, HR 3534, introduced on September 8 by Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), to permanently dedicate full funding for the LWCF.

“We look forward to working with Senator Baucus and his colleagues to move this critical effort forward,” said Love. “For so many places here and across the country, we can’t afford to wait.”

The LWCF is funded from revenues from offshore oil and gas royalties for the sole purpose of reinvesting that money into land protection and outdoor recreation. Unfortunately, in recent years most of the money designated for this fund has been diverted to other federal programs. The fund has only received its authorized amount of $900 million once and posted a low of $155 million in 2008. As a result, there is a substantial backlog of federal land acquisition needs across our national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and BLM lands. The states also report a huge unmet need for local parks and recreation resources totaling more than $27 billion in eligible projects.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization which conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since it was funded in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.8 million acres in 46 states. TPL depends on the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations.