Ovando, Montana March 14, 2014
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will get a little mud on her boots, Saturday, when she and U.S. Senator John Tester pay a visit to the Rolling Stone Ranch in Ovando. The two will meet with local ranchers from the Blackfoot Valley and Rocky Mountain Front who are working with The Nature Conservancy and Blackfoot Challenge to conserve both wild and working lands on the Crown of the Continent.
Much of the discussion is likely to focus on the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) which has played a crucial role in Montana. The fund has helped conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of ranch land in Montana, while helping keep family ranching viable in the state.
Jewell will also hear from the community about how LWCF has helped conserve one of Montana’s essential economic building blocks - outdoor recreation – by ensuring enough places and public access for people to pursue activities such as fishing, hunting, hiking and camping.
“Americans have made a tremendous investment in conservation on the Crown. Montana should be proud of its role as a model for doing conservation right. We don’t just protect the wild places, iconic wildlife and remote rivers – we also make sure that people can thrive here and enjoy an enviable quality of life” said Richard Jeo, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Montana.
Congress created the LWCF in 1964 using royalties from off-shore oil and gas development on federal property. Although $900,000,000 is authorized annually for LWCF, it rarely is fully appropriated. Montana Senator Max John Tester co-sponsored a bill with former-Senator Max Baucus authorizing permanent, dedicated funding of the LWCF. Senator John Walsh has also expressed his support, but it hasn’t yet passed. Currently, the authority for the Fund expires September 30, 2015.
The tour will then head north through parts of the Montana Legacy Project -The Nature Conservancy’s purchase of 310,586 acres of industrial forest land from Plum Creek Timber. Most of the land has been transferred to public ownership; eliminating the fractured public-private holdings that threatened the natural integrity of the land. Again, LWCF funding helped make this project a success.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.