Hunting season is in full swing in Montana, and we are reminded of the privilege it is to enjoy some of the best hunting opportunities in the West. What we sometimes overlook is that hunters and other outdoor recreationists enjoy access to our public lands in part due to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In Montana, LWCF has helped to fund better access to Tenderfoot Creek, the Flathead National Forest and the Beartooth Mountains, as well as close-to-home ball fields, fishing access sites, trails and parks across the state. Importantly, it has ensured sportsmen access to hunting and fishing opportunities on Montana's public lands.
These investments also boost Montana's economy by fueling our outdoor recreation industries. This supports many jobs across Montana, generates millions in annual state tax revenue, and provides a place for all of us to hunt and fish each year.
Today, LWCF is at a critical juncture. Montana U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both strong advocates for land conservation and LWCF funding, have a chance to make a difference.
A bill already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives that included full, dedicated LWCF funding as well as a provision to improve access to existing public lands by dedicating 1.5 percent of the funds to acquire rights of way or easements. Sen. Baucus has a similar provision within legislation now pending in the U.S. Senate, which could be considered this month.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of our best tools to enhance hunting and fishing opportunities. Achieving full and dedicated funding for LWCF before Congress adjourns this session would be a victory for Montana.
Lowell E. Baier of Billings is president of the Missoula-based Boone and Crockett Club, a non-profit organization dedicated to hunter and conservation ethics, education and demonstration.