WHITEFISH – If you hear more about Montana’s tourism economy in the coming year it’s likely because of the spark that was ignited this week in Whitefish.
The new energy comes from a powerful gathering of hundreds of people at the state’s first-ever Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit.
Organizers of the summit at Grouse Mountain Lodge dove deep into the topic of Montana’s outdoor economy during the two days of panel presentations and informal discussions.
Speakers touched on using partnerships to develop the state’s recreation industry, the impacts of policy development, attracting public and private funds and convincing local government of the economic impacts of recreation.
“Such amazing positivity and talking about problems and brainstorming solutions. This is like where it happens. This is where people are talking. And this is just the beginning of the conversation,” said Montana Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Director Rachael Vandevoort.
“I mean these are the stewards of the conversation. The people that are here are going to take it out and start talking with community members, fellow business people, fellow land managers. So that this is really just the beginning,” she added.
With the public lands issue on the front burner in the Big Sky this year, a lot of the conversations were around how best to utilizing one of Montana’s strongest recreation industry resources.
The conference also highlighted the diversity of not just managers, but user groups who enjoy Montana’s outdoors in multiple ways.
“Really, the diverse opportunities that are out there, to be able to engage at different levels, to make sure that we’re able to hear all the different perspectives, add value to all the different resources,” said Chris Dowling with theSwan Lake Ranger District.
“In Montana –I mean if you don’t do five million different activities, trying to do them all at one time you’re really not a true Montanan! We have some serious season action going on,” Vandevoort told MTN News.
“That was the one thing that impressed me the most is when we did look at the registration list, they very, very diverse mix of user groups, of state, of federal, of tribal, you name it. We just have so many participants it’s beautiful to see,” she added.
While the summit focused on Montana as a whole, there was also a focus on the Crown of the Continent initiatives, which are bringing together government and business groups on both sides of the border.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News