Montana anglers and water users win with LWCF

by Sharon
| March 5, 2020 5:11 PM

The waning winter season gives me the chance to not only be thankful for all Montana has to offer but also to look forward to the new adventures on our state’s waterways that are just around the corner. Many of us can recall at least one story involving a special day or days on one of Montana’s world class streams, rivers, and lakes. We should all feel thankful to live in a state with so many beautiful waterways and an outdoor heritage deeply rooted in abundant public access.

As an avid angler, I’m especially grateful that both of Montana’s U.S. senators are advocating for full funding of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. Taking care of our clean water resources, as well as ensuring that the public can access them, are values that most Montanans share. Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Sen.Steve Daines (R) know that LWCF has helped Montana acquire or improve fishing access sites in Montana. Plus, the fund has made possible the protection of countless acres of land and water for recreation and fish and wildlife habitat. That’s why they’re pressing their colleagues in Congress to ensure that LWCF is fully and permanently funded, so that we can pass on the benefits of this program to future generations.

From days spent ice fishing on Ft. Peck Reservoir, to floating the Yellowstone during salmon fly season, or summer days boating and water skiing on Flathead Lake, the majority of our water recreation opportunities are made possible by Montana’s Fishing Access Site (FAS) program. With more than 330 current FAS locations scattered around the Treasure State, this open door to our waterways is an essential piece of our outdoor heritage. It is a gem that we share not only with each other, but also with all of those who visit our state each year. What many Montanans may not know is that more than three quarters of Montana’s FAS sites have already been the direct beneficiary of LWCF investment and winning full and permanent funding for this program is key to continuing this legacy of access.

Most of us consider ourselves “ordinary Montanans.” We work hard and we play hard. To do so, we cherish access to our waters and public lands - entryways that allow all of us to enjoy the benefits of outdoor recreation. The state’s FAS program is critical to making sure every Montanan, regardless of their background, has a chance to experience our world-class waterways. Whether it’s boating with the family, inner tubing on a hot day with friends, bird watching, waterfowl hunting, fishing, or just enjoying a walk along the river with the family dog after work, our FAS program helps people connect with their natural world every day in all seasons.

In 2020 we have the chance to get full, permanent, dedicated funding for LWCF across the finish line. It’s taken years of focused advocacy from sportswomen and men like us, as well as leadership from Congressional champions for public access, to get to this point. Montanans will be better off if we can work together to make it happen. While Montana already has incredible public access to our lakes and streams, we can and should do more. With full LWCF funding, Montana can build on the legacy of our FAS program by meeting the ambitious goal of having an open and accessible FAS every twelve miles of our state’s navigable waters.

Montana Trout Unlimited (MTU) just released a new interactive map that shows all current access points and highlights the need we still have to improve the FAS program. Establishing more FAS locations isn’t just good for average anglers like you and me, it’s also good for our local communities, businesses, and economies. From Ennis to Lewistown, when access wins, so does Main Street, Montana. Thanks to our two U.S. Senators, we are closer than ever to realizing our goal. Let them know you appreciate their hard work on behalf of all Montanans.

Sharon Sweeney Fee resides in Livingston and is the State Council Chair of Montana Trout Unlimited.