Vote the Outdoors

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O/B's picks for 2016.

The outdoors are an escape from the political arena — or at least they should be. Unfortunately, politics creeps its way into all aspects of American life, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Montana's public-lands debate. This election season, vote with public land and public access — the future of our outdoor lifestyle depends on it. Here are our suggestions for next Tuesday's election, most of which coincide with endorsements by the Montana Sportsman's Alliance and Montana Conservation Voters, as well as that of other conservation and outdoor-recreation groups.

Editor's note: Whatever you believe, whether you agree with us or not, make sure you read the Montana Voter Information Pamphlet provided by the Secretary of State's office, available at the courthouse downtown. You can read full descriptions of each Citizens' Initiative, as well as arguments for and against. Oftentimes, a reasonable-sounding bill becomes much less so when you read the opponents' rebuttal. There's no better way to inform yourself of the full implications of each initiative.

Governor: Bullock
At this point, Greg Gianforte is an unknown agent; amid all the muck stirred up by both sides, the former Right Now Technologies CEO's real stance is unclear. But Steve Bullock's record on public access is well-established and strong — plus he founded Montana's Office of Outdoor Recreation. The safe bet is to go with a proven performer. 

Attorney General: Jent
The incumbent, Tim Fox, has been approached several times by the Public Land/Water Access Association about blocked access; he's done nothing to remedy the situation. His opponent, Larry Jent, has sworn to open illegally-locked gates to sportsmen, in counties where local sheriffs and prosecutors have failed to do so, and when the Attorney General has failed to step in.

Supreme Court: Sandefour
In their ongoing attempts to deny public access, wealthy, out-of-state landowners are trying to stack the Montana supreme court in their favor — and all signs indicate that Kristen Juras is their lackey. Dirk Sandefour, on the other hand, has pledged to protect the public's right to access its land and water. If you value our stream-access law, state-land recreational rights, and easements into National Forest lands, this one's both an easy choice and vitally important.

Supreme Court: McGrath
Mike McGrath is up for re-assignment to his post as Chief Justice. He's a longtime hunter and fisherman who regularly recreates on public land, so you know where his heart lies — which means he's unlikely to be swayed by big-money interests intent on weakening public access.

Superintendent of Public Instruction: Lanovich
Though it may not sound relevant to recreationists, this holder of this office sits on the State Land Board, which makes important decisions regarding our public land. (Incidentally, this is one big black mark on Bullock's record; he voted to allow a potential transfer of state land on the Jefferson River to proceed.) Matt Rosendale promises to do great things, but he's been conspicuously silent on public-lands issues. Jesse Lanovich, on the other hand, stands with the Montana Sportsmen's Alliance and is thus more likely to cast his Land Board vote in line with outdoor-recreation interests.

Superintendent of Public Schools: Romano
This is another Land Board position, and Elsie Arntzen has stated that she supports the transfer of federal land to the states, while Melissa Romano says she does not. The Montana Land Board approves or rejects the sale of state land to private interests, which means it's the last line of defense in keeping public lands in public hands.

I-177: No
This is the anti-trapping bill that would prohibit trapping on all public land, state-wide. History and tradition aside, wildlife management is best left to professionals, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has some of the best biologists in the business. Not to mention that Montana is a big, sparsely-populated state, and while conflicts may occur around urban centers like Bozeman and Missoula, there's no reason to issue a universal proscription that will affect trappers using BLM and National Forest land in remote locales that have never even seen a hiker. Let FWP do its job and impose specific rules for specific areas, and let everyone enjoy our public lands, not just specific users.

I-182: Yes
One of our readers is a sweet, sassy grandma who uses medical marijuana to ease the pain of her many medical conditions. She's not alone. And while that may have nothing to do with the outdoors or public access, we gotta say it: skinning up a mountainside is a much more pleasant experience when high. Outdoors folk like their weed, and a permissive stance on marijuana makes us regular people instead of criminals and miscreants.

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