Gianforte votes to renew LWCF; challenger Williams questions his commitment

Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte on Thursday voted to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and address the maintenance backlog at America’s national parks.

Gianforte credited the Trump administration’s goal of doing the same during a meeting of the House Natural Resources Committee, and urged his fellow committee members to move the legislation forward.

“Yellowstone and Glacier National Park continue to draw people from around the world to Montana,” he said during the hearing. “This bill will provide the funding to preserve these areas for future generations.”

Gianforte said the Department of Interior’s backlog of deferred maintenance stands at $16 billion. That includes around $11.6 billion for the National Park Service.

Gianforte said he was also encouraged to see legislation reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund move forward.

Without passage by Congress, the fund will end on Sept. 30 and take with it a program that has invested in 42,000 projects nationwide to expand public access and recreation while preserving ecosystems.

Gianforte said he worked across party lines for the fund’s permanent reauthorization and has voted for it twice previously.

“Susan and I raised our children hunting, fishing, and backpacking on our public lands, which are central to our Montana way of life,” Gianforte said. “I know how important LWCF is to Montana, and I support its permanent reauthorization. I will continue being a strong voice for the LWCF as it helps preserve and expand Montanans’ access to our public lands.”

Kathleen Williams, Gianforte’s Democratic challenger in Montana’s House race, also supports the fund. She questioned Gianforte’s long-term commitment to public lands, despite Thursday’s vote.

“LWCF reauthorization is one thing, but funding is another,” Williams told the Missoula Current. “Congressman Gianforte voted twice this year to reduce funding for LWCF. Unlike him, Kathleen Williams supports permanent reauthorization as well as full funding of LWCF. She has a proven record of fighting for real solutions that protect and conserve Montana’s public lands for everyone.”