Land and Resource Protections Take Hit in Trump Budget Proposal
by Eric Tegethoff
Public News Service
HELENA, Mont. – Public lands and natural resources take a big hit under President Donald Trump’s 2019 budget proposal released Monday. Funding for the Interior Department would fall by 17 percent and Trump’s infrastructure proposal would make it easier to sell off public lands.
The budget would also cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund almost completely, reducing funding by 90 percent. The fund uses royalties from oil and gas drilling on public lands and offshore to fund everything from sports fields to conservation projects.
Becky Edwards, director of the group Montana Mountain Mamas, says a lot of projects in the Treasure State would miss out without that funding.
“Children not having soccer fields or swimming pools to swim in, to some bigger-picture migration corridor protection projects, water stream access sites, river access sites,” she says. “Any new continuation of those projects would not be able to be put forward without that LWCF funding.”
Edwards points out that more than 50 percent of Montana’s fishing access sites were paid for by LWCF.
The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service would also lose funding. However, the budget includes $18 billion for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan to reorganize Interior, which he says will make the agency more efficient.
In the wake of these proposed cuts, eyes turn to Zinke, who supported LWCF as a Montana congressman and promised to continue that support in his confirmation hearing.
Edwards is disappointed that Zinke isn’t honoring his past commitments. But, she hopes he will stand up for public lands, which she describes as vital to the state’s economy.
“Secretary Zinke grew up in Montana, hunts, fishes, recreates on all these same lands that we do, and fully understands our dependence and our outdoor history that are reliant on these public lands,” she explains.
Montana public lands generate more than $7 billion in consumer spending and more than $2 billion in wages and salaries annually, according to a Headwaters Economics report.