In front of a crowd of about 30 spectators, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock unveiled his three-pronged public lands and access agenda earlier this week at Riverfront Park in Billings.
“These plans are not only the right thing to do for Montanans and their families and future generations, they’re also the right thing to do for Montana’s economy and our businesses,” Bullock said in a news conference.
The first plan of attack is centered on the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s hiring of a public access specialist. This individual would be tasked with getting hunters, anglers and outdoor recreationist’s access to an approximate 2 million acres of public property that is current inaccessible.
“Montana’s public access specialist will be on call to troubleshoot concerns from the public, and when warranted to help open up inaccessible places that all Montanans have a right to,” Bullock told the group. “That can be anything from helping to unlock the padlock that shouldn’t be on a road or to helping find creative ways to figure out ways that we can access public lands.”
Additionally this specialist would field complaints from public land users who feel access is being restricted, conduct an inventory of public lands that are without legal public access and bring private landowners together with state and federal land managers to facilitate access solutions.
Asking the state Legislature to establish a Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation in the governor’s office of Economic Development and loosening restrictions placed on the spending of Habitat Montana funds round out the remaining arms of the plan.
The newly-appointed Office of Outdoor Recreation plans to identify and attract recreation industry anchors, advocate for balance and improved workforce training within the industry and to develop and initiate a marketing strategy positioning Montana as a four-season outdoor recreation destination.
A poll that was recently conducted highlighting the state’s residents united support of public lands was also cited by the speakers at this week’s presentation. University of Montana professor Rick Graetz praised the proposal, calling public lands a “catalyst for our economy” in Montana.
“So, governor, you’ve read Montanans well,” Graetz said. “I think what you’re proposing is going to be a beacon to people around the United States: entrepreneurs, people with small businesses, who know the value of natural amenities to an educated workforce. I think what you’re doing is going to be a real set of fireworks for Montana’s economy as we go forward.”
H/T: Billings Gazette