Tag Archives: wilderness study areas

‘Our land, our legacy’ campaign launches

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

A message from our friends at the Montana Wilderness Association…

On Monday morning, February 5, we helped launch the campaign for our Our Land, Our Legacy – a diverse group of Montanans from across the state who have come together to celebrate and defend Montana’s 44 wilderness study areas (WSAs), which comprise more than 1 million acres of Montana’s wildest, most pristine public lands.

Five of our wilderness study areas, a half-million acres in all, are under attack by Senator Steve Daines, who introduced a bill in December (S. 2206) that would open these areas to oil and gas development and destructive off-road vehicle use.

Each of the folks featured in Our Land, Our Legacy has a special relationship to one or more of the WSAs and can speak on behalf of these places like few others. We’re proud to have them as our partners in fighting tooth and nail for Montana’s wildest, most pristine public lands.

The launch of Our Land, Our Legacy drew a wave of media, locally and nationally, from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to the Ravalli Republic to U.S News & World Report. On Tuesday, Our Land, Our Legacy advertisements opposing Sen. Daines’ bill appeared in newspapers across the state.

Then on Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (SENR) held a hearing on the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, which would add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness Areas. With support from a spectrum of interests, from timber to outdoor recreation to conservation, this proposal is truly the product of grassroots collaboration happening in Montana, and it shows in the 74 percent approval it gets from Montanans. We couldn’t be more grateful to Senator Jon Tester for championing this bill.

The grassroots, bipartisan roots of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act stands in stark contrast to the other Montana public lands bill that got a hearing in the SENR on Wednesday – Sen. Daines’ WSA bill. In the hearing, Sen. Daines claimed he had the support of Montana’s communities for this top-down, one-size-fits-all bill.

Only a few hours later at a Ravalli County Commission meeting in Hamilton, Montana, MWA members proved Sen. Daines wrong.

Oh so wrong.

Thanks to the mobilizing efforts of our staff and volunteers, around 250 people showed up to the open meeting, held to address a letter the commission sent to Senator Daines in support of stripping protection from two of the WSAs in the bill – Sapphire and Blue Joint, which mostly lie in Ravalli County.

A staggering 153 people signed into the county meeting as opposed to Senator Daines’ bill, only 41 in support. Over the course of the next few hours, 52 people testified against the bill, 20 in favor. Moreover, 78 people sent the commission emails opposing the bill, compared to 20 in favor.

Read more about the meeting.

Please take a moment to visit the Our Land, Our Legacy website. Be sure to watch the video featuring some of the Our Land, Our Legacy spokespeople, and then sign the letter asking Montana’s congressional delegation to take a more balanced and inclusive approach to Montana’s WSAs.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, let the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee know that you oppose Sen. Daines’ bill, S. 2206. You can email the committee at fortherecord@energy.senate.gov.

 

ALERT: Tell Sen. Daines to stand up for our values

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

Two important bills will receive a hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday, February 7.  Senator Steve Daines is a member of this committee.

Please call Senator Daines’ office today at (202) 224-2651.

(1)  Ask Senator Daines to SUPPORT S. 507, the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act.

This bill is the result of an agreement reached by a diversity of citizens—mill owners, snowmobilers, mountain bikers, backcountry horsemen, business owners, and conservationists.  The bill meets the needs of these diverse forest users, while designating 80,000 acres of new wilderness and solving many other business and recreation problems.  Senator Tester proposed this citizen-developed legislation while Senator Daines has refused to endorse it even though 3 out of 4 Montanans support the bill.  Let Senator Daines know that he needs to co-sponsor this made-in-Montana legislation.

(2)  Ask Senator Daines to OPPOSE S. 2206, which will end protection of many of Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas.

This bill, introduced by Senator Daines, represents the biggest rollback of protected public land in Montana’s history.  Not a single public hearing was held before crafting this legislation affecting almost half of million acres of some of most remote and beautiful public lands in our state, including Big Snowies, Middle Fork Judith, West Pioneers, Sapphire Mountains, and the Blue Joint.  Rather than save these lands for future generations to enjoy in their wild state, this legislation could open them for mining, drilling, or destructive development.  Ask Senator Daines to withdraw his support for this bill and allow citizens to have a voice in what happens in our wilderness study areas.

Thanks for your support of NFPA.

Warm Regards,

Debo Powers, NFPA President

John B. Sullivan III: Many Montanans rely on wilderness study areas

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

A balanced, thoughtful op-ed on wilderness study areas by John B. Sullivan III, board chairman of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers . . .

Montana U.S. Sen. Steve Daines surprised Montanans by introducing the deceptively named Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act that would put nearly half a million acres of prime public lands in Montana at risk of development and exploitation.

Montana’s Wilderness Study Areas were identified 40 years ago as special, wild places, worthy of careful management. They vary greatly in habitat, ecosystems, and recreational offerings. A blanket policy applied across diverse areas is never good management. We therefore oppose Daines’ one-size-fits-all plan.

Many WSAs are overdue for action, and we’re not opposed to revisiting and finalizing management plans. But forcing a top-down and broad-brush approach to managing lands that haven’t been studied in decades is irresponsible.

Review should start with local, thoughtful and diverse discussions involving various stakeholders. Daines didn’t hold a single public meeting or ask for input from Montanans about these WSAs. His proposal not only ignores local input, which, apparently, is important to Daines only when it suits his needs; it also selects areas attractive to special interest development and resource extraction.

Many Montanans rely on WSAs. With his proposal Daines once again is ignoring those of us who value them to hunt, fish and reconnect with the landscape.

Senator Daines is sabotaging our wild legacy

Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana - photo by Zack Porter
Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area in western Montana – photo by Zack Porter

From Debo Powers, NFPA President: Conservation organizations around Montana are organizing opposition to Senator Daines’ bill to release Wilderness Study Areas for multiple use. This is an attack on our wild heritage and will be met with fierce opposition. Here is a blog written by John Todd, the Conservation Director for the Montana Wilderness Association . . .

Today, Sen. Daines sabotaged Montana’s wild legacy

He introduced a bill that would strip protection from nearly a half-million acres of our wildest and most pristine public lands. And he did so without holding a single public meeting or a single town hall for Montanans to discuss his bill.

His bill would remove protection from five wilderness study areas (WSAs): West Pioneer (151,000 acres), Blue Joint (32,500 acres), Sapphire (94,000), Middle Fork Judith (81,000), and Big Snowies (91,000).

If this bill were to pass, it would represent the single biggest loss of protected public lands in our state’s history.

Read more . . .

Action needed: Daines’ bill would remove wilderness study protection from 449,500 acres!

Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area - photo by Sally Carlson
Kent Peak in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area – photo by Sally Carlson

With no consultation or other public input, Montana’s Senator Daines has introduced a bill to remove protections from five Wilderness Study Areas in Montana totaling 449,500 acres.

The threatened areas are: West Pioneer (151,000 acres), Blue Joint (32,500 acres), Sapphire (94,000), Middle Fork Judith (81,000), and Big Snowies (91,000).

Please take just a few moments to call Sen. Daines and give him an ear-full at

1-855-297-9453

Press coverage: Bill would remove wilderness protections… (Daily Inter Lake)

Wilderness study areas stir lively debate in hearing

Big Therriault Lake - Kootenai National Forest
Big Therriault Lake – Kootenai National Forest

Rep. Kerry White’s House Joint Resolution 9 drew plenty of fire at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing last Monday . . .

Advocates for releasing Montana’s wilderness study areas to multiple use argued at a state legislative hearing that 40 years was long enough to wait for a decision.

But those in favor of wilderness protection pointed Monday to several errors in Rep. Kerry White’s House Joint Resolution 9, and claimed the lands had more value for outdoor recreation than timber harvest.

Read more . . .

A response to Senator Daines’ resource development letter

Sen. Daines wrote Montanans on December 19, 2014 asking for feedback on “what Congress should do to increase development of traditional and renewable resources in our state while ensuring we remain good stewards of the environment.”  He also sought feedback on what to do about Montana Wilderness Study Areas. Signed by six prominent conservation groups, the following level-headed response was sent to him last Friday. It’s a lengthy letter, but worth the read. (It is also available for download as a PDF.)

LETTER TO SENATOR DAINES ON ENERGY POLICY AND WSAs

January 23, 2015

The Honorable Steve Daines
US Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Daines:

We the undersigned groups are sending this letter in response to your December 19 letter seeking feedback on “what Congress should do to increase development of traditional and renewable resources in our state while ensuring we remain good stewards of the environment.” While we appreciate your effort to seek Montanans’ input, we were discouraged by the one-sided framing of issues in your letter. Presenting current government policies as outdated, burdensome and placing severe limits on all energy development does not accurately describe the status quo in our view, nor is this extreme characterization likely to bring diverse Montanans together behind the “balanced solutions” your letter seeks.

Indeed, Montanans across the political spectrum value outdoor spaces and public lands that preserve our natural heritage and enhance our recreation economy, while also promoting responsible resource extraction. The debate on energy and public lands in Montana has progressed beyond the either/or choice between fossil fuel extraction or conservation and recreation. A 2014 Conservation in the West poll confirms this shift, a majority of Montana voters believe we need a balanced approach between energy development and conservation on public lands compared to 27% who think public lands energy development should be strictly limited and 20% who think public lands should be generally open to drilling.

Since your letter specifically requested perspectives on possible release of Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs), we wanted to make sure you are also aware of the consistent and broad support in the state for our wildest lands. Montanans are outdoors people who are proud of our protected Wilderness Areas — from the Bob Marshall to the Cabinets, Rattlesnake and Beartooth Plateau. In the June 2014, University of Montana state wide poll, 78% of respondents said permanently protecting some public lands in Montana as Wilderness has been a good thing for the state. While 51% support designating additional lands as Wilderness, that support level jumped to 66% in the poll if those designations are “crafted here in Montana with community input and the support of local groups.”

Continue reading A response to Senator Daines’ resource development letter