On Feb. 27, I met with President Donald Trump in the White House to pitch a simple idea – let’s set aside political gridlock and pass the most important conservation law in the last 50 years.
In our meeting, I stressed the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund for Montana and asked the president to support full, permanent funding for the program. I told the president that our national parks and other cherished public lands suffer from a massive maintenance backlog too, and how important these priorities are for Montana and our way of life.
The president listened as I explained the challenges we face accessing our public lands, and the fact that LWCF was responsible for 70% of the fishing accesses we have in Montana. At the end of our meeting, he said, “Steve, you have my full support. Get me a bill, and I’ll sign it into law.”
It was a historic breakthrough and an incredible win for Montana and our public lands.
As a fifth-generation Montanan, I grew up appreciating and enjoying all the wonders our public lands had to offer. From fishing on the Yellowstone River to summiting Granite Peak to backpacking in the Beartooths, I’ve always enjoyed our outdoors and this appreciation is something Cindy and I have been proud to pass on to our four children. In fact, Cindy and I were engaged to be married on Hyalite Peak, south of Bozeman, in July 1986.
As Montana’s voice in the U.S. Senate, I’ve made it one of my top priorities to protect and expand access to our public lands. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a critical tool for enhancing collaborative conservation and sportsmen and fishing access in Montana.
Under my leadership and by working with President Trump, we permanently authorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the first time in history, and we will soon pass and sign a bill into law that fully funds this critical program. It’s a huge win for Montana.
In addition to protecting our public lands, we must also take care of our national parks.
Our national parks set us apart from the rest of the world, but with increased visitation to them each year, park infrastructure has inevitably experienced wear and tear and has led to a significant maintenance backlog.
Today, there is nearly $12 billion in maintenance backlog facing national parks across the nation, including over $700 million in Glacier and Yellowstone national parks and an additional $50 million throughout the state.
I’m glad to have worked with folks from all over Montana, including our great conservation organizations like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Montana Trout Unlimited, and the National Parks Foundation and others to address our maintenance backlog.
It’s essential we protect and maintain access to these lands for future generations.
You know, despite the partisan politics happening back in Washington, I’m confident that public lands are something that can pull us all together.
It’s an honor to work with our president to get things done for Montana as we accomplish what no other administration has ever come close to accomplishing –Republican or Democrat.
It’s time to make history again for our public lands.
Steve Daines is a Republican U.S. senator from Montana.
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