Steve Bullock plans to meet this week with Utah Senator Orrin Hatch to discuss a bill that would allow tourists to camp in Montana for up to two months.
The bill, dubbed the Montana Outdoor Tourism Act, would allow Montana residents to camp on public lands without a permit for up of five nights a week.
It’s the latest effort in a decade-long effort to expand outdoor recreation in Montana, which has seen a significant spike in visitors.
The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday and will likely vote on it next week.
The House has not yet passed it, but has passed legislation that would make it easier for people to rent out campgrounds and tents to tourists for the same fee as a hotel room.
In an interview with The Hill on Thursday, Bullock said the bill was important to ensure people could have access to Montana’s pristine, mountainous landscape.
“The outdoor tourism industry in Montana is booming and we have an abundance of it, which is why we’re in the middle of an energy boom in the state,” Bullock told The Hill.
“It’s an industry that has a lot of opportunities, and we’re taking advantage of that opportunity.”
Bullock said he hoped the bill would “bring an end to the debate” that’s been ongoing over the bill for more than a decade.
“This is not a new issue,” he said.
“I hope it will not be.
We’ve been working on this legislation for years, and it’s important that we continue to do so.”
The bill has drawn support from the National Parks Conservation Association, which said in a statement that it is “a thoughtful and achievable solution that will provide Montana with a reliable and cost-effective way to offer outdoor recreation while preserving critical landscapes for tourism.”
It’s not clear what the bill’s political impact would be, or how the state would pay for the permits, which would cost $1,000 per person.
Bullock did not answer questions about how much the bill might cost, or if it would be offset by a tax.
A similar bill passed in Montana last year, but it was vetoed by then-Gov.
In the past, Bullocks administration has sought to limit tourism in the Montana area.
Last year, the Montana Department of Natural Resources (DMNR) issued an order that prohibited anyone from entering the state to use a vehicle that’s owned by the agency.
The agency said it wanted to prevent people from driving into state parks, hunting or fishing on public land and from camping on state land.
The agency also prohibited anyone, from any person, from operating a motorized vehicle in any of the state parks.
In response to the Montana bill, Bullions office said in an emailed statement that “it is our expectation that the bill will be reviewed by the Legislature, and, if passed, the bill may be referred to the full Montana House for consideration and further consideration.
We remain committed to a fair and efficient permitting process, and hope that the legislature will enact this legislation so that it will become law.”
Bullions office did not respond to questions about the state’s permit system, whether the bill could be reversed and what the state expects to pay for it.
The Montana Outdoor Travel Association has called for a moratorium on all outdoor recreation activities, including campgrounds, tent camping, horseback riding and camping on public trails.
The association is a national organization that advocates for outdoor recreation.
Bullocks office said the state could potentially pay for permits for the tourism industry if it passes the bill.
Bullions spokeswoman Amanda Gillett said in the statement that the agency is still working with stakeholders and will provide a more detailed explanation about the legislation in the coming days.
The National Park Service said in September that it was reviewing the bill and would provide a response as soon as possible.