House passes LWCF bill

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The U.S. House passed a key piece of land use legislation last week.

Montana Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte supported the Natural Resources Management Act, which passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 363-62.

The bill includes the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a permanent withdrawal of mineral rights on public land north of Yellowstone National Park.

It now goes onto to President Trump to be signed into law.

“Permanently protecting the gateway to Yellowstone and permanently reauthorizing the LWCF will help preserve and expand public access to our public lands. I strongly urge passage of this bill that’s so important to Montana,” Gianforte said, as he addressed colleagues ahead of the vote last week.

The bill also previously received aye votes from Sens. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy and Steve Daines, R-Bozeman.

While the bill reauthorizes the LWCF, it doesn’t actually fund it.

That will have to come from Congress in separate legislation. Still, there was plenty of worry in the conservation community that the law would be abolished altogether.

The LWCF has been used to great effect over the past few years near Columbia Falls and Whitefish. LWCF monies were used to protect about 10,000 acres of lands owned by F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber Co. just north of Columbia Falls from subdivision while keeping them as working forests. The LWCF was also used to add about 13,000 acres of lands to the Stillwater State Forest that were owned by Weyerhaeuser.

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