Tester, Zinke spar at Senate hearing over public lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two Montanans, Jon Tester and Ryan Zinke, faced off Thursday in the U.S. Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee over funding to support public lands.

Zinke, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, has proposed deep cuts to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Tester, a Democratic senator, wanted to know why.

In March, Congress voted to secure $425 million for the fund, which has been used to create public fishing access sites and public access to hiking trail and hunting areas. Zinke, a former Montana congressman and state lawmaker, has proposed gutting the amount to $8 million in an effort shore up money for maintenance.

The land and water fund “is funded at a pittance, $8 million when it should be $900 million. Why should we think this proposal is going to be any different if it’s going to be similar to LWCF?” Tester asked.