This Tuesday we made the trip to Helena to testify before the Fish & Game legislative committee in support of SB24. This is a big one for us.
It's no secret that trails and outdoor recreation are a big deal for Montana. Outdoor rec is a $7.1 billion industry here, and only half of that is from tourism. That means Montanans spend about $3.5 billion in our own back yard every year. We take playing seriously.
So it's surprising that the state of Montana spends almost no money supporting trails. In fact, outside of a few state parks, Montana spends $0 on trail building, design, or stewardship. That needs to change.
SB24 grew out of the Montana Trails Coalition, a diverse group of trail users to put aside our differences to focus on something that we all agree on: Montana needs to fund its trail systems. The bill proposes increasing the voluntary Light Motor Vehicle registration fee from $6 to $9, and putting most of that money toward a grant program to empower trail projects throughout the state.
A similar grant, the Recreational Trails Program, uses Federal gas tax money to support a wide variety of trail and recreation projects. Copper City Trails, the Whitefish Trail, and some of our work at Marshall Mountain have been funded by this program, and it also goes toward winter grooming efforts and your local avalanche forecaster. It's a great program but sees twice as many funding requests each year as it can handle.
It's time for Montanan to invest in the trails that drive our economy, and that's exactly what we told the legislature alongside more than 20 other supporters of the bill.
Here's a link to the bill's language. Give it a look, and if you agree that it's time for Montanans to invest in our trail infrastructure, we encourage you to reach out to your state legislator and let them know!