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Montana should be investing in wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation areas

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Montana should be investing in wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation areas

Mar 02, 2024 | 6:03 am ET
By Andrew Posewitz
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Montana should be investing in wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation areas
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Hundreds of conservation and public land supporters rallied at the Capitol in Helena to oppose bills that would strip marijuana tax revenue away from the Habitat Montana program on Feb. 23, 2023. (Photo by Blair Miller, Daily Montanan)

In my family there is a wide swath of political views and when you are in the same room as we were for the holidays, the juvenile name calling stops and thoughtful discussions can occur. What these discussions revealed was that while we have many differences, there is also agreement. Well, if I’m being honest, there was some juvenile name calling, too, we are family after all. But back to my point, I wonder then, why don’t we at least have the things we all agree on? For example, we all agree that we want more public land; we want that land better maintained and we want better access to those lands.  Why don’t we at least have that?

The answer to that question is not as complicated as politicians would like you to think and can be found in the actual legislation, not juvenile name calling and anonymous social media posts. 

One need to look no further than the governor’s veto of a bipartisan Senate Bill 442, funding public land as requested directly by the voters of Montana. The voters specifically asked via ballot measure that marijuana be legalized and that a defined portion of the tax money be sent to conservation, a Republican-sponsored bill followed the will of the voters and passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support. The governor then sought a shady procedural loophole to veto the bill. This shady loophole has now been found to violate the Montana Constitution. Whatever pro-public land soundbite he or his spin doctors try to stumble through to explain his shady act should be evaluated against the substance of his act. 

Montana has a long and proud history of bipartisan support for conservation efforts. We need to have leadership that reflects this bipartisan value. It also raises the question – if the governor is not listening to the voters, the legislature or the constitution, whose bidding is he doing?  I would wager they aren’t from Montana, and they have a lot more money than you. 

But it is not just the governor failing public lands. The Biden Administration’s Forest Service is doubling down on its Holland Lake failure and nearing completion on a land swap in the Crazy Mountains that will result in the largest loss of public access in a generation, or the Fish and Game Committee chairman in the legislature telling Montanans if they like public land to move to Venezuela, Russia or China and perhaps the most offensive, the Attorney General preferring that public land be reserved for buyers from California, not the hunters of Montana. 

Their words, not mine.

These are issues for which there is broad bipartisan support. If you find your favorite trail, your favorite hunting spot or river access less crowded than it used to be, continue electing these folks. However, if like me, you find them all more crowded, look no further than the leaders we are electing and the policies they are enacting. 

Andrew Posewitz is a fourth-generation Montanan and a fierce public land and hunting advocate. He previously served as chief of staff in the State Auditor’s office where he advised on State Land Board issues and is one of the founders of the Montana Public Trust Coalition and a frequent speaker at conservation events.