Montana's senior U.S. Senator introduced a bipartisan plan to ensure royalties from offshore oil and gas leases continue to support public access for hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities in Montana. The Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2013 co-sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), aims to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at no additional cost to taxpayers. The fund uses royalties from offshore oil and gas leases to help purchase and protect lands across the country for public use. The Baucus bill includes an additional provision to fund sportsmen's access to public lands.
"This is a balanced bill to improve public access to our outdoor treasures without asking taxpayers for a dime. Montana's outdoor heritage fuels our economy and our way of life - investing in it today will pay dividends in the long haul," said Baucus.
Senator Tester also signed on to the legislation. "Hunters and anglers tell me every day that their top priority for Montana is ensuring public access to public land," Tester said. "Outdoor recreation creates thousands of Montana jobs and protects our proud outdoor traditions for future generations. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a popular, smart investment in the future of our land, our clean water, and our kids and grandkids who will grow up enjoying the same outdoor opportunities we all love in Montana."
Today marks the 50th anniversary of when President John F. Kennedy sent the original Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) bill to Congress to promote wildlife habitat and open spaces for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation. The Land and Water Conservation Fund, which became law in 1965, uses fees from oil and gas leasing in federal waters to help purchase and protect lands across the country. The LWCF is designed to receive $900 million each year from federal royalties paid on offshore oil and gas leases. The funding is already accounted for, costing taxpayers nothing, but the program has routinely been severely underfunded.
The Baucus bill would permanently direct funds to the LWCF program to ensure there is enough money to protect hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling land. The measure enjoys broad support from Montanans including a wide range of ranchers, outdoors groups, sportsmen and businesses.
"Using funding generated by offshore oil and gas leases to go toward open spaces and wild landscapes is a great model and we're thankful Max recognizes this important opportunity. LWCF is an excellent example of conservation that works and has been very successful in Montana," Nick Gevock, Outreach Director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.
A study released today by Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) documents the economic impact of outdoor recreation at the state level, which builds upon a national study released by OIA in 2012 that found that outdoor recreation is an economic powerhouse in the United States, each year generating $646 billion in consumer spending, 6.1 million direct jobs and $80 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue.
According to OIA, outdoor recreation in Montana generates:
$5.8 billion in consumer spending
64,000 direct Montana jobs
$1.5 billion in wages and salaries
$403 million in state and local tax revenue