Billings, Mont., June 9 – Near the banks of the Yellowstone River, Governor Steve Bullock today announced details of his public lands and access agenda, saying it’s his “responsibility as governor” to uphold the Montana value of protecting the state’s outdoor heritage.
The Governor was joined by sportsmen, conservationists, recreationists, and members of Montana’s outdoor recreation and tourism industries as he unveiled his plans to expand and protect public access to public lands and waters throughout Montana.
“Public access to public lands is a fundamental part of what it means to be a Montanan,” said Governor Bullock. “And it’s my responsibility as governor to uphold this Montana value – now and in the years to come.”
Governor Bullock announced the following plans to expand and protect public access to public lands in Montana:
• To create the “Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation,” housed in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development;
• Create and hire a new position, a “Public Access Specialist” for Montana within the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, whose role will be to troubleshoot specific issues preventing full public access to public lands (as of today the position is currently accepting applications);
• Ask the legislature to fully fund Habitat Montana, which uses license fees to increase access to public lands but was recently frozen by lawmakers;
• Recommit his unequivocal stance against transferring or selling of public lands.
“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 small businesses,” Governor Bullock continued.
Bullock was joined by the Billings Chamber of Commerce, The Base Camp and the University of Montana’s Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative, which recently conducted a statewide survey about the growing importance of public lands in Montana.
Groups from across the state praised Governor Bullock’s announcement.
“Every Montana outdoor recreationist and thoughtful business person in Montana knows that access to public lands and water for fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping is absolutely gold for our state,” said Bruce Farling, Executive Director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “Governor Bullock not only recognizes this, but he’s doing something about it with this valuable initiative aimed at improving recreational access and lifting the unpopular legislative hold on our Habitat Montana program.”
“We are very excited about Governor Bullock’s announcement today,” said Robert Sanders, Manager of Conservation Programs for Ducks Unlimited. “Every tool that we can add to our toolbox of making sure Montanans have the opportunity to hunt, fish, and recreate on our public lands is a big step forward for the entire state.”
A 2013 report by the Center for Western Priorities, a Denver-based think tank, identified 4 million acres of Forest Service, BLM, state and other public lands, in six Western states, that were completely inaccessible. Montana had the largest share – nearly 2 million areas – of this “landlocked” public domain.
Governor Bullock has been a long-time advocate of improving access to Montana’s public lands and water and he is committed to strengthening the robust economy and Montana jobs that rely on outdoor recreation and tourism.