Public lands move
At the beginning of the year, Senator Daines and Representative Gianforte tried to use bully tactics to remove protections from Wilderness Study Areas comprising over 1.2 million acres of public land in Montana. These land grab, winner take all bills did not seek input from Montana voters. These bills would not have allowed more access to public lands for Montana residents. The approach was to fill the wish lists of corporate interests for oil, gas, mineral and other development, including wealthy second-home buyers and motorized use folks. No consideration for natural landscapes, wild animals or quiet refuges was contained in these bills.
Recently Daines claimed he is interested in building consensus and getting input from Montanans and key stakeholders. He says the next bill he introduces about WSAs will depend on ongoing feedback he has gathered. Kerry White, Theresa Manzella and Jennifer Fielder are 3 state representatives, not key stakeholders with the only valid feedback on WSA legislation. Daines and Gianforte were pressuring county commissions to support their bills. A couple county commissions complied with their requests. At least two other county commissions (Deer Lodge and Silver Bow) sent letters requesting public hearings in their communities, so more Montanans would have a chance to give their input, ask questions and get language in to the bills representing issues important to local communities and organizations. The public hearings have not been scheduled to date. More voices and ideas are needed to consider changes to protections for over a million acres of federal lands and the wildlife they support.
Daines and Gianforte are pitting Montanans against each other, using partisan politics. Montanans want access; look at corner crossing legislation to help us access public lands. Montanans and many of the visitors to our state want quiet spaces with intact ecosystems to hunt, fish, hike, and recreate on. The WSA release bills were naughty. We encourage Daines and Gianforte to take the lead in creating lasting protections and access to our public landscapes.
We will be watching to see if the feedback we’ve given will be represented.
Bill Clark, Fran Galvin, Anaconda