Parks in Focus Commission Final Recommendations
The Parks in Focus Commission held its final meeting at First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park near Great Falls on December 14th, 2018. After presentation of final recommendations, public comment and discussion, the Commission unanimously adopted final recommendations to sustain and strengthen Montana’s State Park System. The final recommendations report is available below.
PARKS IN FOCUS MEETINGS
The Parks in Focus Commission will be active for a term of 12 months (January to December 2018) and will hold four public meetings around the state to discuss leading state park issues, gather robust public input and ideas, and develop a framework for making recommendations in a final report. The public meetings will be held on the dates noted below.
December 14th - First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park
September 28th - Makoshika State Park
May 11th - Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1 Headquarters-Kalispell
February 16th - Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park
The Parks in Focus Commission draft recommendations, press release, and FAQ are available here for download.
Montana Resident Survey on Park Amenities
The Parks in Focus Commission and University of Montana's Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research are pleased to share a new survey of Montana residents. The survey, developed jointly by the Parks in Focus Commission and Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, helps to better understand the extent that residents use state parks and which outdoor amenities they are seeking. Survey results point toward infrastructure and service priorities that are crucial to satisfying resident visitor demand at state parks. Please see the press release and survey report below for details.
State Parks Situation Assessment
The Parks in Focus Commission developed a Situation Assessment as part of its brief to explore how best to develop diversified revenue streams, grow strategic partnerships, and build an engaged constituency for Montana’s state parks. This Situation Assessment points the way to recommendations the Commission will make this fall to ensure that State Parks has the
resources, capacity, and expertise to implement the Montana State Parks and
Recreation Strategic Plan.
About Parks in Focus
The Governor of Montana established the Montana Parks in Focus Commission by Executive Order on January 12, 2018 as a public-private collaboration to strengthen the state park system and to ensure that the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has the resources, capacity, and expertise to implement the Montana State Parks and Recreation strategic plan.
The purpose of the Montana Parks in Focus Commission is to provide expert, independent recommendations for the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks to implement the Montana State Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan. The principle focus will be on implementation of the three recommendations from that plan: developing diversified revenue streams, growing strategic partnerships, and building an engaged constituency for state parks.
Parks in Focus will deliver results and accountability to the Montana State Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan, while ensuring the financial, operational, and cultural challenges facing state parks are addressed under the management of the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
The Parks in Focus Commission, consisting of 12 volunteer professionals, will develop an inclusive process that welcomes engagement from all relevant partners to shape the substance for this new initiative. It will operate in a collaborative, transparent manner.
The Commission will be active for a term of 12 months and will hold four public meetings around the state to discuss leading issues, gather robust public input and ideas, and develop a framework for making recommendations in a final report.
The Commission also will convene work groups to develop a deeper understanding of core challenges facing state parks and explore related solution concepts. These work groups may include members of the Commission, Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff, and outside experts.
The Parks in Focus Commission will be coordinated by two advisors, Deb Love and Ben Alexander of Resources Legacy Fund (RLF). They will work closely with the Governor’s Office, Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks leadership, State Parks staff, the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board, and the Montana State Parks Foundation. The advisors will provide day-to-day support for the Commission and its activities. This will include preparing for Commission meetings, conducting or overseeing needed research, facilitating public engagement, managing work groups on delegated topics, and building a supporting coalition. RLF will be responsible for covering its costs related to the Commission.
The advisors also will prepare draft and final recommendation reports for the Commission to review, assess, revise, and adopt. The draft recommendations report will be completed by the end of September 2018, with the final recommendations report completed by December 2018. The final report will be submitted to the Governor, Legislature, Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and Parks and Recreation Board.
Why Parks in Focus?
Why this Commission?
Montanans love and value our public lands. Communities across Montana recognize that parks and outdoor recreation support health, contribute to a high quality of life, and attract employers and families. Outdoor recreation is big business in Montana—a $7.1 billion industry—and yet, Montana's state parks are struggling. With more than $22 million in backlogged maintenance and infrastructure improvement projects, chronic understaffing, and increasing visitation, our state parks are not able to meet the needs and expectations of visitors. We need more partners, more advocates, and ultimately, more funding for Montana's state parks and heritage.
How will the work of the Parks in Focus Commission differ from the Parks and Recreation Board and why create an additional advisory group to address these issues? How will the two groups work together?
The Commission is designed to develop and offer a set of independent recommendations on how best to implement the current Montana Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan and strengthen the state park system. The Commission is tasked with making specific recommendations through a 12-month public-private partnership that will assemble diverse expertise, original research, and other tools and partnerships to inform the selection of high-impact strategies.
The Parks and Recreation Board is a permanent governmental entity that sets policies and provides direction for Montana’s state parks and associated recreational resources. The Commission and Board will work hand in hand, and the Chair and one member of the Parks and Recreation Board will serve on the Parks in Focus Commission. Ultimately, the recommendations made by the Parks in Focus Commission will be presented to the Board, the Department of Fish Wildlife & Parks, the Governor, and the Legislature.
How will Parks in Focus be funded and what types of costs will be incurred?
All Commission members, including the Chair, will serve as volunteers, with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks providing travel expenses for Commission members to attend meetings. The Parks in Focus Commission will be coordinated and staffed by two advisors, Deb Love and Ben Alexander, of Resources Legacy Fund (a nonprofit organization with significant expertise in parks, community engagement, and conservation issues). Resources Legacy Fund will be responsible for covering its costs related to managing the Parks in Focus Commission, including appropriate preparation for Commission meetings, conducting or overseeing needed research, facilitating public engagement, managing work groups and supporting outreach. The partnership, including volunteers, state agency employees, and elected officials, is designed to maximize contributions from all parties, be it time, expertise, or work products. This effort will require all of us to step up and help in whatever way we can.
Can you share an example or examples of the opportunities the Commission may explore through their deliberations?
The Commission will develop strategies to implement the current Montana Parks and Recreation Strategic Plan, with a focus on diversified revenue streams, growing strategic partnerships, and building an engaged constituency for state parks. The Commission will likely explore approaches to greater financial transparency and budgetary efficiency, a range of funding mechanisms that create revenue for state parks, and closer ties with the new Office of Outdoor Recreation and the Office of Tourism and Business Development to improve fiscally prudent management and economically beneficial outcomes. The Commission intends to gather relevant research and leverage outside expertise to deliver a set of recommendations in a final report by December 2018.
How will recommendations be implemented?
While the Commission itself is of a finite duration, one of the key outcomes of this process will be the creation of a broad constituency for parks, and more specifically, sustainable funding. Depending upon the recommendations, it may require legislative leadership; private-public partnerships with businesses, youth engagement organizations and tribal interests; partnerships with other offices such as Tourism and Outdoor Recreation; and potential statewide funding collaborations. Resources Legacy Fund has committed to continued engagement on this initiative, assuming they are able to raise additional philanthropic funding for their efforts. The Montana State Parks Foundation will be a key implementation partner, as well as the Parks and Recreation Board.
How can partners and interested members of the public keep up to date on progress with Parks in Focus and stay engaged?
The Parks in Focus Commission will develop an inclusive process that welcomes engagement from all relevant partners to shape the substance for this new initiative. The Commission will operate in a collaborative, transparent manner. While this process is developed, the public is encouraged to reach out to the two advisors to the Commission with questions or comments:
Deb Love, Senior Program Advisor, Resources Legacy Fund, 406.579.6931
Ben Alexander, Senior Program Advisor, Resources Legacy Fund, 406.599.1615
Parks in Focus Commission Members
Stace Lindsay (Chair)
Stace Lindsay is President of Fusion Venture Partners, a strategic consulting and investment firm, and a senior Moderator for Aspen Global Leadership Network. A Montana native, Stace has also been an entrepreneur, investor, and a strategic advisor to senior business, government and nonprofit leaders around the world.
Mark Aagenes is Director of External Affairs for The Nature Conservancy Montana. He manages the chapter's public policy work at the state and federal levels. Mark previously spent a decade as the Conservation Director for Montana Trout Unlimited.
Lise Aangeenbrug is the new Executive Director for The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association. She previously served as Executive Vice President for the National Park Foundation and was Executive Director of the Great Outdoors Colorado Trust Fund, the State of Colorado’s constitutionally created fund for protecting and enhancing parks, rivers, trails, open space and wildlife.
Dr. Shane Doyle is an educator and cultural consultant who hails from Crow Agency, Montana. A member of the Crow tribe, Dr. Doyle is currently engaged in curriculum design throughout the state to implement Montana's Indian Education for All curriculum, and recently completed a postdoctoral appointment in genetic research at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Dave Galt is a fourth generation Montanan working in government affairs with the law firm Browning, Kaleczyc, Berry & Hoven. He served as Executive Director of the Montana Petroleum Association for ten years after retiring from the Montana Department of Transportation.
Angie Grove spent 28 years with the Montana Legislative Audit Division, working specifically with the State Parks Division. In addition to being the owner (with her husband) of Great Divide Cyclery, Angie served for seven years on the board of the Prickly Pear Land Trust.
Norma Nickerson has served since 1995 as the Director of the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research at the University of Montana’s W.A. Franke College of Forestry & Conservation. She is the 2011 recipient of the Greater Western Chapter Travel and Tourism Research Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Norma serves on the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Helena branch, and sat on the Missoula Parks and Recreation board for five years.
Michael Punke is an American writer, professor, policy analyst, attorney, and former Deputy US Trade Representative and US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization. Punke is the author of The Revenant; Fire and Brimstone: The North Butte Mining Disaster of 1917; and Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West. He is currently the Vice President of Global Public Policy for Amazon Web Services.
Lance Trebesch is CEO/Co-Owner of TicketPrinting.com and Ticket River, custom ecommerce event products and online event management ticketing operating in the US, Canada, UK,and Australia. TicketPrinting.com’s base is in Harlowton, where it is one of the largest employers in Wheatland County. Lance is a founding member of Business for Montana’s Outdoors, which educates and advocates for the importance of open public lands as key growth drivers in the entrepreneurial economies of the West.
Chas Vincent is a State Senator in the Montana Legislature from District 1 representing Libby, Montana, and serves as Chair of the Environmental Quality Council. Chas is a fourth-generation logger and currently works for Environomics, a Libby-based consulting firm.
Jeff Welch is the founder of three companies specializing in tourism and outdoor recreation, including the advertising firm MERCURYcsc, and a passionate spokesman for Business for Montana’s Outdoors. Jeff serves on the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board and the Montana State Parks Foundation board.
Dr. Aaron Wernham is a family physician and CEO of the Montana Healthcare Foundation. He founded and directed the Health Impact Project, a national initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and has served as a public health and policy advisor for Alaska Native tribes while working with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.