Billings Businesses Call For Full Funding Of Land And Water Conservation Fund

Dec 18, 2019

 

Edit December 19, 2019: A former version of this article misstated the date of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources considered the bill on full and permanent LWCF funding. The commitee heard the bill November 19.

Some businesses in Billings are calling for Congress to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. They say access to the outdoors helps them recruit and keep employees in eastern Montana.

Randy Hayfer, co-owner of Billings-based High Plains Architects, says he almost always recruits talent from outside the city.

“We have to sell ourselves and what we’re doing on the one hand, but we really have to sell the community. And so it’s a very important part of getting good quality people here is having good quality lifestyle amenities,” Hayfer said. 

This week, member-based coalition and advocacy group Business for Montana’s Outdoors released a report that outlines how the Land and Water Conservation Fund increases individual and community health and supports the outdoor economy in the state.

The LWCF uses tax revenue from off-shore drilling projects to fund the maintenance and establishment of city and county trails, baseball fields and other public spaces in states like Montana.

The group held a panel of Billings-based professionals Tuesday who talked about the way their companies benefit from the Fund.

Luke Kobold with Billings Clinic said recruiting is the hospital’s biggest need and outdoor recreation is the reason most interested candidates follow-up.

“The other two are schools and cultural access. We lose a lot of providers that leave because a spouse is unhappy with what opportunities they might have. So, it’s kinda more than just taking into the beauty. It’s taking in the whole of our health as a community in my opinion,” Kobold said. 

The report from Business For Montana’s Outdoors says LWCF fuels the outdoor economy, supports forest industry jobs and maintains access to areas where people hike, fish and hunt.

According to the state Office of Outdoor Recreation, the industry pulls in more than $7 billion of revenue a year.

The Trump Administration reauthorized LWCF this year. Rep. Senator Steve Daines and Dem. Senator Jon Tester are among the legislators co-sponsoring a bill to fully fund LWC at $900 million annually.