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Photo by Patrick Colleran
Dec 20 2017

This One’s For You

On Tuesday, our members, supporters, and partners in Granite County stood up for wilderness study areas in a big way

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Sometimes holiday cheer pops up where you least expect it. Yesterday, it decided to make an appearance in Granite County. On short notice, MWA’s members and supporters mobilized and proved the power of grassroots advocacy.

Tuesday marked the year-end meeting of the Granite County Commission, and one of the items on the agenda was an ostensible rubber-stamp endorsement of SB 2206, Senator Daines’ bill to remove protection from five of Montana’s wilderness study areas (WSAs) - Big Snowies, West Pioneer, Blue Joint, Sapphire, and Middle Fork Judith.

Supporters of Montana’s wild places, however, didn’t make it easy.

What we thought was going to be an open-and-shut case was thrown into disarray when over a dozen opponents of SB 2206 from Granite County attended the meeting to voice their opposition, compared to just a few supporters. It was quite a turnout for a little conference room, and it’s a perfect example of what happens when Montanans are excluded from decisions affecting our public land – which is exactly what Sen. Daines has done with SB 2206.

The commission quickly realized that it couldn’t support a bill that so clearly left out the voices of their constituents. They learned that WSAs are too complex for this top-down edict. Instead of writing a letter of support, the commissioners opted to submit a letter to Sen. Daines saying, in effect, a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work for Montana’s WSAs or for Montanans. Each area has a unique character that requires individual evaluation. The commission also made clear that the public has a role to play in the process moving forward and offered to host a public meeting for Granite County residents.

Showing up matters, and friends of the Sapphires WSA really felt that yesterday. The fight isn’t over, though. We have to seize opportunities like the proposed public meeting for the Sapphires WSA, and keep the momentum going in the fight for our wild places.

A big thank you also goes out to chapters of Back Country Horsemen of Montana (BCHMT) who sent out action alerts on Monday and mobilized members to show up at the commission meeting. We also want to applaud the Granite County Commissioners for listening to their constituents, as that is governing at its best.

It was a proud day for wild places, and given the passion and commitment of MWA’s members and supporters, there will surely be more such days coming. 

If you haven’t already, be sure to call Sen. Daines at 1-855-297-9453 to voice your opposition to SB 2206. 

- Sally Cathey, MWA southwest Montana field director