From the colossal, glacier-carved splendor of the Crown of the Continent to the trout-filled waters of the free-flowing Yellowstone River, Montanans have a special connection to the natural majesty of the land. Most people here identify as a hunter or angler and two-thirds say they visit public lands six or more times per year.
These places are vital and irreplaceable. Unfortunately, they are threatened by recent, reckless efforts to roll back existing protections and implement Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's dirty-energy agenda.
Montana’s beloved lands belong to all of us. They are, quite simply, “Our Wild.” And the best gift we can give future generations is to make sure these lands stay healthy, whole and safe for all to enjoy.
Threats to Montana public lands:
- Oil and gas drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine. Oil and gas interests are asking the Trump administration to re-open illegal leases in a stretch of the Rocky Mountain Front considered sacred by the Blackfeet Nation. Containing habitat for habitat for wildlife like grizzly and elk, the Badger-Two Medicine is simply "too wild to drill."
Badger-Two Medicine (Montana). Credit: Tony Bynum (tonybynum.com)
- Potential wilderness stripped of protection. Congress is considering proposals that would strip protections from hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness study areas, potentially opening them up to mining and destructive forms of recreation without public input. This would be the biggest reduction of public lands protection in Montana history.
- Booming communities infringing on Greater Yellowstone wildlands. Communities in the Greater Yellowstone region are growing--and with them, recreation pressures on the Custer Gallatin National Forest. These wildlands provide cherished spots for outdoor recreation and important habitats for iconic wildlife. In order to preserve those values, we need a sound forest management plan that balances conservation with a growing population.
- Looming deadline threatens important conservation projects. Late in 2018, a deadline faces a program called the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues from oil and gas drilling to protect land in a way that "completes" national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other sites. Without burdening taxpayers, it has paid for projects at Glacier National Park, Upper Missouri Wild & Scenic River and numerous other places, including at fishing access sites and local parks. We must work to have lawmakers reauthorize this crucial program, and also repel ongoing proposals to cut its budget.
- Inaction on broadly-supported Blackfoot-Clearwater Wilderness legislation. Despite broad and bipartisan support from Montanans, a bill introduced by Sen. Jon Tester and deemed “the gold standard for wilderness stewardship” faces inaction from the rest of Montana’s congressional delegation. A failure to champion this community-driven proposal threatens potential additions to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and could lead back to the bitter land-use conflicts of the past.
Bob Marshall Wilderness (Montana). Credit: Troy Smith, flickr.
- Montana monument lands under threat. In 2017, the Trump administration launched an illegal effort to roll back protections for national monument lands across the nation. In Montana, Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument was originally in the cross hairs. While it was spared, it remains at risk—and the law that originally protected this Montana treasure, as well as Pompeys Pillar and Big Hole National Battlefield, is also under attack.
- Forests threatened by unneeded new roads. The Flathead, Gallatin, Lewis & Clark and other national forests in Montana contain thousands of acres of "inventoried roadless areas." These are unusually wild and untouched stretches of land where natural habitat exists and species thrive. New proposals could end up undermining these rules and threaten some truly special places.
We have been able to fend off threats like these in the past, and we can do it again—but only with the help of serious, dedicated people who love public lands.