Montana Wildlife Federation statement on Gov. Gianforte’s proposed budget
This budget is a good starting point and continues to fund the state agencies and outdoor programs that support wildlife protection, enhance public access, and conserve our working lands. Previous legislatures and administrations have made incredible progress to make Montana the world-class sporting and recreation state it is. We appreciate Governor Gianforte making clear in his inaugural address earlier this week one of his four core principles to be the conservation and improvement of public lands and our natural resources.
We are concerned the budget would short-change a promising revenue source intended to enhance public access and protect working lands. Our groups endorsed the legalization and conservation funding ballot measures which passed with broad, bipartisan, statewide support in November 2020. The will of the voters of Montana should be respected by all elected officials in our state.
Ensuring this revenue goes where directed by voters will ensure long-term economic development because public access and outdoor opportunities are critical to Montana maintaining its competitive advantage as an investment magnet. Montana’s outdoor economy is a larger share of our state’s Gross Domestic Product than any other state in the continental United States. Small businesses and local communities who rely on recreational spending for jobs and quality of life know how critical conservation dollars are to maintaining and improving their economic position. Therefore, as we applaud the establishment of the HEART Fund and increasing public health resources to local communities in the midst of the twin crises of substance abuse and the COVID-19 pandemic, we look forward to working with Governor Gianforte and the Montana Legislature to increasing resources for conservation in the second half of this biennial budget.
Frank Szollosi, MWF Executive Director 406-417-9909