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Survey: Montanans support any means necessary to preserve outdoors

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Big Sky Connection

 
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Eric Tegethoff

 

November 1, 2019

HELENA, Montana - Montanans are willing to "put their money where their mouth is" when it comes to conservation, according to a new survey.

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project has released results of its summer survey of more than 11,000 residents, or about 1% of the state's population.

More than 80% of respondents said they "strongly" or "somewhat" support more dedicated conservation funding - even if it means higher taxes.

Fifth-generation rancher Cole Mannix, associate director of Western Landowners Alliance, says conservation is a shared value across the state.

"What we have is not an accident and it has taken resources in the past to get us to where we are now, but it will also take increased funding in the future," he states. "There's a lot of agreement on that. Certainly as ranchers, we know that stewarding our resources is critical, and the good news is that most Montanans agree with that."

The people surveyed identified loss of access to public lands, climate change and pollution of lakes, rivers and streams as the most pressing challenges to Montana's outdoors.

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project also held 50 community conversations in rural and urban areas between May and September, where issues of growth and change were a consistent topic of concern.

Kaleb Retz, a volunteer with the Montana Outdoor Heritage Project, is an avid motorcycle and snowmobile rider on the state's trails and also an affordable housing developer.

He says demand has grown faster than Montana can keep up. But he was encouraged to hear the dialogue at the community events.

"We saw 70- or 80-year-old ranchers having intelligent conversations with 25-year-old college students that have very different political and life views, and they were in the same room discussing productive solutions to topics that they're both passionate about," Retz relates.

Through these conversations, participants suggested out-of-state visitors contribute a higher share of conservation funding, perhaps through higher sales taxes in gateway communities.

They also agreed that revenue sources should be diversified beyond hunting and fishing licenses, proposing a sales tax on outdoor gear or new fees on non-hunting activities

 

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