Reader opinion: Congress must place focus on LWCF, as business depends on it

Now that all the campaign ads have died down and the 2018 midterm election results are known, it’s important to highlight that even as divisive as some of the campaigns have been – the one issue that continues to unite us all is the importance of our public lands and reviving the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

Despite the hopeful news of LWCF having a potential path to reauthorization and full funding that we have been hearing about, the program still is, in fact, expired. As a Montana business owner whose culture of work depends on our landscapes, our access to trails and recreation, and the opportunities awarded to my community by this fund, this is unacceptable.

LWCF should not have been allowed to expire in the first place, and with the Lame Duck session ahead, securing the future of LWCF seems more critical now, than ever.

LWCF has funded nearly $580 million worth of projects to communities across our state, in the form of community parks, recreation centers, fishing access sites, and the connection of checker-boarded swaths of public lands so that all Montanans have the opportunity to use them.

LWCF does not just support recreation-driven businesses. It supports businesses of all types whose clients and workforce are driven by our outdoors, and it fuels the creation of jobs that invite talented individuals seeking a quality position with a thriving business to come to Montana and be a part of our growing, innovative, diverse economy.

We can’t be complacent. We can’t rest on the ‘hope’ that a public lands package will go through. We must act on the reality that this conservation program is expired until an act of Congress says otherwise. Our livelihoods and our jobs depend on us using our voices to tell our leaders in Congress that LWCF reauthorization and full funding must be a priority.

Ron Hooper is the CEO Neptune Aviation Services in Missoula.