Boat tag proposal is a sound idea

By: 
Dwight Harriman

We’d like to keep our rivers the way they were before Montana got “discovered,” before people fled big cities to live here, before hundreds of thousands of tourists descended on us every year and put pressure on our streams.
But we can’t. The times have changed. And with it, the stress on our rivers and fishing access sites have increased. These sites sorely need more maintenance, both to keep the sites working well — just talk to a boater who has struggled with a bad launch ramp — and to prevent noxious weeds from growing on them.
Montana House Rep. Alan Redfield, a Republican who lives in Paradise Valley, is sponsoring a boat tag bill that would provide funds to deal with these problems.
The bill calls for charging all watercraft — excluding inner-tubers — a $25 annual fee to provide the funds for maintenance. The bill is still in draft form and its language could change as it makes its way through the Legislature. But at this point, it states that money collected by the payment would be used to “improve and maintain fishing access sites, including but not limited to boating, pump-out and camping facilities, latrines and roads.” It would also go toward “the control of noxious weeds at fishing access sites.”
This bill is a good idea. Before anyone starts complaining about another surcharge on the people of Montana, think about this:
With the increased pressure on our rivers, there is only so much money to go around. States like Montana are facing more fiscal constraints from declining coal revenues, Medicaid expansion, and the repair of crumbling infrastructure. The boat tag would go a long way toward providing funds to maintain our aquatic treasures, especially the Yellowstone River, which is not only a great source of enjoyment for boaters and anglers across the lower half of Montana, but a vital source of income as well.
The boat tag would not only help Montana residents take a little more responsibility for protecting access sites, it would also make many of the out-of-staters who use our waters for free help cover maintenance and repair for these sites. Non-residents pay for fishing licenses; it would not be out of hand to ask them to pay for boat tags.
A thumbs-up to Rep. Redfield for sponsoring this bill. We encourage Montana lawmakers to see it through.

Dwight Harriman is the news editor for “The Livingston Enterprise” in Livingston, Montana.

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