The U.S. Senate passed a significant new public lands bill . . .
The Senate passed an omnibus public lands bill on a vote of 92-8 on Tuesday, allowing permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and blocking a proposed gold mine on the edge of Yellowstone National Park.
“Everybody is crying,” said Chico Hot Springs owner Colin Davis, who led a coalition of 400 Paradise Valley businesses supporting the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act. “It’s been a long couple years.”
Davis was on a conference call with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, as the vote tally was coming down Tuesday afternoon. Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte also backed the Yellowstone Gateway and LWCF measures.
The Flathead Beacon has a good article on conservation project funding in the valley . . .
A slate of conservation projects are nearing completion or recently came to fruition in the Flathead Valley, underscoring the importance of private donations and a federal program that funds a suite of conservation projects, including land acquisition and grants to state and local entities for everything from conservation easements to municipal parks.
Recently, the Land and Water Conservation Fund helped complete the next phase of a 13,400-acre conservation easement northwest of Whitefish Lake, providing $2 million for the final piece of the multi-phased Whitefish Lake Watershed Project, which helps protect wildlife, promote timber production, and allow public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor pursuits.
The conservation and recreation community has praised the easement because it protects critical fish and wildlife habitat and provides continued public access for outdoor recreation, while also securing the city of Whitefish’s water supply, 20 percent of which is drawn from Whitefish Lake.
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell was at Hauser Lake near Helena last Tuesday, talking about public lands and funding. Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this one . . .
U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell spoke to a crowd of public land employees and conservationists at Hauser Lake northeast of here Tuesday to promote public land and full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, raise awareness about the outdoors economy and unveil new funding for youth in conservation.
Speaking to the media afterward, she commented on the recent takeover of a national wildlife refuge in Oregon, the cancellation of an oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine area earlier this year and her decision not to visit coal-dependent communities in southeastern Montana.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who traveled with Jewell, said Devil’s Elbow at Hauser Lake, a Bureau of Land Management campground, was a befitting place for the discussion because it has benefited from LWCF money in the past.
Well, now… we’ve got some bipartisan action on energy, as well as on the Land and Water Conservation Fund . . .
In a show of bipartisan collaboration, the U.S. Senate passed a sweeping bill that reforms many of the nation’s energy policies and boosts research and development of new technology, including so-called clean coal, while also making strides for environmental conservation, including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
The bill, passed April 20 with an 85-12 vote, will try to mesh with similar House legislation and, if signed into law by President Obama, would be the nation’s first major energy reform in nine years.
Looks like the Trumbull Creek land deal is a go . . .
A large land conservation deal northwest of Columbia Falls will benefit from passage of the Land, Water and Conservation Fund.
The fund uses off shore oil and gas lease revenue for conservation projects across the U.S. Congress extended the measure for three years when it passed a massive budget bill just before the holidays. Nationwide, Congress appropriated about $450 million to the fund.
Montana’s largest LWCF project this year is the Trumbull Creek conservation easement with F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. The Trumbull Creek easement is a $9.5 million deal, with $6.5 million from the Forest Legacy program, $2 million from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Habitat Conservation Plan program and $1 million from private donations.
Reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund made it into the pending omnibus spending bill, but the ‘fire-borrowing’ fix for funding large wildfires did not. The wildfire measure was tied to a set of logging measures that raised opposition on both sides of the aisle . . .
Proposals to speed up logging projects apparently killed chances for fixing the U.S. Forest Service’s “fire borrowing” problem as Congress moved an omnibus budget bill toward passage Wednesday.
The 2,009-page bill does include re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was a bipartisan goal of Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines, Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. But the Montana delegation’s push for categorical exemptions and expedited approvals of logging projects ran into opposition from both national environmental groups and Senate Republican leadership.
Both Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and ranking member Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., opposed including the Forest Wildfire Funding and Forest Management amendment that was backed by a large coalition of logging, recreation and conservation groups as well as members of Congress from both parties and the Agriculture Department.
Montana state and federal political leaders are getting worried about the possible expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund . . .
Montana’s top political officials are all declaring support for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund as it nears a possible expiration in September.
Both Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester released announcements this week about the program’s reauthorization language in the Senate’s Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015. That bill is set for committee markup next week.
Also this week, Gov. Steve Bullock wrote the entire congressional delegation with a plea to save the 50-year-old program.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund has to be reauthorized by September. Almost everyone seems to think it’s a swell idea, but the devil is in the details . . .
An important conservation program could expire in September unless Congress passes legislation to save it.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund was the subject of a U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources hearing last month. The hearing, which included Montana Sen. Steve Daines, comes as both the House and Senate consider passing legislation to permanently extend the fund.
The LWCF was created in 1965 and uses profits from offshore oil and gas developments to fund conservation and land acquisitions across the country. The primary goal of the fund is to protect land and ensure that it is accessible for recreation. It also offers funds to state and local governments to buy and protect land.
The U.S. Forest Service is spending money on several land acquisition projects, including two in Montana . . .
The Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the U.S. Forest Service will dedicate $40.6 million for land acquisition projects in 15 states including Montana in an effort to help safeguard clean water, recreational access and wildlife habitat and wilderness areas.
The money is made available through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, created by Congress in 1964 to provide funding to federal, state and local governments to purchase land, water and wetlands. The fund receives the majority of its money through royalty payments from offshore oil and gas revenues to mitigate the environmental impacts of those activities, the DOA said. Those funds also are augmented by additional money or in-kind services of a variety of partnerships.