Montana’s 44 wilderness study areas comprise one million acres of our wildest and most pristine public lands.
Senator Steve Daines has introduced a bill that strips protection from nearly half a million acres of those lands. If passed, the bill would represent the largest loss of protected public land in Montana’s history.
We believe Montanans should have a say when it comes to how our wildest places will be managed. Unfortunately, Senator Daines introduced his bill (S. 2206) without holding a single public meeting or town hall.
We’re calling on our congressional delegation to find a balanced, bipartisan resolution for all of our wilderness study areas – including the Big Snowies, Middle Fork Judith, West Pioneer, Blue Joint, and Sapphire – places that are essential to our outdoor way of life.
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Our Legacy at Stake
Our wild public lands are the heart and soul of Montana. They are the foundation of our outdoor legacy. They are our reason for living in the Big Sky state and for raising our children here.
The places on Senator Daines’ chopping block – the Big Snowies, West Pioneer, Middle Fork Judith, Sapphire, and Blue Joint – are wilder and more pristine than nearly all national parks. They provide our communities with some of the purest water in the nation and feed our blue ribbon fisheries. They give big game and other wildlife a chance to thrive. They bolster our $7 billion outdoor recreation economy and draw tourists from around the world. Our wildlands also compel businesses owners to set up shop in Montana, largely because these places help recruit top-notch talent from around the country.
“Our wild public lands are the heart and soul of Montana.”
We learned just how essential these places are to Montanans during the 2017 legislative session in Helena when Representative Kerry White, one of our state’s biggest advocates for transferring and selling off our public lands, introduced a resolution (H.J. 9) calling on Congress to eliminate protection on these wildlands and get the ball rolling on industrializing them.
The resolution triggered an outpouring of opposition. Legislators were barraged with thousands of emails and calls from around the state. This outpouring compelled members of the House Natural Resources Committee to dramatically revise the resolution and add language that asked Congress to, among other management options, consider permanently protecting – as Wilderness – the places addressed in the resolution.
The reaction to H.J. 9 made clear that the way to resolving our WSAs is for our Congressional delegation to support local, collaborative efforts focused on each of these areas, not to impose Sen. Daines’ top-down, one-size-fits all legislation that decides the fate of all of these places in one fell swoop – with no opportunity for public input.
Karen Aspevig Stevenson
A resident of Miles City, Karen has lived in rural areas of eastern Montana her entire life. She and her husband have led hikes into the Terry Badlands for the last nine years. They also like to spend time there with their children and grandchildren.
A lifelong hunter and resident of Anaconda, Chris Marchion was inducted into the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame in 2015 for the critically important work he’s done to ensure that wildlife flourish in Montana. He serves on the Montana Wildlife Federation board of directors.
Kathy Hundley is a substitute school teacher who lives in Darby and often rides horses and mules in the Blue Joint and Sapphire Wilderness Study Areas.
Former publisher of the Lewistown News-Argus, Dave currently serves as a Lewistown city commissioner and is involved in local economic development and improvement efforts. He hikes, leads tours and spends time with his family in the Big Snowies Wilderness Study Area.