Tester a champion of access to outdoors

by Michael Chapman

We’ve all seen these people in Montana’s outdoors: the angler who spends only a single day on the river each year, yet shows off an expensive handmade rod that most of us would die for; the big-city hunter decked out in top-of-the-line gear who writes a big check to shoot a trophy.

While there’s nothing wrong with being a novice and certainly nothing wrong with out-of-staters spending money in our state, we all can tell the difference between Montanans who truly know the outdoors and others who only dress the part.

A true champion of our outdoor heritage is never satisfied with dressing the part. A champion is someone who has the courage to go to the mat to fight for our public lands. A champion is someone who has the courage to stand up for access and against anyone who wants to sell or transfer the places we all share.

Montana only has one true champion of public lands in Congress and that is Sen. Jon Tester. As the former chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Tester isn’t afraid of a fight and he’s got the track record to prove it.

This year, Tester worked closely with allies on both sides of the aisle to consistently push for permanent reauthorization and full funding of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. In the end, Congress negotiated a weakened renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Though not ideal, Tester can take a bow for keeping this critical issue on the front burner and for being a thorn in the side of those who wanted to destroy the Land and Water Conservation Fund altogether.

Jon Tester also worked closely with Montanans and is now on the verge of securing protection of the Badger Two-Medicine area near Glacier National Park-some of the world’s most beautiful public land. Tester ruffled some feathers to keep drilling out of this sacred area and used his clout to do right by hunters, anglers and the people of the Blackfeet Nation.

This time last year Montanans were also thanking Jon Tester for leading the effort to protect the Rocky Mountain Front – a true sportsmen’s paradise. By passing the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, Tester assisted the hard work of local Montana ranchers, sportsmen and outfitters who had hammered out a local agreement to keep the Front the way it is.

That’s the courage we expect from our elected leaders in Washington. And while our entire delegation deserves credit for protecting the Land and Water Conservation Fund this year, Tester has consistently led the fight in protecting our outdoor heritage since he got to the Senate. We encourage all elected leaders to follow suit.

Real champions are few and far between. As someone who still farms the same land his grandparents homesteaded, Jon Tester consistently supports protecting access to our public lands, clean water and the tens of thousands of Montana jobs they sustain-even if it means a getting a few bruises in Washington. And all Montanans are better off for it.

Michael Chapman of Lewistown is president of the Snowy Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.