The 2,500 acres of public lands on Spencer Mountain are known nationwide for their recreation value. Locally, multiple users heavily use these lands; equestrians, bikers, hikers, anglers and people in general want to get out and appreciate the great outdoors. Because of the use, land management becomes a critical component and new responsibility on state public lands.
In these days when jobs are critical, the economic contribution of outdoor recreation is not to be underestimated. A recent study by the Outdoor Industry Association shows that outdoor recreation contributes more than $730 billion to the economy, supports nearly 6.5 million jobs nationwide and provides $49 billion in yearly tax revenue. Recreation coupled with traditional logging makes a good revenue package from public lands—and it creates jobs.
We all love our majestic forests on our public lands and recognize that Spencer Mountain is in much need of timber management. There are many efforts around Whitefish to assure that we as a community become wiser toward wildfires.
The community based initiative between logging and the recreation economy is a critical component for moving us forward. I think we mostly all agree. There have been many lessons over the years and a lot of good changes have been implemented. It's been our willingness to think outside the box and find solutions that progresses us onward.
From the Whitefish State Lands Neighborhood Plan to the Trail Runs Through It, people are taking responsibility to find solutions. It's time that the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) step up the effort to assure users that recreational management is a critical component of our state public lands.
The DNRC is expanding its scope on Spencer Mountain to recognize the past efforts in the Whitefish Neighborhood Plan, which encompasses traditional timber management, recreation and conservation. The DNRC though must also be willing to enhance recreation as a vital component of our local economy; rebuilding trails, phasing out logging and providing access to ensure that those who make their living on these lands are not locked out during the three years of forest work.
The DNRC should partner with the Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks to ensure that recreation management is a key component on Spencer Mountain. This multi-agency approach would save taxpayers money, create jobs and ensure that the generations to come will still be able to enjoy the great outdoors. Without active public lands management, we all lose.
If you're a fan of recreation on public lands, favor conservation or simply want to ensure that the next generation has open access to Spencer Mountain, help the DNRC "get it right" by participating in the process. If you remain silent, you may lose your access.
State Rep. Mike Jopek