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Yellowstone Wildlife

A bison grazes along a frozen riverbed in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park on Feb. 12, 2018. Some bison never leave the deep snows of Yellowstone's interior in the winter.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Knowing what's right doesn't mean much unless you do what's right.”

It seems that Congress could do well to remind themselves of this message from one of our nation’s conservation heroes. While Congress may know how valuable our public lands are and how fast our outdoor recreation is growing, it doesn’t mean much if they continually turn their back on our outdoor assets, instead prioritizing partisan agendas.

Business for Montana’s Outdoors represents over 200 members from dozens of industries that are critical pieces of Montana’s $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy, and the 71,000 related jobs. As members, we are frustrated by a Congress that appears totally unconcerned by how their action or lack of action is directly impacting our businesses.

We venture to say that, to date, this administration has been one of the worst for outdoor recreation in America’s history. Case in point: allowing the Land and Water Conservation Fund – widely billed as our nation’s most effective, bipartisan conservation tool — to expire in October. Every day that LWCF is not authorized $2.4 million for outdoor recreation and conservation gains is lost.

Largely considered the backbone of America's public lands policy, LWCF has resulted in $580 million in investments in Montana alone, from the Rocky Mountain Front to Glacier and Yellowstone, and the hundreds of fishing access sites, community parks and trails in between. Without a doubt, LWCF is one of the vital pillars of our outdoor recreation economy.

While Congress may acknowledge that our outdoor recreation economy accounts for $887 billion in consumer spending and 7.6 million American jobs, their inability to work together to reauthorize and fully fund LWCF speaks volumes.

Montana’s gateway communities made us proud when they volunteered to clean toilets and pick up trash overflowing in Yellowstone National Park — thanks to the government shutdown. These businesses should not be tasked, quite literally, with cleaning up the government’s mess. The cost of picking up the pieces after a shutdown grows by the day, while the easier solution of Congress working to come up with a wise solution remains stagnant.

From a business perspective, it is fiscally irresponsible to continue the government shutdown. The stalemate in Washington is yet another symptom of a Congress that is willing to hold our public lands, our businesses and our jobs hostage for political theater.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines has been at the helm of the Senate majority and has a direct line to Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell. This gives Daines a unique opportunity to advocate for a sensible end to the rising costs this shutdown is creating for our gateway communities and our outdoor recreation industry, who will bear the burden of this shutdown each day that it is allowed to continue.

Daines extolls the values of our public lands and we believe he knows the right thing for Congress to do. We encourage him to get to work on getting the government running again and quit holding our public lands and our jobs hostage. As a successful business leader, Daines must also know how fiscally irresponsible it is to continue this shutdown. We urge him to consider Teddy Roosevelt’s reminder as he reflects upon his duty to advocate for Montana.

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Carla Fisher operates Backslope Brewing in Columbia Falls. Shannon Hughes operates Spur Studios in Bozeman.

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