Rep. Steve Daines (MT) introduced the Making Public Lands Public Act (H.R. 3962) to open access for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation on existing public lands.

The bill would direct the U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to spend at least 1.5 percent of Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) resources each year on projects like easements and road maintenance to open up access to public lands. LWCF is funded with revenue from offshore drilling, which means it does not add to the federal deficit.

“Many hunters and anglers across the nation – and especially in Montana – make public lands their destination for outdoor recreation,” said Bob Sanders, DU’s conservation programs manager in Montana. “It’s extremely important that sportsmen and women are able to hunt, fish and enjoy other recreation on federal public lands and we are excited Congressman Daines has taken action. We also need to continue to push for full LWCF funding to address access issues.”

Last week, conservation and sportsmen organizations met with Rep. Steve Daines (MT) to discuss the importance of adequate funding for conservation programs, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and LWCF. Ducks Unlimited was joined at the roundtable by representatives from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Boone & Crockett, Mule Deer Foundation, Pheasants Forever and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

For 50 years, the LWCF has been the nation’s primary non-taxpayer-based tool to conserve parks, wildlife refuges, forests, rivers, trails and other important federal, state and local public lands. The fund is authorized $900 million per year but has only received full funding once and in recent years has declined to approximately one-third of its authorized funding across the nation.

The sportsmen and conservation groups applaud the bill and look forward to continuing to work with the Congressman to ensure full funding of LWCF.

“Just in Montana we have nearly 4 million acres of inaccessible public land. Making Public Lands Public must also be coupled with full funding and permanent reauthorization of LWCF, as 1.5 percent of nothing doesn’t get us much,” said Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“Congressman Daines is a lifelong outdoorsman and is showing his commitment to Montana and sportsmen and women by introducing this bill. We look forward to continuing the conversation to fully fund LWCF,” said Bethany O’Donovan, board member of the Mule Deer Foundation.

“Montana Pheasants Forever would like to thank Congressman Daines for introducing the Making Public Lands Public Act (H.R. 3962). As private land becomes increasingly difficult to access it is imperative that we expand access to public lands. In doing so, we will continue to foster Montana’s unique hunting and fishing heritage. We would like to ask Congressman Daines to push for full funding of the LWCF so that we can utilize the maximum potential of H.R. 3962,” said Dan Bailey, Montana regional representative for Pheasants Forever.

“RMEF is very appreciative of the Congressman introducing this legislation. Access to our public lands is vital to hunters and members of RMEF. Recent studies have indicated that millions of acres of public lands in the west are blocked or lack adequate access. RMEF supports this initiative and looks to help improve access in priority areas,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of lands and conservation.

Logo courtesy Ducks Unlimited

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