Last year, 12.5 million travelers visited Montana spending nearly $3.4 billion in the state’s retail stores, restaurants and hotels. Tourism is vital to Montana’s economy, but how do we balance the economic benefits with the strain these numbers put on our natural resources?

Tony Rogers Big Sky, Montana

“Well, with Glacier National Park having record-setting number of visitors in July, I feel like Montana should be on the up-and-up. I don’t feel like it should be a ‘strain’ on natural resources, and we should use that money to make our parks better. Just don’t build hotels where they shouldn’t be.”

Britta Zietlow Bozeman, Montana

“That’s easy. You just use a lot of that revenue, in the public and private sector, to diversify Montana’s energy portfolio and put us on a trajectory for long-term sustainability. Wind, solar and renewables—the clean stuff. Maybe a bigger tax on plastic water bottles too. Real Montanans drink tap.”

Wyatt Christensen Bozeman, Montana

“I just heard that they are considering restrictions on the [Madison] River on how many clients guides can take out—outfitter restrictions. That seems to make sense in order to protect rivers from overuse given the influx of people. I don’t know if you could do that at camping spots, but smart restrictions at the most travelled destinations seems like a good idea.”

Betsy Rondeau Big Sky, Montana

“As a state economy, our biggest manufacturing industry is making memories. We need to acknowledge that by protecting our pristine, blue ribbon trout-fishing rivers, our snowcapped mountains, our wide-open spaces, and the animals that inhabit them. I also read an interesting statistic about how much ‘tourism’ revenue is brought in by other Montanans and that is interesting to think about in terms of policy formation.”