Conservation of our public lands is critical to our quality of life. I have been blessed to live and recreate near public lands all of my life. As a young girl, once all the hay bales were stacked, my dad would announce that it was time to head to the mountains. The panniers were packed with a week of provisions and our family of four would head to Rainbow Lake in the Beartooth Mountains to fish, hike and enjoy the peace and quiet before school started in the fall. As a young woman, I backpacked and skied, and later when I was raising my young boys, we camped and hiked on public lands throughout the western states. We enjoyed canyon lands, mesas, rainforests, mountains, and Big Sky Country in Montana.
Outdoor recreation is now the biggest sector of Montana's economy. Annually, it generates over $7.1 billion in consumer spending and supports 70,000 jobs that pay $2 billion in wages. Public lands are crucial for the clean air and water that make our communities livable, and they are what makes the outdoor recreation economy thrive in Montana. Protecting lands that are open to all, which provide clean air, fresh water, hunting, fishing, camping and other recreational opportunities, is mandatory. I continue to enjoy hiking and cross country skiing, and it is important to me to share this legacy with my grandchildren.