Glenn Marx

Glenn Marx

The frustration of former Congressman Ron Marlenee came through loud and clear in his Bozeman Daily Chronicle guest column (July 29), but his logic related to the source of that frustration is misdirected and detached from reality.

In the context of full disclosure, I had the honor of working for Congressman Marlenee in the 1980s in Washington, DC, and served as his 1988 campaign manager. I respect and admire Ron, learned a great deal from him, and will always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me to serve Montana as a congressional aide.

Ron’s guest column was in response to a July 19 Chronicle editorial that gave Sen. Steve Daines a well-deserved tip of the hat for his support for permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The Montana Association of Land Trusts is one of the many Montana entities that have also thanked Sen. Daines — an outdoorsman himself — for his support of Montana’s great outdoors and the LWCF.

Ron makes some good points in his guest column. Recreational access is disappearing, and that’s a problem. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have closed roads, and many people object to that. Wolves have been a problem species to manage. “Wall Street bankers” do seem to have undue influence and seemingly endless assets.

Somehow, though, Congressman Marlenee alleges the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the culprit responsible for loss of access as well as all the natural resource policy woes.

Say what? Whoa. Ron’s allegations simply make no sense.

A few facts. Perhaps no state has benefited more from the LWCF than Montana. Nowhere has that been more evident than in improving recreational access. We Montanans have used LWCF funds to maintain, improve and expand access to public lands, to build parks and trails throughout the state, to help keep timberland accessible for recreation, to help create and maintain timber jobs, to help conserve family ranches and so much more. The Montana experience is an outdoor experience, and the LWCF improves our outdoor experiences.

Congressman Marlenee is an advocate for expanded recreational access. The LWCF is an even bigger advocate for recreational access.

In Montana, some 800 different recreational sites such as city parks, trails, ball fields and other accessible recreational amenities have been supported by LWCF dollars. LWCF has awarded $38 million to Montana school districts and parks departments for accessible recreational facilities. LWCF has awarded $7.4 million to enable Montana to purchase or upgrade wildlife refuges. Montana has received $3.4 million in LWCF funds to purchase or expand 165 fishing access sites.

Here are individual examples of LWCF’s funding of access.

Earlier in July, during Montana Open Land Month, a ceremony was held in the Montana Capitol to celebrate the conclusion of the Tenderfoot Creek Project. The project uses LWCF funding to guarantee hunting and fishing access to 30 square miles of prime Montana habitat.

The LWCF program was used to help ensure access to Missoula’s Mount Jumbo and Mount Sentinel.

The LWCF was used to help protect hunting and fishing opportunities and forest jobs in the Thompson and Fisher Creek drainage.

The LWCF is helping to conserve working forestland and recreational access in the Haskill Basin area near Whitefish.

In Bozeman, the LWCF has helped fund a valuable and respected network of 16 parks. In one year alone — 1980 — 11 Bozeman parks received LWCF funding.

The reality is most LWCF proposals have an access component to them, and entities that apply for LWCF go out of their way to build in additional recreational access. That’s one reason why all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation support LWCF reauthorization.

The LWCF helps make Montana a better place to live, work and recreate. That’s why hunters and anglers, small and large communities, timber companies, conservation organizations, the tourism industry, and businesses up and down Montana Main Streets are so strongly committed to the LWCF.

The LWCF will expire at the end of September without reauthorization. If you like recreational access, you want the LWCF reauthorized and fully funded.

Glenn Marx is the executive director of the Montana Association of Land Trusts. He lives in Helena.