As published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on Sept. 11, 2018. By Tom Kalakay, SMCC President and Executive Director.
We are on the brink of losing one of America’s most popular, and successful, conservation programs. From city parks to state parks, fishing access sites to climbing areas, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is critical source of funding for outdoor recreation. Here in Montana, our $7.1 billion outdoor recreation economy depends on access to public lands and quality recreation infrastructure, and LWCF dollars help to pay for both.
However, unless Congress acts before Sept. 30, the Land and Water Conservation Fund will expire.
An excellent example of LWCF dollars helping to increase public access for outdoor recreation is just east of town, on Bozeman Pass. Climbers have enjoyed the cliffs above Bozeman Pass for decades but for many years access was uncertain or prohibited. That uncertainty changed in 2007, when money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund helped to secure access to climbing areas at Bozeman Pass as part of a multi-agency, multi-partner effort to purchase land and easements on both sides of the interstate. This project protected wildlife habitat and benefited a wide range of outdoor recreation users. It resulted in the popular Chestnut Mountain Trail and public access for hiking, biking, and hunting as well as climbing.
The Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition was a critical partner in this effort, constructing both the Rocky Canyon and Frog Rock climbing access trails.
As executive director of the Southwest Montana Climbers Coalition it’s important to me that Congress fully fund and permanently authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund. By doing so, they will protect a source of funding that assures public access to outdoor recreation. I’m counting on Senators Daines and Tester and Rep. Gianforte to make sure Congress doesn’t forget, and lose, LWCF before Sept. 30.