Governor Assembles First State Parks Board

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock on Friday named the five commissioners who will be serving on the new Montana State Parks & Recreation Board.

The Legislature earlier this year passed a bill creating the board to oversee state recreation spots previously managed by the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.

Supporters of the change say the parks in the past have been overshadowed by the wildlife and hunting issues that dominate the other board’s agenda.

Bullock named the commissioners Friday.

The chairman will be Billings attorney and former legislator Tom Towe. He is also the founder of a group called “Our Montana” that aims to preserve scenic, archaeological, historic and other places.

Bullock also appointed former Department of Natural Resources and Conservation director Mary Sexton, a Choteau rancher, as well as Diane Conradi of Whitefish, Jeff Welch of Livingston and Douglas Smith of Dagmar.

The board will hold its first meeting later this month. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ Director Jeff Hagener will serve as board secretary.

“We are very excited about this board,” parks administrator Chas Van Genderen said in a release. “This citizen board will have a sole focus on parks and recreation, to help guide us in strengthening our systems, for the benefit of Montana’s families, communities and local economies.”

State officials say 2 million people visit Montana’s 54 state parks each year and generate roughly $300 million for the economies of nearby communities.

Bullock said at an April ceremony creating the board that he hopes it will improve efforts to care for natural and historic areas that he described as crucial to preserving Montana’s outdoor heritage.

The parks system, formed in 1939, had its own citizen commission until 1953.

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