November 26, 2020

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After Interior misses deadline, Senate considers Montana spending | News



LWCF funds (copy)

Money raised by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund goes in part to the cost of purchasing fishing access sites like this one along the Yellowstone River.




While the Interior Department missed its deadline for listing new Land and Water Conservation Fund spending by a week and then provided little detail, the Senate Appropriations Committee has offered its own version including $39.3 million slated for Montana projects.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Monday informed Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, of his agencies’ plans for spending the full $900 million annually authorized for LWCF in the Great American Outdoors Act. But the letter’s spending charts contained no information about specific projects. And critics argued a big chunk of the money was being spent on state grants instead of federal lands as the law required.

“Congress was clear and explicit about what it wanted from the Department of Interior — specifically calling for 40% of LWCF funds to go to federal land protection,” Coalitions to Protect America’s National Parks Chairman Phil Francis said on Tuesday. “This did not happen, and to add insult to injury, this list includes $120 million for the Forest Legacy Program under ‘Federal Land Grants’ — but Forest Legacy grants go to states and have always been counted as state grants. This is a clear attempt to fudge the math, since including that $120 million gets the federal land portion to exactly 40%. Without it, it’s only 27%.”

Bernhardt’s letter has a state-by-state list of 2021 “mandatory spending” that includes one mention of Montana national wildlife refuges and conservation areas, but no specifics or cost amounts. His letter was dated Nov. 9, a week past the deadline stated in the Great American Outdoors Act.

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