As the Montana Legislature prepares to return to Helena after the mid-session break, there is an effort underway to unlock public lands that have been land locked for many years.

Montana Senate Majority Leader, Republican Fred Thomas said this bipartisan effort will be introduced just after the opening of the second half of the legislature.

“The target is to open up landlocked public lands,” said Thomas. “There are key spots around the state that are highly sought after to get into, but they’re landlocked by private land, so we have a proposal that will essentially purchase access from land owners to get in there and unlock those lands.”

Thomas said the State Land Board would not be involved.

“We would be working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” he said. “For example, if you owned land, you would sell access through your land to these areas that are highly sought after. We would make an agreement with you, and it’s just that simple. It’s basically an agreement to legally trespass on your land to get access. It’s an agreement that could take into account all kinds of things, like how may people and how often, etc. The idea is to get these landlocked areas open to sportspersons.”

Thomas said the 2019 session could be one of the most innovative in years.

“When it comes down to it, this could be one of the most innovative sessions of all time,” he said. “We’ve got an excellent proposal on reinsurance for individuals buying health insurance that would reduce costs; we’ve reined in pharmacy benefit managers so they’re not just making a bundle of money on prescription drugs, along with the public lands package, so we’re excited for the second half of the session.”

Chair of the Finance Committee Nancy Balance of Hamilton said she and her fellow committee members will be heading to Helena on Thursday to begin serious discussions on the state budget.