HELENA — Democratic governor candidate Steve Bullock pledged Tuesday to veto any bill that would weaken Montanans’ access to public lands, rivers and streams throughout Montana, while protecting private property.
Bullock, the state’s attorney general, also vowed to veto any attempts to privatize or commercialize Montana’s public wildlife.
Speaking to sportsmen in Great Falls, he released his plan called “Removing Padlocks and Strengthening Partnerships: Hunting and Fishing Access for All Montanans.”
“The lands that many of us hunt on are publicly owned, and our stream access laws are the envy of anglers around the globe,” he said. “Montanans know that access to our public lands, rivers and streams is our right — and it has nothing to do with the size of our checking accounts. We also know that hunting and fishing is more than brown trout and bull elk; our outdoor heritage is at the core of our economy.”
Outdoor recreation in Montana brings in more than $680 million annually and is responsible for nearly 10,000 jobs, he said.
As an assistant attorney general, Bullock said he defended Montana’s stream access laws against challenges by out-of-state interests and wrote the landmark legal opinion that guaranteed access to streams and rivers from bridge crossings.
As attorney general, Bullock said he worked to make sure that private property rights were protected and public access wasn’t limited. He said he did so by working the Land Board, the Legislature and through the judicial system.
Here were the highlights:
- End road disputes quickly by allocating professional resources from the state Transportation Department.
- Fight attempts to privatize and commercialize public wildlife and protect “fair-chase” hunting.
- Preserve public access and expand opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Emphasize public-private partnerships by improving the block management plan. He said he would engage the Private Lands/Public Wildlife Council to come up with proposals to offer incentives to landowners to enhance wildlife habitat quality and improving opportunities.
In response, Republican governor candidate Rick Hill’s campaign manager Brock Lowrance said, “It's incredible that Steve Bullock's sportsmen policy ignores some of the most important issues facing landowners and sportsmen today, chief among them the growing problem we have with wolves and other predators.”
Bullock “completely ignores the problem as Montana hunters worry about declining elk and deer population, and landowners experience increasing livestock predation,” he said.
Protecting Montana’s outdoor sporting heritage has been a priority for Hill, Lowrance said. “That’s why his plan is centered around fostering greater collaborative relationships between private landowners and sportsmen, resisting efforts to diminish stream access and aggressively managing our wolf and predator population.”