Montana Senator Steve Daines spoke at a Senate hearing on Wednesday to ask for support of a bill with the acronym SOAR (Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act).

Daines first emphasized the importance of outdoor recreation in Montana.

“Outdoor recreation is truly a fundamental part of our Montana economy,” said Senator Daines. “In fact, a recent Department of Commerce report found that outdoor recreation accounts for over 4 percent of Montana's GDP. That's the highest percentage nationally of any state. That counts for over 26,000 jobs in Montana. But outdoor recreation is more than just a massive economic driver in Montana, it's also a part of our heritage and our very way of life that we are proud of back home.”

Daines drove the message home to the other senators on the panel with more statistics.

“98 percent of Montanans say outdoor recreation is important to their quality of life, and I want to talk to those 2% back home that said it wasn't,” he said. “But we're at 98 percent.  87 percent consider themselves outdoor recreation enthusiasts. However, overly complex and bureaucratic permitting processes can make it more difficult to access our public lands and put a burden on our small businesses in Montana.”

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act would simplify the process of getting permits to hunt and fish in Montana.

“Because of Montana's checkerboard land ownership patterns, it's quite common out west that an outfitting trip will often cross into multiple land agencies, sometimes in just one day, since each federal land agency has a separate permitting process,” he said. “This means that our guides and outfitters have to go through multiple departments and permitting processes just for one trip.”

Daines then referenced a prominent Missoula-based company that provides online maps for hunting and recreation, OnX maps.

“We're proud of the fact that the Onx app was developed in Montana, headquartered in Missoula,” he said. “Those of you who are Onx users, sometimes you look at the map it's multicolored because you see the BLM ground, you see the National Forest ground, you'll see the State ground and you'll see private ground and so forth. And I'm hoping despite those multiple colors there, we could find a more streamlined way. Because at the end of the day when you're on a trip like that you want to get through efficiently as we come across these various federal agency pieces of ground.”

Read the text of the SOAR (Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act) here.

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