By Nicky Ouellet - July 26, 2019 - Originally published on MTPR.org
Montana’s working lands, wildlife, state parks and trails face tens of millions of dollars in unmet funding needs, according to a new report commissioned by a Montana coalition that’s advocating for more public funding for recreational public lands.
The report, commissioned by the Montana Outdoor Heritage Project and compiled by Headwaters Economics, argues available funding isn’t keeping up with Montanans’ growing demand for outdoor recreation and conservation.
The report cites a $12 million annual gap in funding available for conservation agreements on private lands and more than $15 million annually in unmet funding needs for wildlife research, habitat conservation and conflict resolution programs.
While federal funds are available for trail building, establishing conservation easements and wildlife management, Kelly Pohl with Headwaters Economics says Montana lacks a state-level funding program for conservation or recreation.
"In Montana it's rather piecemeal," Pohl says. "Different agencies manage different components and there isn't the overarching perspective on what's needed across the state and how to help communities of different, across the state in different geographies with different amounts of resources access what they need to conserve the working lands and wildlife habitat and invest in outdoor recreation."
Pohl says successful funding programs leverage matching contributions, are transparent and based on community input, and prioritize demographic and geographic diversity.
The report looks to states like Washington, which uses general appropriations to fund community projects and state park acquisitions, and Colorado, which pulls $125 million a year from lottery proceeds to fund youth engagement projects and open space and wildlife conservation.
The report is based on existing publicly available data.
The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project draws a varied membership, from the Montana State Parks Foundation to Business for Montana's Outdoors and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, as well as the Montana Wilderness Association and The Nature Conservancy.
It’s trying to gather input from 10,000 Montanans on what they value about the state’s public lands and outdoor recreation, and how those values should be funded. Survey results are expected this October.
Learn more about the Montana Chapter of BHA: