Daines' proposed public lands legislation misguided

Senator Daines’ proposed public lands legislation, not at all a Montana-driven proposal, couldn’t be more misguided. It would deprive Montanans a voice in protecting half a million acres of Montana’s wild public lands. Not only does it undermine Senator Tester’s consensus Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act but it crushes the work of the great Lee Metcalf and gives away half of Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) he helped create.

It’s another wrong-headed, top-down proposal that subverts years of grassroots collaboration. These WSAs contain excellent fisheries, elk herds, and drinking water supplies. More importantly, they represent special places for Montanans, the vast majority of whom want them preserved as public lands. We’ve made that repeatedly, abundantly clear, but Daines doesn’t get it.

The WSAs provide superb backcountry experiences for more and more folks, which fact supports local recreation economies. Recent research data shows outdoor recreation to be the biggest player in Montana’s economy, after all. That’s fact, not opinion.

Daines once again attacks Montana’s public lands by politicizing them and attempting to divide Montanans. Public lands in public hands is a bipartisan issue, clearly, and Montanans have made their wishes known. In southwest Montana and beyond, I’ve hiked or camped in all the WSAs, which I doubt Daines has. I know their value. I also know at least 70 percent Montanans want public lands conserved and protected. And I know Montanans best know how to resolve land management issues, not special interests cozy with Daines.

Senator, you’d best come to your senses, withdraw this mistaken legislation, and actually represent most of us you claim to represent. I’m sick and tired of being ignored.

— O. Alan Weltzien. Ph.D, Dillon