As December rolled in, I was thrilled to begin the month by attending the first-ever Business of Outdoor Recreation Summit, held in Whitefish, MT. A two-day gathering of like-minded individuals, organizations (government, non-government, non-profits), business owners, entrepreneurs, and anyone else interested, offered a wealth of information and inspiration—all in the name of the noble pursuits of promoting outdoor recreation and conservation.
Hosted by the Montana Office of Outdoor Recreation, with the assistance of numerous partners, the message was clear: outdoor recreation is not only necessary in life, fondly practiced by people the world over for many reasons, and often a money-making opportunity for local businesses, but it also goes hand-in-hand with land and water conservation. The energy at the conference was full of excitement, as we gathered to talk, learn from each other, share ideas, challenges and stories of both success and failures in our pursuits, and network. The conference offered panel discussions, information booths, fun networking activities and more.
For me and the Montana Adventure Shuttle, the BOR Summit was an opportunity to connect with others who share similar goals and missions. While transportation companies didn’t seem to be highly present there (or at least visible to me), it was clear that the mindset of sustainability, protection and connection to the land, rivers, lakes, wildlife and the environment in general was in full bloom, from land management agencies to lodges, tribal governments to rafting and entrepreneurial outfitting businesses, from the US and Canada. Conservation and the love of the outdoors is the very root of the Shuttle; and I absorbed, engaged, and thought, these are ‘my people’—and we are all in this together, working for you—the local outdoor recreationist, the landowner, the tourist visiting Montana to go fly fishing in one of Montana’s award-winning streams, and so on… It is astounding, how interconnected we all are. How interconnected people are to land and wildlife, is evident; and it is no surprise that without protection of the environment, outdoor recreation opportunities would suffer, or cease to exist.
There surely is more to this story, however. The question then becomes, how can you further the movement toward protection of the environment? It takes all of us—not just the professionals in ‘the business of outdoor recreation’, but you, the recreationist! To conserve the environment, and your rights to recreate in it, you can also help by becoming a part of the very network of conservation groups and agencies, through volunteer work, monetary contributions, memberships and more. Non-profit organizations, for example, both national and local (such as The Nature Conservancy or Sierra Club; or local groups such as the Montana Conservation Corps or Five Valleys Land Trust) all work hard to “keep it green”, clean up the environment or purchase land to keep it safe from development. It’s not just about the money—it truly is about the common goal.
With the first summit a success, MTAS looks forward to the next year and new opportunities to make connections—to help us all get outside, enjoy nature, and work to protect it at the same time. The Shuttle’s mission statement can be found on the website (www.mtshuttle.com/contact-mtas), but to summarize plainly: I went into business to get people outside, while offering a more sustainable method of group transportation. It is simple—"sustainable” is the way to go. So, let’s go!