Diane Bristol: Help America’s Outside Recreation Act | Columnists

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DIANE BRISTOL

Now that summer is here I’m looking forward to getting out on the water and fishing with my family and friends. With 30 million acres of public land and water right here in Montana, nature offers a great respite from the stresses of modern life for all Montanans. According to the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), the trade association representing the sportfishing industry and all recreational fishing, recreational fishing provides $125 billion to the US economy annually and supports over 825,000 jobs.

Having lived in Montana since 1991 and being a longtime employee of Simms Fishing Products, headquartered in Bozeman, I know firsthand the positive economic impact that recreational fishing is having on the state. Since 1980 we have been producing groundbreaking fishing gear that helps athletes “fish harder and go further” and I am proud to say that our team of wader manufacturers have been making technical products in Bozeman for almost 35 years.

Earlier this year, major new legislation was introduced in the US Senate that will increase access to outdoor recreation on public lands in Montana and across the United States

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The provisions of America’s Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022 (S. 3266) will help streamline permitting processes, construct and update infrastructure projects for outdoor access, and improve data collection. If enacted, this law would help all Montans spend more time on the water and provide meaningful reforms that will have a positive impact and ensure we have more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.

There are three aspects of the bill that would specifically benefit recreational fishing. The first, devoted to improved visitation data, requires federal agriculture and water agencies to establish a primary visitation data management and modeling system that tracks public recovery. Federal Land and Aquatic Resource Activities Assistance will increase inspection and decontamination efforts for watercraft entering and exiting federally administered locations in the western states, including Montana. This will help halt the spread of aquatic invasive species between waterways and reduce disruption and delays for uncontaminated vessels entering public waters. Additionally, ensuring recreation is a management priority, creating an inventory of the recreational activities that take place on states and requiring agencies managing these regions to protect and enhance the value of outdoor recreation.

These are examples of the many provisions in this bill that would directly benefit recreational fishing and are more than reason enough that the Senate should pass this bill.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), received unanimous support from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Montana’s own Senator Steve Daines is a member of the committee, and I thank him for his support. America’s Outdoor Recreation Act includes legislation introduced by Senator Daines to support gateway communities and address challenges faced by national parks and public lands.

America’s Outdoor Recreation Act is supported by dozens of outdoor recreation organizations including ASA, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Outdoor Industry Association and The Trust for Public Land.

I urge all Montans to contact our Senators through the ASA’s Keep America Fishing Action Center, which allows you to connect directly with policymakers and members of Congress responsible for shaping fisheries policy statewide. Please support the Outdoor Recreation Act and let’s ensure Montans continue to enjoy our public lands for years to come.

Diane Bristol is vice president of culture and community at Simms Fishing Products in Bozeman and a board member of the American Sportfishing Association.