Senator Max Baucus' Land and Water Conservation Fund Bill Gathers Broad Support.  Senator  Baucus introduced a plan today to ensure public access for hunting, fishing, hiking and other outdoor activities in Montana. The Land and Water Conservation Authorization and Funding Act of 2011 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 bill is a common sense approach to preserving our clean water, hunting, hiking and outdoor heritage without asking taxpayers to foot the bill. We’ve worked hard to make sure this legislation is a reflection of who we are as Montanans – and our common values as stewards of the land and waterways we love. We have an opportunity to do the right thing for our kids and grandkids and now is the time to do it,” said Baucus.

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.

 “Funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund is an essential tool to help protect working farms and ranches and enable agricultural families to conserve open space, working lands, and critical wildlife habitat.” said Jeff Laszlo of Granger Ranches, Ennis, MT. ”Thanks to Senator Max Baucus for safeguarding Montana’s rural heritage and pristine landscapes.”

 "The Land and Water Conservation Fund has been instrumental in protecting western Montana’s natural legacy-including great rivers like the Clark Fork and iconic landscapes like Mt. Jumbo and Mt. Sentinel,” said Grant Kier, Executive Director, Five Valleys Land Trust. “We are grateful to Senator Baucus for his efforts to ensure that LWCF continues to help Montanans protect the best of our clean water and open lands for future generations."

 "Senator Baucus has been an amazing champion of the Land and Water Conservation Fund for Montana and for the nation," said Deb Love, Northern Rockies Program Director, The Trust for Public Land. "Because of the Senator’s strong commitment, the outdoor places we as Montanans love and cherish will be protected for our kids and grandkids to enjoy."

 “Montana is truly blessed to have two such extraordinary champions for conservation and rural communities as Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester,” said Kat Imhoff, State Director, The Nature Conservancy. “Max is an innovative thinker who goes the extra mile to ensure that the magnificent natural wealth, as well as the Montana way of life is secure now and for generations to come. Everyone who loves this state owes him a debt of gratitude for his dedication to preserving what we all hold so dear.”

 Last August, Baucus worked to draw attention to the importance of LWCF funding during a Rally for River Access float trip on the Blackfoot River near Missoula.  He also received the Golden Wheel Award from Billings trails group, BikeNet, for his work supporting local trails funded by LWCF.