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On a regular basis I am asked, "How are we going to protect Montana? What are we going to do about fishing, hunting or outdoor activities?"

I hear often, “I fished or hunted there for 25 years, took my kids there and now I can’t even go." Others tell me, "My hunting spot of 30 years is closed to me now. Montana is just not what it used to be."

How do we fix it?

The answer is complex, but I believe it starts with you and me.

We have to step over the line and become positively involved. Some believe money and power can alter things. Our time and talents can have just as much power. Montanans can step up and get involved.

Not everyone wants to be in the limelight but there are other ways to participate:

- Pick up a pen and write to someone who makes decisions.

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- When you go to Montana’s outdoors, spend a few dollars on a donut or a meal at the local establishment near where you might fish, hike, bike or hunt and tell them what you are there for.

Montana’s outdoors benefits from tourist and resident dollars. That small action means something.

- Many issues have forums or comment periods. Take time to attend forums in your town. Show your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren how to stand up on issues you believe they need to pay attention to. Explain to that 8-year-old what action you are taking and why. Education is really key for the next generation.

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You can do something by voting, signing petitions and sharing your opinions with those who don’t mind talking for you.

This is the time that outdoor organizations have their annual fund-raising banquets. You can attend any number of them held for fishing, hunting, trails, four-wheeling, birding, or specific animals. These organizations use concern about favorite species, favorite recreation spot or state to draw like-minded people together. Many of these groups join together to make their opinion known to the Legislature or to organizations who can speak for them.

So belonging to one, dragging yourself to a meeting every other month, or buying a raffle ticket is your way of speaking out as well.

That banquet you attend may help change things or help keep things the same in our state. The sad reality is that outdoor groups are struggling. It’s important to get families, children, youth and young adults to take action to keep Montana for Montanans. Help the next generation see how power is gained through education, knowledge is passed on through tradition and responsible action is learned from seeing it demonstrated. That is how we protect what we have in Montana -- one person at a time and one action step at a time.

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Carol Henckel lives in Park City.

 

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