Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Jack Ballard
Billings, Mont. 

CONSERVATION CON JOB - Why Won't Steve Daines fully fund the LWCF?


August 15, 2019

they say or how they vote during the re-election cycle. Focus on the voting record from earlier in their term.

That’s an important thing for Montanans to remember about Senator Steve Daines in relation to public lands, wildlife habitat and public access. His re-election rhetoric doesn’t match his record. He’s crowing about his support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a critical funding mechanism for conservation efforts on public lands. In Montana, the fund has spent more than $600 million.

In 2015, newly-elected Senator Daines voted against the reauthorization of the LWCF. Fast forward to 2018. On June 20th, after publicly professing support for the LWCF, Daines turned around and voted to reduce its funding. He has gone along with the current administration’s repeated attempts to hamstring the LWCF in its budget proposals. But the LWCF doesn’t cost taxpayers a penny! It’s supported by royalties from offshore gas and oil drilling. Daines will tell you he did the job when he voted to permanently authorize the LWCF with 91 other Senators, but that’s a hollow vote because authorization does not fund.

When I was a kid on my family’s ranch west of Three Forks, my dad occasionally allowed me and my older siblings to pile into the family car and drive to Bozeman to see a movie. Along with his “yes” on the outing came a couple of dollars for my ticket. Without the money, no movie. Without adequate funding, LWCF projects languish even though Congress has “authorized” the fund.

Since its inception in 1964, Congress has diverted more than $22 billion from the LWCF for other purposes. Senator Daines, now in re-election mode, is touting his support for the LWCF but he’s yet to actually vote for its full funding.

Where might that diverted money be spent? We could update infrastructure in Yellowstone National Park where women routinely wait in long lines to use the latrine. How about resources for combatting invasive plants and aquatic species that threaten the Montana way of life for hunters and anglers? Improvements are needed at river access points, trails and historical sites that lure millions of visitors to Montana. They support our $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy, a job-creator that provides fulfilling employment to tens of thousands of everyday Montana residents who love their work and the fact they live in area code 406.

Don’t buy Daines’ re-election rhetoric on conservation. He’s had nearly a full term in the Senate without results and is now trying to tag another with talk. For me, this one’s the proverbial “no brainer.” At first opportunity in the Senate, I’ll enthusiastically vote to permanently and fully fund the LWCF.

Jack Ballard

Democratic Candidate for US Senate

Billings, Mont.


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