I am writing today to express concern over the growing movement to wrest public lands from public control and sell them off to private or state ownership. As a non-native, I was drawn to Montana in large part by it’s majestic and far reaching public lands; lands like the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park; lands which help spur on a $6 billion per year tourism industry and allow a place for the public to recreate; lands which define our state character as Montanans.
In economic terms alone, public lands are an incredible asset. Last year, non-residents drawn here by outdoor tourism spent $3.6 billion in Montana, provided jobs in different and far reaching sectors of our economy and ensured quality of life of all Montanans. The loss of public ownership of public lands would be a hit to your and my pocketbooks as it would divert precious tourism dollars to places that encouraged public access to these places. Public lands are essential to our livelihoods in Montana.
Moreover, we need public lands because free and open space is a defining part of our character as Montanans, and affords up the opportunity to escape our busy valley lives and head for the hills. Everyone should be able to enjoy the freedom and space to hunt, fish, ski, hike, bicycle, camp, trap or recreate however they choose in the outdoors. This freedom is good for our souls, our children and should be an integral part of the legacy we leave for our children’s children and beyond. Let’s keep public lands in public hands, and ensure the health and wealth of Montana for years to come.
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