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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Jul 22 2020

A Huge Win for the Land and Water Conservation Fund

The House passes the Great American Outdoors Act with bipartisan support

On a day that has already seen a historic win for our public lands, the news got even better when the House passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) this afternoon by a 310-107 vote.

The bill, which the Senate overwhelmingly passed back in June, now moves to the president’s desk.

This is a tremendous victory for public lands in Montana and across the country. Most notably, the bill will provide full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), one of our nation’s most critical conservation programs. LWCF has been essential to hundreds of public lands projects across Montana, including the acquisition and development of numerous state parks, the construction and maintenance of public trail systems, and the development of boat ramps, campgrounds, and fishing access sites. The fund, which disburses royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling, has contributed over $600 million to Montana projects in its 55-year existence. The bill will also provide some $9 billion to address the maintenance backlog facing our national public lands. 

Despite its broad popularity, LWCF has not had an easy journey through Congress. Sen. Tester was an early champion of full and dedicated funding, and while Sen. Daines eventually cosponsored GAOA, he wouldn’t even vote to reauthorize LWCF as recently as a few years ago. And while Rep. Gianforte voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act today, he had refused to publicly support full, dedicated funding for LWCF until mid-June.

All this is to say that your dedicated advocacy has paid off in a big way. While LWCF has been a national legislative priority for years, the Montana campaign to fund LWCF ramped up in March, when a group of citizens rallied on the banks of East Gallatin River in Bozeman to call on Rep. Gianforte to vocally support full, dedicated funding. You followed this up with phone calls, emails, letters to the editor, op-eds, petition signatures, yard signs, and more, building such a groundswell of support that our elected officials had no choice but to support LWCF. 

This is a powerful example of grassroots advocacy at work. By speaking up together, supporting good decisions by our elected officials, and holding them accountable for bad ones, we can make meaningful progress for the public lands that we love and depend on.

I’m routinely inspired the commitment of our supporters like you, and I’d like to thank you for all the hard work you do to ensure that future generations will be able to enjoy the same wild public lands that we do today. The Great American Outdoors Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund are landmark pieces of public lands legislation, and you’ve been integral in their passage. I’m honored to be a part of this community, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish next. 

There is, of course, much work that remains to be done, and I’d ask that you help us build on this historic momentum by making a contribution to MWA. By working together, we can protect the places that matter most, and I hope that you’ll continue to stand with us as we fight for Montana’s wild future. 

Jacob Foster
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator

Jacob lifts up voices from communities around the state to protect and preserve public lands. While not taking on new engagement challenges, he enjoys beekeeping, skiing, and hiking with loved ones.
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