An article in the Bozeman Chronicle discussed the challenges of managing our public places. We live in a place that is amazing, unique, and special. Every state has a wonderful system of parks and public places. All of these are thanks to hunters and fishermen!
Hunting and fishing license fees enable sportsmen to pay their fair share when adventuring in the outdoors. Taxes on hunting and fishing gear are redistributed to every state based on the total license sales. Millions of dollars annually are available to pay the bills. This open space funding is supposed to be used to manage, maintain, and purchase public lands. There should be no bill.
Currently, there are overdue maintenance needs exceeding 18 billion dollars! Our National, State, and public places are being used to death. Everyone appreciates our open spaces, but everyone does not pay their fair share.
Here’s the problem #1. Many states, such as Maryland, put these “Sportsmen’s funds” into the general fund. Now they are used for everything but public lands and places. To top this off, Maryland made a law that only allows the purchase of public land if other public lands are sold. The parks and public spaces that end up being purchased and exchanged are now in urban areas where no hunting and fishing are allowed. Greenway trails cross the state but have limited or no hunting despite being paid for by hunter’s dollars. Other states do the same.
Here’s problem #2. Baby Boomer sportsmen have paid the bill for generations. These gifts have been taken for granted. Now the “Boomers” are aging, and license fees decline as age incentives and discounts kick in. They already have all the guns and gear needed, so revenue is declining.
The Millennial and future generations take these open spaces for granted. They use them extensively but pay nothing. Many bikers, hikers, birders, and tree huggers are anti-gun. Gun taxes also pay the outdoor places bills. Hunting and fishing funds are declining and with the passing of the Baby Boomers, the financial money pig will dry up.
In Montana, State and public lands require at least a Conservation Stamp to access public lands. Near Bozeman, I train and exercise my dogs on State Lands. The signs display the rules. The first rule displays the need for a conservation stamp. Not one other person that I encounter has a clue. None of them have a Sportsman’s license or Conservation Stamp. They simply bring their dogs, boats, tubes, and horses onto these public spaces and fishing accesses and enjoy. Bikers, hikers, floaters, tourists, and everyone else are enjoying our open, public Sportsman funded places and contribute little or nothing.
When the Baby Boomers stop paying the bill, what’s in our wild lands future?
For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at ww.montanagrantfishing.com.