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Bill to Fund MT State Parks Upkeep Goes to House

Deferred maintenance in Montana parks has reached $22 million. (Tony Webster/Flickr)
Deferred maintenance in Montana parks has reached $22 million. (Tony Webster/Flickr)
March 13, 2019

HELENA, Mont. – A bill to increase funding for Montana's outdoor-recreation sites has passed the state Senate and moves on to the House.

Senate Bill 24 increases the voluntary vehicle-registration fee for state parks from $6 to $9, estimated to generate an additional $1.8 million each year. The revenue would be used to maintain state parks and fishing access sites, and create a trail and recreational facilities grant program.

Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, introduced the bill and says it would help tourism – Montana's biggest revenue stream.

"The better we can make Montana look from a parks perspective, more people spend money in the restaurants, they come and recreate,” says Gauthier. “And Montana really comes out ahead on the revenue side for all the money that's spent here. It actually turns into revenue for the governor, and I think it's a great program. It's investment in the state of Montana."

Gauthier says the revenue generated from tourism supports vital state programs. But he notes that funds going toward state parks often are the first to be cut when the state has a budget shortfall. He says Montana's deferred-maintenance costs for park upkeep currently stand at $22 million.

George Real Bird III is a commissioner in Big Horn County south of Billings, who says outdoor recreation is vital to his county's economy.

"The Big Horn River and the three state parks in our county bring folks from all over the world and across our state to Big Horn County,” says Real Bird. “And if we could have some more revenue to help improve those sites, improve our parks, improve our fishing-access sites, Big Horn County is all the much better."

Montana has 55 state parks. The bill passed the Senate 33-to-16 and is being carried to the House by Rep. Tom Welch, R-Dillon.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT