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Tester and Daines speak about LWCF at Wednesday press conference

 

Steve Daines

Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., along with a group of fellow senators including Jon Tester, D-Mont., held a press conference Wednesday about President Donald Trump's recent commitment to sign the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, as well as recent legislation that will permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The LWCF, which was established in 1964, uses revenues from oil and gas leasing to pay for conservation efforts across the U.S. Last year, Congress permanently reauthorized the program but only included about half of its $900 million funding limit. Senators backing this new legislation hope that this funding increase will help to address the maintenance backlog in the National Park System.

"This is what the story has been on the Land Water Conservation Fund: As you get to base camp you get up higher, and finally you get to the summit. We stand here today, the summit is in view, we are going to get on top of this mountain," said Daines, who described the legislation as a "historic moment for conservation."

"Last year, if you remember, we permanently reauthorized the funding of the LWCF," Daines said, "that was kind of camp two of getting to the summit. This is the moment we've been waiting for."

Trump's proposed budget for the 2021 fiscal year called for the LWCF to be slashed by nearly 97 percent. But Daines said that the president changed his mind after a meeting with him and Gardner.

"Corey and I both shared pictures, of Colorado and Montana," Daines said, "and he was taken aback by the beauty of our states, and what the fund and our national parks do."

"I want to thank my colleague from Montana Jon Tester who has been a relentless supporter of the Land Water Conservation Fund... as well as the Restore Our Parks Act," he added after offering his thanks to the other senators in the room.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., noted the change in Trump's attitude.

"Somehow, somebody worked a miracle because all of a sudden a White House who hasn't been for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, they zeroed it out actually, is now seeing the light," she said.

Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, used his time to talk about what he believes the effects of this legislation will be.

"100 years from now, a family and their kid are going to go to the top of a mountain in Colorado, or Montana, or the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, or to the coast of Maine, or to the Great Smokies in Tennessee, and they're not going to know us, they're not going to remember any of us, they're not going to know any of our names, but we did something for them today," he said.

Tester agreed.

"Angus is exactly correct," he said. "... Every day that goes by, we are losing ecosystems in this country. These are ecosystems that our kids could enjoy 100 years from now but will be gone, and once they're gone, they're gone forever."

"The fact is that Teddy Roosevelt was an amazing visionary who, in a time when there were wild places everywhere, had enough sense to preserve some of them," he said.

Tester ended his time by thanking his colleagues for their work.

Jon Tester

"When I got here 13 years ago, there was a guy by the name of Ron Wyden, and a lady by the name of Maria Cantwell, who were working to do exactly this, and they worked very hard, and set the stage for this to happen. And I want to thank them today," he said.

Gardner was asked during the question session if this change of mind by the president was really about election-year politics and vulnerable Republican Senate seats.

"I'm not going to try to play politics, or try to point partisan fingers," he said.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Vir., responded to the question as well.

"I really don't care. The politics, whatever they want to play with it, this needs to be done for my children and grandchildren and for my state of West Virginia."

 

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