Bullock continues fight for outdoors

This item originally appeared in: The Missoulian


Rich Day

With the opening day of hunting season for deer and elk right around the corner, Montanans are busy sighting their rifles and planning their hunts. Thousands of hunters from all walks of life will put on their dirty orange vests, shoulder their pack and slog up ridgelines in hopes of sacking that big bull elk.

This year, hunting season lines up with another fall tradition – election season. We urge Montana’s hunters and outdoors people to consider our clean water and public land while casting their ballots this November. In fact, for folks who value Montana’s outdoor heritage, Steve Bullock is the clear choice for governor.

Montana’s hunting and fishing heritage runs deep. We guard our Second Amendment rights and unique stream access law with equal fortitude. Our public lands, cold, clean water and unspoiled rangeland make it possible for hunters to feed their families with wild game through the frozen winter and into the next year.

Conservation and hunting opportunity do not come by accident. Our big game herds and healthy rivers require thoughtful planning, responsible policy and leaders with the foresight and vision to plan ahead for all of Montana, not just a privileged few.

On Montana’s unique stream access, Bullock literally wrote the book. He championed our right to camp, hunt, hike and fish on state lands when Rick Hill and his friends tried to keep us off. As assistant Attorney General, Bullock authored and built the foundation for our stream access law, which guarantees recreational access for all Montanans. He continues to defend that right, successfully advocating for stronger stream access legislation in 2009, and helping defeat the infamous “ditch bill” in 2011 that would have blocked public access by redefining hundreds of miles of natural streams as irrigation ditches.

In contrast, his opponent Hill surrounds himself with people who led the assault against the average Montana hunter and angler during the last legislature. Congressman Hill voted against access grants in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critical funding source for Montana’s state parks and fishing access sites. His advisors are the same people who tried to eliminate the voice of hunters and anglers on wildlife management, and he’s apparently committed to eliminating wildly popular programs such as Habitat Montana and the Access Enhancement Fund.

And speaking of the ditch bill, would Hill veto such legislation if it landed on his desk as governor? In a recent debate in Butte, Hill waffled, and said he’d like to see “parties sit down and discuss this issue with regard to the irrigation canals.” With an answer like that, Hill clearly doesn’t understand the stream access law. Under current statute, the public does not have access to any irrigation ditch. Period. The “ditch bill” was a last-ditch effort to appease mostly out-of-state, wealthy landowners who want to lock us out from “their” streams. Hill doesn’t even know the law as it is written now. How can we expect him to protect our access when the Legislature tries to take it away again?

As you tuck your shells into the pocket of your coat, remember, Bullock is the only candidate for governor who has stood shoulder to shoulder with the average Montanan and fought to defend our access, and our wildlife.