02.02.22

Daines, King Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Address Increased Visitation on Public Lands and Support Partnerships with Montana Gateway Communities

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and Angus King (I-Maine), top Republican and Democrat on the Senate’s National Parks Subcommittee, introduced the bipartisan “Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act” to support gateway communities and address challenges facing national parks and public lands like increased visitation and housing shortages. The bipartisan bill also aims to help boost visitation at lesser known parks and recreation areas.

“Our national parks and public lands set us apart from the rest of the world, and Montana’s gateway communities know firsthand the benefits and challenges they bring. While increased recreation on our public lands and national parks supports jobs and boosts local economies, it can also put strains on Montana communities, housing and employees. We must work to address these concerns and support the needs of our gateway communities that in turn will help boost local economies and preserve our public lands for future generations,” Daines said.

Daines’ bipartisan bill does the following:

  • Establishes a Visitation Pilot Program at the Department of the Interior and Forest Service to address increased visitation by:
    • Working with communities, states, tribes, non-profits and stakeholders
    • Making visitation and crowd level data readily available for visitors
    • Provide suggestions for alternative, lesser-known national parks and federal, state and local recreation sites
  • Requires the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service to coordinate with gateway communities to identify and address community needs such as:
    • Housing shortages
    • Demands on existing municipal infrastructure,
    • Accommodation and management of sustainable visitation    

To read the bill click HERE.

Quotes of Support:

“Western Montana’s Glacier Country is an area that includes many communities considered to be ‘gateways’ to recreation destinations including Glacier National Park. As President CEO of Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission, I fully support the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act. At different times of the year, many of our communities are at a breaking point—housing shortages, unsustainable demands on infrastructure, negative impact on natural resources—and the positive economic impact of tourism is being negated by the toll on the communities. The dispersion of visitors to other recreational sites and regions and the collaborations inherent in this bill will be an important move towards long-term sustainable growth that balances quality of life for residents and quality of experience for visitors.” - Racene Friede, President CEO, Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission

“I wanted to let you know you have the Gardiner Chamber of Commerce & CVB's full support on this bill. Thank you so much for including us and we are very excited about this piece of legislation!” - Terese Petcoff, Gardiner Chamber of Commerce 

“Many counties serve as gateways to America’s treasured public lands, providing essential services to residents and visitors alike. The Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act would support counties by collecting real-time visitation data at public lands sites and establishing a pilot program to promote tourism to lesser-known recreation sites managed by federal, state and local agencies. We urge Congress to pass this legislation and thank Senator Daines and Senator King for their efforts to enhance economic opportunities for gateway communities.” - National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase

“Public lands throughout the country are incredibly important for providing Americans with opportunities to recreate, including fishing. The recreational fishing industry is grateful to Sens. Daines and King for their leadership on the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act. Recreational fishing opportunities can be found in nearly every national park, forest and wildlife refuge, and modernizing visitation data at these facilities will allow both land managers and the public to better ensure quality fishing experiences.” - Glenn Hughes, President of the American Sportfishing Association

 “The national parks concessions industry applauds the introduction of the Gateway Community and Recreation Enhancement Act and its direction to key federal officials to work with local governments, businesses, and associations to share information and create partnerships to expand the economic and other benefits created by access to national parks, national forests, and other public lands.  Authorization already exists for many important undertakings, including expansion of affordable housing, expansion of local infrastructure to provide public health and safety and visitor information.  We especially urge more discussion about innovative use of FLREA funds and local tourism taxes to enhance joint communications efforts and to enable all visitors to enjoy safe, memorable outdoor experiences during their visits. Innovative partnerships can expand visitor opportunities while mitigating challenges of unmanaged visitation.” - Derrick Crandall, spokesperson for the National Park Hospitality Association

Background:

Daines is the top Republican on the U.S. Senate’s National Parks Subcommittee and has championed efforts to increase access to public lands and support national parks and gateway communities.

In July 2021, Daines led a hearing to examine the effects of increased visitation at Montana’s national parks. Daines invited Whitefish Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Gartland as a witness to talk about the impact gateway communities like Whitefish are seeing from the boost in tourism.

In June 2020, Daines secured the Senate passage of the “Great American Outdoors Act” that invests in our national parks and public lands.

In August, 2019, Daines held a hearing live from Grant Kohrs National Park to discuss visitation at smaller park units.

In October 2018, Daines held a field hearing in Gardiner, Montana, a gateway community to Yellowstone National Park, to hear firsthand the benefits and concerns faced by communities. 

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 Contact: Rachel Dumke,  Katie Schoettler