Sen. Tester’s Wilderness Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough

The Blackfoot River. Photo: George Wuerthner.

There appears to be strong business support for Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (BCSA).  What stewardship? Imagine Tester as the head servant of business, the steward who collects rents and dispenses government (subsidies) provisions.

Paid pollsters with their surveys tell us it is a good thing. Businessmen looking for government handouts tell us the same fairy tale.  Yard signs in the well-healed, “smart” parts of university towns – “donor-class” neighborhoods — reinforce this narrow-minded, virtue-signaling, herd mentality. Tester’s collaborators pontificate, regurgitate.  It must be so. But is it so?

“Stakeholders” (vested financial interests) proclaim their alleged “…love our mountains, valleys, rivers, fish, wildlife, and everything else available on our public lands.”  The difference between “love” and “available” is the difference between loving one’s spouse infinitely and loving a young beauty rented from an escort service for a one-night stand. Or if it is love, it is the kind that sentimentalizes desire and calls it love, where love is reduced to pity and an unconscious desire for exploitation.

“Outdoor” businesses have one primary objective: Exploit the outdoors for financial gain. Love of money comes first.  A cynical, authoritarian, use-and-abuse philosophy resonates among businessmen. Legislating commercial opportunity and government-sponsored jobs is music to ears of unrepentant money-worshipers. Using public funds to prop up unprofitable private enterprise is a lose-lose proposition unless you’re a Washington politician looking to buy a few votes.

“The first duty of love is to listen,” said Christian theologian Paul Tillich.  Who is listening to wildlife and native trout populations being pushed to the brink of extinction by outdoor business interests, sawmill owners, miners, livestock and farming operations and land speculators?

All these proud supporters of Sen. Tester’s legislation want to dictate terms and conditions that make forests uninhabitable for many native wildlife species. Who is listening?  Propaganda makes claims that the BCSA would protect the Blackfoot region’s most beloved and celebrated values. These claims mock nature’s mysteries and treasures.  Land speculators could care less about the collateral damage which fragments and destroys the integrity of the habitat. These pro-business “movers and shakers” lack basic human integrity. They aren’t listening to the countless species facing homelessness as a result of permanent loss of habitat legislated by the BCSA.

The 80,000 acres Tester’s bill designates as wilderness is an amputation which represents a small fraction of the much greater de facto wilderness that exists today.  The wilderness character of the landscape would persist indefinitely if Tester and his business supporters would just leave well enough alone.

No “new wilderness” will be designated.  There is no new wilderness.  Wilderness exists by the creator’s hand.  It is destroyed by man.  When man talks about creating new wilderness, it’s “happy-talk,” a common ploy to fool people into supporting less wilderness, never more. Montanans are being fooled by Tester and his business buddies.  What does turning a fast buck have to do with love, truth, or moral responsibility to protect clean water and native fish and wildlife habitat?  Absolutely nothing.

This cynical wilderness “stewardship” narrative, born of deceit and propaganda, and repeated since the 1970s, is a total lie without end.  Tester’s bill is landscape amputation (fragmentation) without anesthesia. Fragmented landscapes expose wildlife to more harassment, poaching, trapping, and poisoning or assassination by government agents.

Do your own research.  Think and observe for yourself.  Do what’s right for wilderness, water, fish and wildlife, reject the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.  Consider instead supporting the maximum-wilderness alternative, The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Act.  It protects all roadless areas and biological connecting corridors needed for wildlife movement and habitat security.

Steve Kelly is a an artist and environmental activist. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.