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Home Wild Word Montanans: 'Rep. Gianforte, Support Full, Dedicated Funding for LWCF'
Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Mar 05 2020

Montanans: ‘Rep. Gianforte, Support Full, Dedicated Funding for LWCF’

75% of Montanans and our two senators believe in the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Where's Rep. Gianforte?

Update: On Wednesday, March 4, less than a day after the Rally to Fund LWCF, a bipartisan group of senators, including Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, announced legislation that would secure full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

It’s pretty incredible to see months of our on-the-ground action in Montana, culminating with the Rally to Fund LWCF, be adopted into national policy in a matter of hours. 

It’s also true that this work takes time and money. If you’d like to help us keep doing local work that makes a national impact, please consider making a donation today.

 

On Tuesday, March 3, around 80 Gallatin and Park County residents united at the Rally to Fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund to call on Representative Greg Gianforte to strongly and publicly support full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

While Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines have both been strong supporters of LWCF, cosponsoring a Senate bill that would ensure full and permanent funding, Rep. Gianforte has yet to support similar legislation in the House. Rally participants made clear that they want to see Rep. Gianforte join Sens. Tester and Daines in backing legislation that would secure dedicated long-term funding. 

Weren’t at the rally? Sign our petition urging Rep. Gianforte to support full, dedicated funding for LWCF

The rally took place under unseasonably warm blue skies at Cherry River Fishing Access Site on the banks of the East Gallatin River in Bozeman, one of about 50 LWCF-funded sites in Gallatin County. The lunch-hour crowd, many of them bearing signs calling on Rep. Gianforte to support full and permanent funding, came clad in mud boots to ward off the early-spring snowpack that was rapidly melting, turning the parking lot into a slushy sinkhole.

Shauna Stephenson of Montana Mountain Mamas, the afternoon’s MC, opened the event by noting the impact that LWCF has had on every Montanan by virtue of its broad public-lands funding mandate. 

“Who likes to fish? Who likes to hike? Who likes to bike? Who likes to birdwatch? Who likes to ski? Who likes to skateboard? Who likes to hunt?” asked Stephenson, as the crowd cheered in response to each question. “If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you have personally benefited from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, whether you know it or not.” 

Stephenson, a mother, also spoke about the importance of LWCF to maintaining the outdoor way of life that is so central to our Montana way of life.

“When we talk about full and permanent funding for LWCF, we’re talking about protecting the future of Montana,” she said. “I want my kids to grow up in a place where they can pull trout out of a blue-ribbon stream, ride horses on mountain trails, or play on the playground with their friends. By supporting LWCF, we’re supporting the rights of future generations to love the same places that we love today.”

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"When we talk about full and permanent funding for LWCF, we're talking about protecting the future of Montana. By supporting LWCF, we're supporting the rights of future generations to love the same places that we love today." - Shauna Stephenson

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Jim Klug, the owner of Yellowdog Flyfishing Adventures, called on Rep. Gianforte to join Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, both cosponsors of a Senate bill to secure full and dedicated funding, in pushing for the same thing in the House.

“Step up and co-sponsor legislation that matters to Montanans,” said Klug. “More than 75% of Montanans support LWCF, and right there, that's all you need to know as far as getting on board.”

The third speaker, Montana State Representative Zach Brown, spoke about the local impact that LWCF has had on Gallatin County communities like Bozeman, Manhattan, Three Forks, and West Yellowstone, and emphasized the importance of securing full funding moving forward. 

“An underfunded or eliminated LWCF would be a dereliction of duty by Montana’s congressional leadership,” he told the onlookers. “It would be a failure to the people of Gallatin County and Montana as a whole.” 

Dan Gigone of Livingston’s Sweetwater Fly Shop closed out the rally by emphasizing the importance of the public access that LWCF helps provide for regular people, including himself. 

“We need to think beyond the drift boats and the guide trips,” he said. “We need to provide more opportunities to those who can’t afford a boat or a guide. LWCF, if fully funded, will allow
Montanans and visitors from all walks of life to receive the many benefits of the outdoors. My story is one of lifelong depression, and if I hadn’t had the solace of moving waters, the life-affirming tug of the trout, the whitefish, the bluegill, or the eagle’s flyby, I might not be standing here today...apparently, Greg Gianforte doesn’t remember that my story, or your story, or the stories yet to be written, are important.”

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"We need to think beyond the drift boats and the guide trips. We need to provide more opportunities to those who can't afford a boat or a guide. LWCF, if fully funded, will allow Montanans and visitors from all walks of life to receive the many benefits of the outdoors." - Dan Gigone

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As the crowd dissipated into the March afternoon, the ripples from the rally, and from months of on-the-ground work preceding it, were being felt as far away as Washington D.C.

Around lunchtime, while Jim Klug was speaking on the banks of the East Gallatin, President Trump issued a tweet calling on Congress to pass a bill supporting full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. 

We have issued the following statement in response: 

“Montana Wilderness Association would like to thank Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines for their leadership in supporting full, dedicated funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We are also glad to see that, in the face of bipartisan pressure, President Trump has backed down from his proposed 2021 budget, which would cut 97% of LWCF funding, and yesterday called on Congress to pass full and dedicated funding for LWCF.

While we are heartened to see Congress and the President take action to pass LWCF, we are disappointed that Representative Greg Gianforte still does not support full funding for this important program. Montanans have made it clear that they expect strong leadership on public lands, and we urge him to join his Montana colleagues and the president in supporting full and dedicated funding for LWCF.”

The executive branch’s newfound support for LWCF is proof that our grassroot work here in Montana is beginning to tell. After years of taking phone calls, receiving emails, reading letters to the editor, and attending rallies, our elected officials are feeling the pressure to fund LWCF, and they’re communicating that pressure all the way up to the highest echelons of government.

We will continue to encourage Rep. Gianforte to cosponsor legislation in the House that will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. If you’d like to add your name to the list of Montanans calling on him to do so, please sign our petition.

 

Jacob Foster
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator

Jacob lifts up voices from communities around the state to protect and preserve public lands. He enjoys beekeeping, skiing, and hiking with loved ones.
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