As a longtime public lands trail user, I would urge all Montana trail users to give a big thanks to Montana’s U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester, for working together to keep U.S. Forest Service trail funds working in Montana and for passing a Senate bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. These critical funding sources will help ensure trails I use to mountain bike, backpack and bird hunt will be maintained for the recreational enjoyment of all Montanans.
In Montana, 90 percent of our public trails are on our national forests. Earlier this year the U.S. Forest Service shocked Montana trail users by announcing a new funding strategy with devastating effects for trail work in forests like the Helena-Lewis and Clark. Under the new formula, Montana and Idaho national forests -- with 24,000 miles of trails -- would lose 30 percent of trail funds while more populous states like New Mexico, Arizona and California would see a 30 percent increase in trail funding.
Sens. Tester and Daines -- working together -- convinced the chief of the U.S. Forest Service to reverse spending cuts planned for national forest trails in Montana. A week later Montana’s U.S. senators -- Republican and Democrat -- led the successful passage of a Senate bill to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
LWCF was created by Congress in 1965 to dedicate a small percentage of royalties from off-shore oil drilling to future outdoor and public land conservation. This money has served Montana communities -- large and small -- for decades, helping to fund baseball and soccer fields, public swimming pools, parks, wildlife habitat and to protect access to public lands and waters.
Washington, D.C., often seems gridlocked, but this shows that good things happen when Montana’s congressional delegation works together!
Now let’s help Rep. Zinke champion LWCF through the U.S. House.