Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are introducing legislation to ensure that Great Falls' Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center has the funding it needs to continue educating visitors and schoolchildren about an important period in history.
Tester and Walsh's bill directs the U.S. Forest Service, which manages the interpretive center, to lease the property to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center Foundation - a group of local advocates. The interpretive center has seen its budget cut significantly in recent years, and the foundation would have the power to raise money for exhibit enhancements and operating costs, including employees' salaries.
The Senators' bill provides the Foundation control of the property for up to 40 years.
"The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center provides a fantastic hands-on history lesson about one of the greatest chapters in American history," Tester said. "It is a real treasure for Great Falls and this bill will help the center remain strong so that folks can continue to learn about the great expedition and Montana's important role in our history."
"The Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center draws visitors from around Montana and around the country to experience the story of William Clark, Meriwether Lewis, and the Corps of Discovery's journey through the land that is now the state of Montana," Walsh said. "This bill is a win-win because it will establishes a private-public partnership that will protect the Center for generations to come."
The Senators' proposal would establish a pilot project that other interpretive centers around the country could model to remain financially solvent. This model could result in taxpayer savings without compromising the important educational benefits the centers provide.