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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Jun 09 2016

Gov. Bullock Unveils Public Lands Agenda

Today marks a milestone for Montana and our outdoor way of life

Announcements, Featured

Today was a good day for Montana.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock today unveiled a pro-public lands agenda that not only doubles down on rejecting the transfer of federal lands to the state, but also creates opportunities to expand conservation and recreation on our public lands.

“This is an issue that transcends party politics in Montana,” he said at a public lands event held at Riverfront Park in Billings. “It isn’t about what Democrats or Republicans or Independents want. It’s about doing what’s right for Montanans.”

The agenda includes four major initiatives aimed at increasing access, building Montana’s outdoor recreation economy, and supporting collaborative solutions for natural resource management. They include:

  • Rejecting all effort to transfer our national public lands to individual states or private interests
  • Creating of an Office of Outdoor Recreation
  • Creating a state “public access specialist” position
  • Calling on the legislature to unfreeze and fully restore Habitat Montana

Taken together, these policies form a solid foundation for advancing conservation and recreation of our public lands at the state level. They represent a vision for our public lands that recognizes and values the role they play in Montana’s outdoor way of life and in our recreation economy. Moreover, they stand as a shield against the insidious effort to sell off our public lands.

“Not on my watch will we sell public lands off to the highest bidder,” Governor Bullock assured us today. “Not now, not ever.”

One key tool in expanding access and supporting our outdoor recreation economy will be the establishment of an Office of Outdoor Recreation. This office will elevate and support our outdoor recreation industry and the local communities and businesses that depend on it. By consolidating the various threads of outdoor recreation – including infrastructure, marketing, community development, outdoor industry, research and education – into a single office, Governor Bullock is creating an opportunity for the state to identify and promote ways that the state can improve and expand our outdoor recreation economy.

The establishment of this office is a nod to the fact that outdoor recreation is intrinsic to our way of life in Montana but also to the growing understanding that outdoor recreation is a powerful economic driver at the state and local level.

“This is a matter of dollars and cents for our budget, for our economy,” he said, “and it’s a matter of the values we share as Montanans.

Once fully staffed and funded, this office will serve as an important vehicle for key investments in conservation and recreation infrastructure as well as community development.

Another tool within this policy agenda aimed at expanding recreational access is the public access specialist, a new position that will be responsible for defending Montana’s revered stream access laws and ensuring that we have all the access to public lands and streams that we are legally entitled to.

Lastly, the Governor’s agenda would restore and fully fund Habitat Montana, our state’s only mechanism for purchasing easements and private land to support fish and wildlife conservation. Habitat Montana is used to create landscape connectivity, preserve rare or threatened habitat, and open up access to public lands previously inaccessible. Through Habitat Montana, state agencies can work collaboratively with local landowners to ensure that we are protecting crucial habitat.

This public lands policy agenda is an exciting step forward for conservation and recreation in Montana.

“We have our work cut out to make sure that our outdoors will always remain accessible and beautiful, which means we have a responsibility to protect our clean air and our clean, cold water.”

Watch our video thanking the governor. And if you’d like, you can thank the governor yourself and let him know how this agenda might benefit your community.

- Kayje Booker, MWA public lands program manager