Support Local Journalism


Subscribe


Gov. Steve Bullock recently traveled to Bozeman to get some input on a new Office of Outdoor Recreation he is creating. The office is part of the governor’s larger agenda related to access. This is something that is clearly needed and in the interest of all Montanans who love the outdoors.

Access should be the top priority of the new office. Stop the steady drip, drip, drip of public lands access lost to moneyed landowners who throw up gates across traditional public access roads and trails. And restore lost access points where possible.

Here’s a place to start: Inventory all the public lands access points lost or tied up in litigation over the last 10 or 15 years. National forest supervisors’ offices should have a wealth of data on this issue. After completing an inventory, the new recreation office should coordinate with the Forest Service and other state and federal public lands agencies to assess which sites are potentially recoverable through negotiation or litigation. And then take the appropriate action where it is needed.

Lost access will become the public lands issue of the 21st century. In recent years, tracts of what were once farm and ranch land have been bought up and converted to private hunting and recreation sites. Where public land is surrounded by private land, roads that have traditionally been open to the public have been gated and locked.

The lost access is not only an affront to the rights of Montanans to use public lands. It also threatens the state’s growing tourism industry and the tens of thousands of jobs it provides. Many out-of-state and international visitors come to Montana just because of the wealth of public land available here. That’s why it’s vitally important state and federal officials staunch the hemorrhaging of lost access points.

As one participant in the governor’s confab noted, tourism — so heavily dependent of our public lands — needs stronger representation in the Legislature. Lobbyists for agriculture, mining and other extractive industries all-too-often drown out advocates for outdoor recreation and other tourism-related issues.

The outdoors where much of Montana’s economic future lies. Bullock’s Office of Outdoor Recreation should be the vehicle for putting needed emphasis on the outdoors and our dwindling access to public land.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Charles Rinker, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, either leave a comment on the page below or write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.

Support Local Journalism

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.


Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Michael Wright, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

To send feedback on editorials, write to citydesk@dailychronicle.com.