Local Policy: California's $3 Billion Question and Montana's Big Beef

Between trade show news and attacks on our national public lands, it’s easy to miss some of the recreation policy work happening close to home. OIA’s Local Recreation Advocacy Manager Cailin O’Brien-Feeney provides an update and positive outlook for two big Western states.

By Cailin O'Brien-Feeney February 15, 2017

The start of a new year is always a sprint. That feels especially true following the 2016 elections as OIA’s government affairs team begins reaching out to a new group of elected leaders.  

In addition to new leadership in Washington, D.C., 12 governors have been inaugurated since January 1, and several state legislative sessions have begun. As part of OIA’s state and local government affairs work, we are reaching out to these new administrations, working on various bills favorable to our policy agenda and laying the groundwork for future wins.  

Read the 2017 OIA Policy Agenda here. 

 The strong bipartisan show of support from outdoorists in Montana and California, described below, buoys our work in those states and throughout the West.  

Montana’s Beef With The Feds 

 A rally on January 30, brought a crowd of 1,500 to Helena, the state capital, in support of public lands, conservation funding and the creation of an outdoor recreation office 

 The rally was, in a sense, a show of resistance against what attendees fear is a hostile state legislature and federal government bent on transferring Montana’s public lands to the state. According to Kayje Booker of the Montana Wilderness Association, two bills are of primary concern. “One is to study federal transfers to the state, and the other is a resolution from the legislature requesting that the federal government turn over federal lands within the borders of Montana to the states: about 25 million acres. The state currently manages 5 million acres, so we’re talking about a complete transfer of lands — that is a huge growth in responsibilities and cost to the state government.  

Montana Governor Steve Bullock—whom OIA endorsed last fall—campaigned on a strong public lands platform, and that commitment reverberated through his comments in Helena last week as well.  

K.C. Walsh, President of Simms Fishing Products, as well as renowned mountaineer and athlete for The North Face Conrad Anker, were keynote speakers, driving home the importance of outdoor recreation to Montana’s economy and way of life. 

With industry, leadership and citizens aligned, its clear that Montana’s rich legacy of access to the outdoors has the right team in place to advocate that continues well into the future. 

California’s $3 Billion Question 

Our nation’s and OIA’s most populous state, California boasts an $85 billion outdoor recreation economy. But demand on the state’s natural resources is outpacing funding support for its supply, putting urban parks, rural outdoor recreation economic development, climate resilience, coastal protection and habitat work at risk.   

One solution: A $3 billion bond proposition known as AB-18, “California Parks, Water, Climate and Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018.” The bill passed out of committee last week and is currently being considered in the California State Assembly. If passed, the bond will go to voters for approval. OIA is considering endorsing the bill and rallying support from our California members.  

If you support this initiative and want to get more involved in Sacramento or if you’d like to advocate for policy in your state, reach out to me directlyLikewise, if there is a bill or issue you want us to consider, let us knowwe might already be tracking it, but always want to support member engagement.