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Grassland birds are the most rapidly declining group of birds in North America, being closely tied to the health of undisturbed prairie lands. Much of this habitat was plowed for agriculture or otherwise developed in past decades, making it difficult for birds to maintain strong populations over large areas.

Birders, hunters and others who appreciate wildlife know that conserving habitat is the best way to maintain the species we enjoy, but it costs money to do so. For decades, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has contributed millions of dollars to Montana, specifically for wildlife conservation, habitat protection and recreational facilities in local communities. The LWCF is a federal program funded by royalties from offshore oil development and has enhanced and protected many of the landscapes we love.

The grassland birds I enjoy directly benefit from conservation easements on private ranchlands, many of which were purchased with LWCF dollars. Not only is habitat protected for wildlife, but family ranches benefit from the sale of these easements and become better positioned to continue working the landscape as they have for generations.

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The LWCF has furthered serious conservation across Montana and the nation but although recently reauthorized by Congress, it lacks full, annual funding. Recent bills in the House (HR 3195) and Senate (S 1081) would fix this problem. I encourage Montana’s delegation to support full, permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I urge others to do so too.

Bernard Rose

Billings

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