Tester joins groups fighting Trump’s cuts to national parks, forests

The president’s budget includes $800,000 in cuts to Glacier National Park’s 2018 budget. (Sherry Devlin/Missoula Current)

Warning of closed trails and visitor centers, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester joined like-minded Montanans Tuesday in speaking out against proposed federal budget cuts that he believes threaten the state’s outdoor economy and way of life.

Speaking with a Montana TV host, a business expert and the former superintendent of Glacier National Park, Tester said he’s concerned about the president’s proposed 2018 budget and its impact on sportsmen and outdoor businesses.

Montana’s outdoor economy sustains more than 64,000 jobs and contributes nearly $6 billion annually to local communities.

“This budget closes trails, locks up land, and shutters visitors’ centers,” Tester said. “This budget takes aim at Montana’s outdoor economy, which is growing by leaps and bounds and is creating thousands of jobs each year. Over the coming weeks, I will be fighting to restore funding for our public lands so we can keep growing and creating more jobs.”

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts nearly $350 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which increases public access to public lands. LWCF is not funded by taxpayers, but rather from offshore oil and gas development.

In Montana, LWCF dollars have helped conserve thousands of acres of open lands for hunters, anglers, hikers and other conservationists.

The president has proposed additional cuts that will directly impact Montana’s outdoor economy, including:

  • $2 million cut to Yellowstone National Park.
  • $800,000 cut to Glacier National Park.
  • $65 million from trail maintenance on national forests.
  • $100 million for road maintenance on national forests.

Tester also criticized proposed cuts to Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools, which Montana counties rely on to pay for infrastructure, law enforcement and public schools. Montana counties received $30 million from PILT in 2016.

Hunter and TV Host Randy Newberg, former Glacier Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright and Marne Hayes, director of business for Montana’s Outdoors, joined Tester to highlight the impact of the president’s budget on Montana.

“The diversion of LWCF and huge cuts to roads and trail maintenance is not good for Montana, it’s not good for local businesses, and it’s not good for the jobs those businesses create,”Newberg said. “It is a bad budget for the outdoor lifestyle that we cherish.”

“This budget is totally unacceptable,” Cartwright said. “We need to help Senator Tester so the park can get the job done for the folks who visit the park.”

“Montana businesses depend on public lands,” Hayes said. “This budget is a direct shot at our economy, because when you threaten our public lands, you threaten our livelihood.”

Tester last week questioned U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell over an $850 million cut to the Forest Service’s budget. These cuts will reduce wildfire suppression efforts and gut resources for recreation and special use permitting processes.