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Feb 02 2018

Fighting for Wilderness Since ‘58

MWA is celebrating its 60th anniversary, but we’re not ready to party just yet

Around MWA, Featured

In 2018, MWA is turning 60. We’ve seen a lot in our six decades leading the fight for Montana’s wild places, but we’re still feeling pretty spunky - maybe it has something to do with all the cake we just ate. 

While we’ll never be shy about celebrating everything we’ve achieved in the last sixty years, the challenges we’ve faced in the last year top just about everything we’ve encountered. The threats to wilderness study areas (WSAs), national monuments, and wilderness areas themselves don’t show any signs of slowing down. In the coming year, we need to grow stronger than ever. We need to take the movement for public lands and wild places to every corner of the state, from the halls of the capitol to the corners of the Kootenai and the eastern prairies. 

Don’t get the idea that we’re not already working our butts off to do just that. We’ve already mounted a successful defense of national monuments, and we’ve established partnerships and coalitions across the state, from the Gallatin Range to the Kootenai National Forest to the Mission Mountains, Scapegoat, and Bob Marshall wilderness areas. 

The great part of these projects is that they all have broad support from recreationists, businesses, and local leaders. The trouble is that some of our elected officials are ignoring the people they’re meant to serve.

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Wilderness has been central to the Montana way of life for centuries. It's up to us to keep it that way.

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So, for our 60th birthday, here’s what we’re asking for: the help, participation, and commitment of each and every one of you. We need to crank up the momentum and make the power of our movement clear to the people and politicians of Montana. We need to put pressure on our elected officials. We need to recruit friends to the wilderness cause. We need to spread the word at farmers markets and friends’ houses, trailheads and tourist hotspots. We need to organize community events. We need to swing pulaskis and build new trails. We need to cook for trail builders. We need to get the word on social media using #keepitwild and #wildmt. We need to give generously. We need to be leaders in our neighborhoods, our communities, and our regions. 

In 1958, Ken and Florence Baldwin organized their neighbors into a group dedicated to preserving wilderness and influencing public lands policy in Montana. Six years later, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the fledgling MWA, the Wilderness Act was passed, and with a stroke of a pen the Bob Marshall, Anaconda-Pintler, Cabinet Mountains, Gates of the Mountains, and some 50 other areas across the country were preserved as wilderness. 

While the Wilderness Act made it official, wilderness has been central to the Montana way of life for centuries. There are some, however, who’d see that heritage forgotten in favor of short-sighted development and political expediency. It’s our responsibility to ensure that doesn’t happen, and that our irreplaceable wildlands aren’t lost forever.    

That’s why we’re asking you to take up the fight to help defend our wild places. There will be plenty of opportunities throughout the year for you to get involved in ways that makes sense for you. There will be plenty more 60th anniversary content, too, including a way for you to pledge to take action in 2018. Make sure you’re checking What’s New and following MWA on Facebook and Instagram so you don’t miss out on any of the goods - there might even be an occasional contest or giveaway. 

And, since our 60th is something of a celebration, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one more thing: get outside and enjoy it all! Whether you’re a backpacker, a hunter, a biker, an angler, a skier, a horseman, a climber, a photographer, go explore our public lands, take joy in what you find there, and don’t forget what makes our wild and untamed places so worth fighting for. 

- Ben Gabriel, MWA executive director