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State Approves Long-Term Conservation Investment

A historic outdoor investment has been signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte, making millions of new dollars available to expand hunting and fishing access, improve parks and trails, and protect working lands from development for decades to come.

HB 701 implements Initiative 190, which legalized recreational marijuana in Montana last November. The bill provides a legislative stamp of approval on provisions in that citizens’ initiative which directed revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana toward conservation priorities.

While the bill does not allocate the full level of funding called for by I-190, the state estimates HB 701 will generate over $16 million annually for the Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks budget by 2025. Those funds would be spread across four primary accounts:

  • $10.26 million to Habitat Montana Program

  • $2.05 million to Montana State Parks

  • $2.05 million to the Montana Trails Stewardship Grant Program

  • $2.05 million to Non-game wildlife management.

This revenue will dramatically help the state respond to the rising costs of managing and conserving Montana’s land, water, and wildlife as outdoor recreation surges in popularity:

Montana ranchers, trail users, conservationists, and hunters across the state are celebrating this historic achievement and are thankful to the Montana lawmakers who made this bipartisan accomplishment possible:

"This is a long-term funding promise for our land and water made possible by Montana voters and approved by the Montana legislature. We can count on this funding source to help protect working forests and ranchlands, secure permanent public access, and to improve our opportunities to hunt, fish, and camp for decades to come,” said Dick Dolan, Northern Rockies Director at the Trust for Public Land.

“My sincere thanks to the 2021 Montana legislature for supporting the continued success of the Habitat Montana program. Our ranch was proud to partner with the State to open public access and conserve our ranch using the Habitat Montana account. Now more landowners, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts will have access to this same opportunity,” said John Rumney of Rumney Cattle Company located near Cascade.

This funding is a commitment to the outdoors and the working landscapes that make up two-thirds of Montana's land base. The conservation funding in HB 701 provides more financial tools for Montana farmers and ranchers to withstand ever-increasing development pressures. These new funding dollars are an investment in Montana's agricultural heritage and outdoors legacy,” said Tyrell Hibbard, whose family owns and operates Sieben Livestock Company.

“Montana’s state parks were being loved to death during COVID, with visitation to state parks and fishing sites up by more than 60% last year. Despite their huge popularity, Montana’s state parks are consistently underfunded and suffer from a $26 million maintenance backlog. With the passage of HB701, state parks will finally receive the dedicated funding they deserve so we can get our parks (and ourselves) back on the path to prosperity,” said Deborah Love, lead staffer for the 2018 Montana Parks in Focus Commission.

“Montanans just seized a historic opportunity to secure permanent, stable funding for conservation and wildlife management. It is rare that so many critical wildlife and recreational needs will be met with this single funding source. And just as important, these funds will be critical to securing matching federal dollars,” said Brian Solan of Montana Wild Sheep Foundation.

“Montana voters and our lawmakers deserve high praise for establishing a new source of funding to keep Montana the Last Best Place. This bipartisan achievement proves again that our public lands and waters and access to them bring folks of all backgrounds together,” said Whitney Tawney, Executive Director of the Montana Conservation Voters.

“It is significant that the legacy of conservation, outdoor access, and our state parks will have more stewardship investment from HB 701. Montana’s citizen voices have been heard,” said Christine Whitlatch, ambassador for the Montana Outdoor Heritage Project.

“This represents a bipartisan victory for our trails, outdoor recreation, state parks and natural resource programs. This is further proof that regardless of background, we can all find agreement that Montana's land, water, and recreation opportunities are worthy investments,” said Bob Walker of the Montana Trails Coalition.

"Outdoor Alliance Montana is pleased to see HB 701 passed into law, which ensures dedicated funding for parks, trails, maintenance, and outdoor recreation. Funding for the outdoors is more important than ever, and this bill upholds the will of the voters who want to see tax revenue from marijuana sales go back to programs that improve and expand outdoor recreation opportunities in Montana,” said Tania Lown-Hect, Communications Director for the Outdoor Alliance.

“We are proud to see HB 701 signed into law, not in spite of it’s long road, but because of it. In working to fund conservation and legalize marijuana, MontPIRG mobilized thousands and consistently made sure that the voters were the most important part of the conversation. That’s what this work is all about. Our great outdoors have a new and enduring source of funding that will make sure the Montana we call home is protected for years to come,” said Anna Reely, MontPIRG Board Chair.

“The Montana Artemis Alliance is elated to see HB 701 passed into law. With increasing demands on Montana’s land, water, and wildlife, funding the outdoors is more important than ever. This funding source allows future generations greater opportunities and access to their outdoor heritage,” said Sonya Smith co-lead of Montana Artemis Alliance.

"Deficiencies for our public natural resources and their enjoyment have been decades in the making and needed to be addressed. This new revenue will provide critically needed public investments in parks and wildlife management, expand hunting and fishing access, and help keep generations of families on their working ranches and farms. MWF thanks Montana voters and the public servants who respected them by largely following voter-approved allocations,"

said Frank Szollosi, Executive Director, Executive Director of Montana Wildlife Federation.

“While it shouldn’t have been this difficult for the Montana legislature to uphold the will of the voters, hunters and anglers are ecstatic that a new source of conservation and access funding - specifically money allocated to Habitat Montana - is now law,” said John B. Sullivan, Board Chair for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.


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