Senate Bill 24 passed in the Legislature, and has the potential to raise almost $1 million statewide for trails!

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SB 24 that would increase the optional light motor vehicle registration fee for parks and trails passed the House April 16 on a vote of 65 yes, 31 no. It will be transmitted to the Governor for his signature, whose office indicated strong support.
This bill’s effective date is January 1, 2020 which coincides with the Department of Justice Motor Vehicle Division vehicle registration year.  The fiscal note indicated that in FY 2021, SB 24 will provide $940,000 and more per year for the new trails and associated recreation grant program, $892,000 per year new money for state parks operation and maintenance, $169,000 per year of new money for fishing access site operation and maintenance and $3,400 additional funds per year to Montana/Nevada Cities.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks will develop administrative rules for the new Made in Montana Trails Grant Program.  Discussions throughout development of this bill include a program similar to the federal RTP grant program but with some simplification and reduced red tape.

Testimony during legislative hearings said that grants will be provided to towns and communities, counties, reservations, trail groups and organizations.  Grants will benefit motorized, non-motorized, urban, rural and backcountry projects and will fund maintenance, rehabilitation and enhancement of existing trails and new trail development.  The details will emerge in the administrative rules process.

Montana Trails Coalition’s Bob Walker, who championed this bill sent a letter of appreciation to all organizations and individuals who wrote to their representatives at the Legislature: “Thank you [Billings TrailNet] for making the trip to Helena to testify. On both floors of the legislature, the sponsor mentioned how many Montanans from around the state testified in committees. It really does make a difference and shows that every individual counts! Viva la trails and parks!”

Says Bob, “I want to express immense gratitude to the member organizations and the board members of our Montana Trails Coalition.  We developed this bill over the past 1-1/2 years and developed the broad public support that resulted in success.  Senator Terry Gauthier sponsored our bill and exhibited his leadership in marshaling SB 24 through the legislature.  We could not have found a better champion.  We also thank Representative Tom Welch for carrying the bill to the floor of the House and speaking eloquently to achieve passage.”
If you would like to congratulate Bob Walker for his efforts in organizing this successful campaign with the legislature, his contact information is Bob_mttrails@outlook.com. You may also wish to thank your Senator or House representative and the bill sponsor, Terry Gauthier from Helena at mrmac570@me.com
Great job everyone, thank you for sending your comments if you were able to do so!