Memo to Tourists: Enjoy Montana, Don’t Destroy Montana

Photograph Source: PD-USGov-Interior-FWS – Public Domain

Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of the camping season in Montana. We are a state rich in natural assets already lost in most the nation, such as clear, clean and cold flowing streams filled with wild trout, forests and plains that still hold grizzly bears, mountain lions, elk, antelope and deer, and of course two premier national parks. It’s no wonder more than 10 million tourists visit our state annually, providing more than $7 billion to the economy. Montanans are legendary for their hospitality, but we also expect visitors to respect our state, follow our laws and rules and enjoy, not destroy, Montana.

It’s really easy to have a great time in Montana thanks to our abundant public lands and the resources they nourish. But our forests, plains and mountains are not “domesticated.” They maintain rare natural functioning ecosystems that can and have been impacted by human activities. Hence, it’s up to humans to be aware of their “footprint” — whether it’s an actual footprint or the impacts from their mechanized transportation.

A simple way to do this is by using “common sense.” Even if you’re on a tight vacation schedule, realize that Mother Nature calls the shots here. If the mountain bike or ATV trails are muddy after a recent rain or snow event, stay off of them — or leave your bike or ATV behind and go hiking instead. Why? Because when recreationists ride muddy trails the run-off goes inexorably downhill until it reaches a stream or river. There it will fall to the bottom and fill the interstices between the streambed’s rocks and suffocate the tiny aquatic insects that are the foundation of the riverine food pyramid. It can also kill any eggs or young fry in those tiny spaces between the rocks.

Likewise, if you’re here in the spring or fall when the trout are spawning, pay close attention to where you’re wading while fishing and avoid the cleared spaces on river bottoms, called redds, where trout lay their eggs. One angler walking through a redd can destroy most of the fragile eggs there, wiping out efforts to produce the next generation of wild trout. Speaking of which, please follow the regulations and limit your kill. And don’t crowd anglers on streams and rivers when fishing or floating — “elbow room” is cherished here and you won’t get a good response by intruding on others’ personal space.

When camping, follow the rules. If an area says “tents only” it means tents only. If it says “no open fires” it means just that, especially during our ever longer fire seasons when an errant spark can set wildfires in forests or plains. And of course, please don’t treat Montana’s parks or roadsides as garbage cans. Every year thousands of volunteers clean our roadsides of trash thoughtlessly thrown out of moving vehicles — and clean roadsides are a source of pride for our citizens.

Don’t ignore “no trespassing” signs or closed gates. Many who visit have no familiarity with livestock operations — or the sometimes fatal consequences from an open gate leading to a tragic collision with livestock on the roads.

Likewise, please don’t harass our wildlife. It’s against state law to allow your dog(s) to chase wildlife, especially when newborn fawns or calves are just wobbling around on unsteady legs.

Finally, you’ll get along a lot better in Montana if you treat Montanans with respect and courtesy. It’s easy to do since Montanans are easygoing people — and you’ll find the result is more than worth the effort.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

December 11, 2019
Vijay Prashad
Why the Afghanistan Papers Are an Eerie Reminder of Vietnam
Kenneth Surin
Australia’s Big Smoke
Sameer Dossani
Ideology or Popularity: How Will Britain Vote?
John W. Whitehead
Who Will Protect Us From an Unpatriotic Patriot Act?
Binoy Kampmark
Interference Paranoia: Russia, Reddit and the British Election
Scott Tucker
Sure, Impeach Trump, But Let’s be Honest
Nyla Ali Khan
Homogenizing India: the Citizenship Debate
Thomas Knapp
Congress: The Snail’s Pace Race
Shawn Fremstad
Modern Family Progressivism
Joseph Essertier
Julian Assange, Thanks for Warning Japanese About Washington
William Minter
How Africa Could Power a Green Revolution
December 10, 2019
Tony McKenna
The Demonization of Jeremy Corbyn
John Grant
American Culture Loves a Good Killer
Jacob Hornberger
Afghanistan: a Pentagon Paradise Built on Lies
Nick Licata
Was Trump Looking for Corruption or a Personal Favor?
Thomas M. Magstadt
What’s the Matter With America?
Brian Tokar
Climate Talks in Madrid: What Will It Take to Prevent Climate Collapse?
Ron Jacobs
Where Justice is a Game: Impeachment Hearings Redux
Jack Rasmus
Trump vs. Democracy
Walden Bello
Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics
Binoy Kampmark
A Troubled Family: NATO Turns 70
Brian Horejsi
Citizens Are Never Trusted
Michael Barker
Self-Defense in the Civil Rights Movement: the Lessons of Birmingham, 1963
John Feffer
Soldiers Who Fight War
Howie Wolke
Willingness to Compromise Puts Wilderness at Risk
December 09, 2019
Jefferson Morley
Trump’s Hand-Picked Prosecutor John Durham Cleared the CIA Once, Will He Again?
Kirkpatrick Sale
Political Collapse: The Center Cannot Hold
Ishmael Reed
Bloomberg Condoned Sexual Assault by NYPD 
W. T. Whitney
Hitting at Cuban Doctors and at Human Solidarity
Louisa Willcox
The Grizzly Cost of Coexistence
Thomas Knapp
Meet Virgil Griffith: America’s Newest Political Prisoner
John Feffer
How the New Right Went Global — and How to Stop It
Ralph Nader
Why Not Also Go With “The Kitchen Table” Impeachable Offenses for Removal?
Robert Fisk
Meet the Controversial Actor and Businessman Standing Up Against Egypt’s el-Sisi
M. K. Bhadrakumar
Sri Lanka Continues Its Delicate Dance With India
Dahr Jamail
Savoring What Remains: Dealing With Climate PTSD
George Wuerthner
Bison Slaughter in Yellowstone…Again
Scott Tucker
Premature Democratic Socialists: Reasons for Hope and Change
Julian Rose
Polish Minister of Health Proposes Carcinogenic 5G Emission Levels as National Norm
Dean Baker
Coal and the Regions Left Behind
Robert Koehler
Envisioning a United World
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?