Montana has given Jeff Wright inspiration, a love for the outdoors and a wife. Wright hopes he can he help return the favor to the Treasure state.
Appointed a Montana Ambassador by Gov. Steve Bullock three years ago, Wright has taken that role as a business representative of the state seriously, helping to promote the outdoors industry across Montana and to people beyond by starting a new nonprofit organization, the Montana Outdoors Foundation.
This week, the foundation will host RecCon Montana, the first of what Wright hopes to become an annual event bringing together user groups, outfitters, gear designers, nonprofits, for-profits, and any other sorts of groups with an outdoor bent. The three-day event will be held Friday July 19th through Sunday the 21st at Fort Missoula’s Bella Vista Pavilion.
RecCon Montana is designed to showcase what makes Montana great from the eastern prairies to rock and ice of Western Montana mountain ranges and bring together people from each of those places to help people realize just how much Montana has to offer.
“We want to show there’s more to Montana than just Glacier and Yellowstone, which are both amazing and awesome,” said Wright, who listed things like Montana’s 55 state parks and thousands of miles of public trails. “There are places all over the state that people should visit. The goal is to bring all these groups together to see the things and places they can do and go to.”
Montana has more than 27 million acres of public lands, and Wright said no matter how long you’ve lived in Montana, there are always new places to discover. Generally, people know their own backyard really well but once you get 100, 150 miles out, that knowledge wanes, Wright said.
Ultimately, Wright hopes RecCon can help improve the state’s outdoor recreation economy, which is currently valued at $7.1 billion and supports more than 71,000 jobs. The goal is to both help encourage Montanans to travel in state and also bring in out-of-staters to help experience Montana.
“It’s not only for Montanans passionate about outdoor recreation,” Wright said. “It’s intended to be a part of the fabric of everyone’s life in Montana. We want to attract people from outside of the state to come in. The more participation we have from people in the state, the more it gains traction and gets bigger and more people come to Montana and enjoy being in the state.”
Still, Wright said the goal of RecCon isn’t to reveal every community’s secret fishing hole or favorite picnic spot.
“We’re not interested in revealing secret spots every community has. That’s not our intention at all,” he said. “We want to point them in that direction by telling them about a couple amazing things in these areas, and their natural inclination to explore and thrift for adventure will lead them to explore the places we’re talking about. By hanging out, they’ll make friends with locals and explore it more deeply.”
Wright said ideally, more visitors to less traveled places can help relieve some of the pressures on places like Yellowstone and Glacier, which are about maxed out when it comes to the number of people they can support.
“We’re setting the stage to push people into different parts of Montana, into those communities and parts of the state that are just as beautiful but not nearly as crowded,” Wright said.
In addition to sharing experiences and places, one potential benefit of bringing people not only from across the state but also from across different industries could be to help expose different groups – like wilderness advocates and motorized users – to different ways of looking at things, Wright said.
“There’s likely going to be groups next to each other, who may not know each other or may not be big fans of each other,” Wright said. “But all Montanans share that value of public lands, and we have those things in common, so a conversation can take place.”
Interested in attending RecCon? Day passes are still available for $5. There is more information online at https://www.recconmontana.com/.