Tourism & Recreation Survey
Outdoor recreation and tourism contribute significantly to the economy of Park County, Montana. Many angler guides, agriculture producers and resident recreation users have come to agree that the significant growth of outdoor recreation and tourism is both a benefit and a burden to local natural resources and county transportation infrastructure. Beginning in 2017, stakeholders started discussing creative means to fund Park County conservation and infrastructure. One proposed solution is an amendment to the resort tax that permits locals to create a resort tax region along the Upper Yellowstone River corridor and allocates funds from the resort tax to local infrastructure and conservation needs. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has been at the forefront of this conversation. Through dialogue with leaders in the agriculture and outdoor recreation sectors, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition concluded that it is important to better understand values of recreation users for funding conservation and protecting regional resources.
In the summer of 2018, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition interviewed 1,199 residents and non-residents at Fishing Access Sites along the Yellowstone River from Livingston to the northern Gardiner Basin in Park County, Montana. The survey explored three main topics: 1) how recreation users would prefer to invest funds generated from a potential regional resort tax if implemented in the future along the Yellowstone Gateway corridor; 2) support for congressional legislation to protect the Yellowstone River and its headwaters through implementation of a permanent mineral withdrawal on public lands and the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act; and 3) preferred types of recreation and their frequency.
Among a suite of thirteen natural resource, agriculture and county infrastructure topics, resident and non-resident recreation users were most supportive of funding projects to: 1) protect water quality of streams and rivers (98% described as extremely/very Important); 2) conserve fish and wildlife habitat (96% described as extremely/very Important); and 3) protect open space (92% described as extremely/very Important). Maintaining quality of life was also perceived as being exceptionally important. Ninety-four percent (94%) of those surveyed ranked quality of life as extremely important or very important. Funding applications for quality of life, however, are admittedly more subjective and less tangible. Ultimately, all thirteen topics received considerable support for funding. For example, using resort tax dollars to fund the maintenance and upgrade of county roads ranked thirteenth out of thirteen topics but still received 65% support from people who described it as extremely or very Important.
In terms of policy, eighty-six percent (86%) of recreators support designating the Upper Yellowstone River from Gardiner to Carbella Fishing Access Site as a National Wild & Scenic River; twelve percent (12%) were undecided, one percent (1%) opposed, and one percent (1%) did not answer. Eighty-one percent (81%) of recreators support the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which would permanently withdraw mineral development on public lands around Emigrant Peak and Crevice Mountain. Twelve percent (12%) were undecided on this issue, three percent (3%) opposed, and two percent (2%) did not answer.
Paddling (rafting, kayaking, canoeing) and fishing were the most common forms of recreation in Park County. Seventy-six percent (76%) of people surveyed paddle and seventy-four percent (74%) fish. Thirty-four percent (34%) of respondents to the survey said they either paddle or fish very often (greater than 20 times per year) or often (ten to twenty times per year). Camping (72% participation) and hiking (67% participation) also ranked high as common forms of recreation in Park County.
As a result of this information, the Upper Yellowstone Watershed Tourism & Recreation Committee is researching the possibility of a wild & scenic river designation for the Yellowstone River, a resort tax focused on property tax relief and conservation, 1% for Park County marketing efforts. More to come...
Read the full report of the survey here: