FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Threat to Montana’s Wilderness

Beartooth Wilderness. Photo: George Wuerthner.

Wilderness and wildlife define the character of Montana. If you were to ask people what comes to mind when you mention Montana, they are likely to say Glacier or Yellowstone national park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness, charismatic wildlife like grizzlies and wolves, and trout streams like the Upper Yellowstone or Madison rivers.

So it is beyond comprehension why U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte would seek to strip Wilderness Study Area (WSA) status from nearly 800,000 acres of wild country.

These lands are the heart and soul of Montana. Places like the Big Snowies WSA by Lewistown, Blue Joint WSA by Darby, Sapphire Mountains WSA near Missoula, Middle Fork WSA by Great Falls, Terry Badlands WSA by Terry, Pryor Mountains WSA south of Billings, Bitter Creek WSA by Glasgow, Cow Creek WSA by Fort Benton, Ruby Mountains WSA by Dillon, Humbug Spires WSA by Butte, among others. Indeed, nearly every Montana community has a WSA in the neighborhood.

These places represent the best features of Montana and if you live near any of these places, you understand how fortunate you are.

Numerous studies have documented that counties with protected landscapes tend to have higher employment, higher wages and overall better infrastructure than similar counties without such landscapes.

It’s well established that people choose to live in places with opportunities to visit protected areas. Footloose individuals move to communities near protected landscapes, bringing with them income earned elsewhere but spending it locally.

But it goes beyond economics or whether someone uses these places. These wildlands become part of the local identity. People like to know such untrammeled places exist even if they only go to the edge and gaze upon the beautiful landscapes. They are places where we look out on an expanse of undeveloped land and breath in the spaciousness.

Protecting wilderness is one of the “best” attributes of humanity. It demonstrates a respect for all life, and a willingness to share the Earth with others. Wilderness designation is also the “gold standard” for conservation. There is no better way to preserve wild nature.

The worse aspect of Daines and Gianforte’s proposed legislation is that it was developed without any significant public input. At the very least, Montanans should be permitted to speak about the love they have for these landscapes.

Montanans have a chance to demonstrate our own best character defined by restraint and humidity by supporting the continued protection of these lands as wild places. Hopefully, Daines and Gianforte will listen.

More articles by:

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy. He serves on the board of the Western Watersheds Project.

November 19, 2018
David Rosen
Amazon Deal: New York Taxpayers Fund World Biggest Sex-Toy Retailer
Sheldon Richman
Art of the Smear: the Israel Lobby Busted
Chad Hanson
Why Trump is Wrong About the California Wildfires
Dean Baker
Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?
Robert Fisk
We Remember the Great War, While Palestinians Live It
Dave Lindorff
Pelosi’s Deceptive Plan: Blocking any Tax Rise Could Rule Out Medicare-for-All and Bolstering Social Security
Rick Baum
What Can We Expect From the Democrat “Alternative” Given Their Record in California?
Thomas Scott Tucker
Trump, World War I and the Lessons of Poetry
John W. Whitehead
Red Flag Gun Laws
Newton Finn
On Earth, as in Heaven: the Utopianism of Edward Bellamy
Robert Fantina
Shithole Countries: Made in the USA
René Voss
Have Your Say about Ranching in Our Point Reyes National Seashore
Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail