June 16, 2016

Montana: Governor Steve Bullock Announces New Public Lands Agenda

On June 9, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) Member Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) announced his new public lands and access agenda, aimed at both protecting existing recreational access to public lands in Montana and exploring opportunities for opening up additional access to public lands in Big Sky Country. 

Governor Bullock’s public land access agenda was centered around the announcement of several unique mechanisms for helping to ensure that hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists will continue to have ample opportunities to recreate on public lands in Montana. Some of the new components of the Governor’s public access initiative include the establishment of the “Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation” within the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the creation of a position titled “Public Access Specialist” within the Montana Department of Natural Resources. Governor Bullock also included a request to the Montana Legislature “to fully fund Habitat Montana, which uses license fees to increase access to public lands but was recently frozen by lawmakers,” and a request for Montana citizens to submit to the Governor’s office their ideas “about how to improve access to public lands throughout Montana by utilizing the keepitpublic@mt.gov email address,” among other items.

“Our new public lands and access agenda will be critical to ensuring that Montana’s sportsmen and women continue to be able to access their favorite places to hunt and fish, and will seek to identify opportunities to expand access to our state’s public lands. As a member of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus, I am proud to work to safeguard hunting and angling access in Montana, as well as the critical conservation and economic benefits that our outdoor traditions provide,” said Governor Bullock.

With the creation of the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, Montana joins states like Utah and Colorado, both of which have instituted similar offices specifically for outdoor recreation management in recent years. In 2013, GSC Member Gary Herbert (UT) formed the Office of Outdoor Recreation within the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development and in 2015, fellow GSC Member Governor John Hickenlooper (CO) formed the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, housed in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT).

Each year, more than 335,000 people hunt and fish in Montana, spending $983 million annually and supporting 16,515 Montana jobs, while generating $102 million in state and local tax revenue. 

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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