Montana Senator Steve Daines wants to make the Land and Water Conservation Fund a permanent fixture of the national budget. The Fund was created in 1964 to support natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage. Money comes from offshore gas and oil royalties. Those funds have been used for national parks, national wildlife refuges, forests, rivers and lakes. However, the program expired last October. Since then, attempts have been made to re-authorize the measure.

Thursday, Daines spoke on the floor of the Senate, saying, "... and yet without permanent re-authorization of this critical legislation, it will continue to expire, Congress after Congress, putting so much of what makes Montana 'The Last Best Place' at risk ... But it's not just about a way of life, it's about our economy; because public lands help spur a $7 billion economy in Montana. That creates thousands of jobs in our state, and they supply almost $300 million in state and local tax revenue."

Senate Bill 47 includes a permanent designation for the Fund and is co-sponsored by 15 Senators, including Daines and Senator Jon Tester. The bill may receive Senate floor action soon. It needs to pass both the Senate and the House before it can go to the President’s desk. In the House, Montana’s Greg Gianforte is also pushing for permanent re-authorization.