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Mar 26 2020

Finding Solace in Public Lands

Our gratitude for our mountains, forests, and prairies has deepened. So has our resolve to protect them.

Last evening, after another day of working from my kitchen table in between helping my 8-year-old daughter with her homeschooling, my wife and I went for a walk with our daughter on the trails behind our house in Helena.  We saw lots of other families doing the same – taking comfort in the beauty and serenity that exist on our public lands.

In times like these, finding solace in our wild and public lands becomes exponentially more essential – for our physical health, our mental well-being, and for bringing us together as a community. Even if we aren’t able to get out on public lands right now, they can still offer us comfort and hope, through the memories we have of them and the joy of experiences to come.

To help tide you over during this period of physical distancing, I’d like to offer you a few ways to connect with our wilderness community, even if you’re not currently able to access public lands. You can join our Hike Wild Montana Facebook group and share photos and stories of the experiences you’ve had on our public lands. I’d also encourage you to follow us on Instagram for a daily dose of Montana at its most beautiful, and further explore our Wild Life blog, where you can revel in our public lands through story and image. 

In these difficult times, I’ve found myself reflecting on what matters most. I’ve been thankful for the love and support of my family and friends. And, perhaps like you, I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude for our public lands. I’m also filled with resolve for protecting them. 

That gratitude and resolve are something all of us at MWA are feeling right now.

While protecting the health of our families, friends, and communities is paramount right now, we cannot forget the wildlands that give us the refuge and hope we need now more than ever, because the threats to our public lands are undoubtedly continuing while local and national attention is focused elsewhere. 

Indeed, the pandemic hasn’t stopped the Interior Department and the Bureau of Land Management under Secretary Bernhardt from moving full steam ahead on oil and gas leasing, even in Montana.

That’s why we’re drawing the line on a management plan the BLM released last month that would open 95% of public lands in central Montana to oil and gas development. We launched an advertising campaign against that plan that calls on Sec. Bernhardt to respect Montana and restore true multiple use to our public lands. That campaign includes a TV commercial on Fox News, a radio spot airing across the state, two billboards in Billings, and extensive social media. 

We assure you that, while our world and our work may look a little different over the coming weeks and months, we will continue working tirelessly to protect the public lands and wild places we all love and rely upon. As critical decisions are made about the future of our public lands, such as the management plan for public lands in central Montana, MWA will be there to lift the voices of our members and speak out on behalf of the wildlands that make Montana so special.

We are still determining how the pandemic will affect MWA events and other activities for the foreseeable future, but we anticipate that increased global uncertainty will have a significant financial impact on our organization and could diminish the work we’re able to do defending and championing our wild public lands.

Any contribution you make will go a long way towards ensuring that we are able to defend the wildlands that restore and protect our health, provide us with the breathing room we need, and unite us all in the face of fear and uncertainty.

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Ben Gabriel
Executive Director

Ben develops MWA's organizational strategy and works with our grassroots community, partners, and board of directors to achieve MWA's mission and ensure our long-term health and effectiveness. He spends his time connecting to Montana's wild places and rivers by hiking, kayaking, and skiing with his wife, daughter, and dogs.
Email Ben