Greetings from Augusta, Mont.
Our town, butting up tight against the Rocky Mountain Front is home to some of the best hunting opportunities in the nation. It's an exciting time for all 284 Augustans. But this year, people in small towns like ours from Red Lodge to White Sulphur Springs nervously await the voters' decision regarding our future. Initiative 161, on this election ballot, poses a potentially lethal threat to us.
It never fails. Each election year the airwaves are filled with unsubstantiated claims of promises that can never be realized. And that is certainly true in the case of the campaign promoting this dangerous legislation. Their assertion that thousands of acres of privately owned land would be opened to general hunting is simply false. Landowners will be no more likely to welcome hunters if this law passes than they are now. Its claims to increase access are bogus, but if I-161 passes, one thing is certain: Small towns such as Augusta and dozens others like it will be hit hard, right in the wallet. And it's not just the outfitters.
These family-run operations offer employment in towns where a job is darned hard to find. A typical outfitter in Augusta employees 13 people at some point during the year. Those people pay taxes, shop for groceries, send their kids to our excellent school and scratch a living in the shadow of Haystack Butte. They work hard and are excellent ambassadors for the Western way of life. Like ranchers and farmers, these people are the salt of the earth. They strive every day to protect the glorious environment that draws visitors from across the planet.
Please vote no on I-161. It does hunters no good and poses an enormous threat to an industry vital to Montana's small towns.
Secretary/treasurer of Augusta Area Chamber of Commerce