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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Apr 04 2019

Daines Votes for Bernhardt, Jeopardizing Land and Water Conservation Fund

The senator undermines his own public lands agenda by voting for the former oil and gas lobbyist as next Interior secretary

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Today, Senator Steve Daines put the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) in serious peril, not one month after giving himself credit for saving this bipartisan, hugely popular recreation and conservation program that Montanans rely on for our outdoor way of life.

He put LWCF in jeopardy by voting to confirm David Bernhardt as our next Interior secretary. Bernhardt has all but assured the American public that he intends on crippling this program by completely defunding it. 

Bernhardt’s confirmation now moves to a full Senate floor vote, giving Daines one last opportunity to vote against Bernhardt in support of LWCF. 

Call Sen. Daines now at 202-224-2651 and tell him to vote against Bernhardt's nomination on the Senate floor. 

The budget that the Department of the Interior recently proposed under Bernhardt would slash funding to LWCF by105 percent compared to last year, pulling back about $23 million of what was appropriated this year.

LWCF uses fees and royalties from offshore drilling to pay for a host of conservation and recreation projects on public lands and in local communities. In Montana, LWCF has paid for trailheads, trails, protection of wildlife habitat, soccer fields, playgrounds, baseball diamonds, swimming pools, and many other things that sustain our quality of life. Seventy percent of our state’s fishing access sites have, for instance, been paid with LWCF funds. 

In a Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing last week, Daines told Bernhardt that the budget Bernhardt proposed for LWCF was “embarrassingly low.” But at no point during the hearing did Bernhardt reassure the SENR committee members that he would change his position on LWCF funding.

Daines nonetheless voted for him today.

Without LWCF, Montanans would not have nearly the same number of opportunities we now have to fish, hunt, hike, float, ski, snowmobile, and ride horses. That’s why Daines joined with Senator Jon Tester in championing LWCF and making sure that permanent reauthorization was included in the lands package Congress recently passed and the President signed. 

Despite how popular this program is, despite how much it has benefitted millions of Americans and thousands of communities, and despite the fact that almost all Americans pay absolutely nothing for it, Bernhardt is not only proposing one of the most extreme cuts to LWCF in its history; he is also attempting to prevent previously approved projects from being funded.

Before going to work for the Department of the Interior two years ago, Bernhardt was a lobbyist for the oil and gas industry. It would appear that he’s still serving his old bosses. Last year, Bernhardt gutted a landmark bipartisan conservation agreement to keep sage grouse off the endangered species list, an agreement that involved several Western governors, ranchers, scientists, and industry representatives, as well as sportsmen and conservation groups. Gutting this agreement opens 9 million acres of public lands across the West to oil and gas drilling, mining, and other development.

As Interior secretary, Bernhardt would no doubt make similar decisions that could be devastating for our public lands and outdoor way of life. 

Call Sen. Daines now at 202-224-2651 and tell him to reconsider his support of Bernhardt and vote against nominating him on the Senate floor.

- John Todd, MWA deputy director