A Historic Victory Decades in the Making
The Great American Outdoors Act becomes law
On Tuesday, Montanans of many stripes united to celebrate the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA), the final step in a decades-long journey to secure full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).
The bill was cosponsored in the Senate by Sen. Tester and Sen. Daines and supported in the House by Rep. Gianforte. We thank our Congressional delegation for their support.
The Great American Outdoors Act will ensure LWCF receives its full $900 million annual allocation, an amount the fund has only been able to distribute once in its 55-year history. This money will be critical for the acquisition, development, and maintenance of a wide variety of Montana public lands like state and city parks, trail systems, fishing access sites, and much more.
These are the resources and infrastructure that connect us to our public lands and unite us in our love of our outdoor way of life. Montanans have long been vocal in their desire for full, dedicated LWCF funding, and we’re thrilled that GAOA has become law and look forward to seeing it benefit Montana’s public lands.
However, as we watch politicians take victory laps and flog their support of GAOA to bolster their conservation bonafides, let’s remember who really drove this legislation: people who love and depend on our public lands. MWA supporters like you have been at the forefront of the grassroots movement to secure the future of LWCF, and we never would have gotten to this point without your unwavering support.
The movement for full, dedicated funding gathered steam in March 2019, when you called on Daines to reject David Bernhardt’s nomination as Secretary of the Interior. The department, under Bernhardt’s acting leadership, had recently proposed slashing LWCF funding by 105%. Daines, who has presented himself as an unwavering champion of LWCF, voted to confirm Bernhardt anyway.
It continued when you gathered on the banks of the East Gallatin River to call on Gianforte to strongly and publicly support full and permanent funding for LWCF. And when Covid-19 began to take its toll on our economy, over 500 of you continued calling on our delegation to support GAOA and LWCF as a means to help support Montana jobs and businesses.
At a time when conservation wins are few and far between, we should savor every victory and be sure to celebrate the incredible passion and commitment of our wilderness community. The power of grassroots advocates like you is endlessly inspiring, and we can’t thank you enough for all that you do. The passage of GAOA is a benchmark in the effort to secure the future of our public lands, and it never would have become law without your tireless support.
We must remember that passing the Great American Outdoors Act was the last step along a long road. While some of our elected officials seek to greenwash their checkered reputations, we must continue reminding them that, if they are truly committed to protecting Montana’s public lands and wild places, the path forward is clear.
Support the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act
Since 2016, three-quarters of Montanans have supported the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. Crafted by a group of Montanans who represent timber, ranching, conservation, hunting, and other public land interests, the bill would permanently protect the four most important tributaries of the Blackfoot River, thereby protecting this storied river and its native trout populations. Tester reintroduced the bill last year, but Daines has refused to support the bill without explanation.
Support the Badger-Two Medicine Protection Act
In July, Tester introduced the Badger-Two Medicine Protection Act, which will secure the wild future of the Badger-Two Medicine and ensure that the Blackfeet Tribe, to whom the Badger is of great cultural significance, will have a meaningful voice in its management. 79% of Montanans are in favor of designating the Badger as a Cultural Heritage Area, but Daines and Gianforte have yet to show their support for the bill.
End Noncompetitive Oil and Gas Leasing
The practice of noncompetitive oil and gas leasing allows oil and gas companies to lease parcels of public land for pennies on the dollar. Processing these leases, which almost never get used, is a waste of government resources, siphoning taxpayer money from what the BLM should be doing – maintaining trails, improving wildlife habitat, protecting our natural and cultural treasures, and everything else that goes into caring for our public lands. Tester has introduced the Leasing Market Efficiency Act, which will put an end to this outdated and wasteful practice.
Thank you for your support. I’m so glad to be part of this amazing community of advocates, and I’m looking forward to celebrating more victories with you in the future.
Ben develops MWA's organizational strategy and works with our grassroots community, partners, and board of directors to achieve MWA's mission and ensure our long-term health and effectiveness. He spends his time connecting to Montana's wild places and rivers by hiking, kayaking, and skiing with his wife, daughter, and dogs.