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Growing the Outdoor Recreation Economy in Eastern Montana

Studies show improving outdoor recreation opportunities can drive sustainable, long-term economic growth for Montana communities.  Other parts of the state are already benefiting from an outdoor recreation economy that generates over $7 billion in annual consumer spending, 71,000 jobs, and $286 million in contributions to state and local taxes. 

The Lower Yellowstone River, which has the potential to bring and retain visitors to eastern Montana, is challenged by a lack of public access opportunities and public amenities like boat ramps, restrooms, parks, and hiking trails.  In eastern Montana, where hotel tax collections have declined in recent years, experts agree that investing in outdoor infrastructure is critical to attracting more visitors and providing quality outdoor recreation for locals.

Eastern Montana Wants More Tourism

The Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development recently held listening sessions in Billings, Hardin, Terry, Sidney, Glasgow, and Lewistown. Participants in Sidney described the Yellowstone River as having “great potential” but, “virtually no access.” The access points that exist were described as degraded and unusable, making it difficult to promote the Lower Yellowstone as a tourist destination.

Eastern Montana Wants More Public Access

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project also recently held a series of listening sessions in Miles City, Glendive, and Ekalaka to gather community ideas for conservation and outdoor recreation opportunities. When given a choice of 11 major challenges facing Montana’s outdoor heritage, over 70% of participants in Miles City indicated that “loss of access to public lands and rivers for hunting, fishing and recreation” was their greatest concern.


“The #1 priority to get families to move to Miles City is more parks and outdoor recreation.”

-Miles City Economic Development Committee
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