Six Reasons to Celebrate 2020
This year has thrown us a lot of challenges – and brought a lot of conservation wins to be proud of
2020 has given us more than its fair share of grief.
And yet our public lands have held us together: Yours certainly wasn’t the only car at the trailhead, as so many of us sought solace in the outdoors.
Our wildlands have been there for us: a mountain to cry on, a tree to hug, a stream to lower the blood pressure.
And, thanks to you, MWA has been there for Montana’s outdoors, drumming up grassroots support, calling people to action, and amplifying your voice. Despite all odds, this hard work has resulted in win after win for wild public lands.
Celebrate 2020? Yes! Here’s why:
1. A safeguard for lynx
Just outside the Mission Mountains Wilderness is the most productive Canada lynx breeding ground in the Lower 48, and it’s unprotected. Female lynx feast on abundant snowshoe hares and rear kittens in high-quality dens. Via the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, we’re making progress to protect these mamas’ dens for years to come.
You helped us do the groundwork. More than 160 businesses and 3 in 4 Montanans now support this bill that would add 80,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Mission Mountains Wilderness, benefiting bull trout and westslope cutthroat spawning streams and grizzly bears’ moth-filled boulder fields. Thanks to your persistence, the bill got a Senate hearing in September, moving the bill closer to passage.
2. Funding for parks, trails, fishing access, and so much more
Five years ago, Sen. Steve Daines voted against the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), essential to just about everything we like to do on public lands – hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, you name it. Thanks to you, we held him accountable and pressured him to get behind LWCF. He eventually joined with Sen. Jon Tester in support, which resulted in passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and in full, annual funding of $900 million for LWCF. That funding will support state and city parks, trail systems, wildlife habitat, fishing access sites, and more.
3. Protection for the Crazy Mountains
Because of the complicated public/private checkerboard ownership of the Crazy Mountains, convincing the Forest Service to protect the Crazies from development and motorized use seemed like a longshot. But working in partnership with Apsáalooke (Crow) leaders, who have considered Awaxaawippíia (the Crow name for these mountains) sacred for centuries, we were able to convince the Forest Service to recommend 38,000 acres of wilderness and backcountry protection in its new Custer Gallatin Forest management plan and make sure the Crazies are managed in consultation with the Crow Tribe. And that was largely thanks to our members and supporters, who sent 775 comments urging these amazing outcomes in the forest plan revision.
4. A Lease-free Badger-Two Medicine
Back in the 1980s, the Department of the Interior illegally sold dozens of oil and gas leases up and down the Rocky Mountain Front. In partnership with the Piikuni (Blackfeet Nation) and other conservation groups, we’ve been doggedly getting rid of those leases ever since to keep roads and rigs out of the Badger-Two Medicine. In July, an appeals court upheld the cancellation of the final lease in the Badger-Two Medicine.
Not long after that court decision, Sen. Jon Tester introduced a bill to permanently protect the Badger-Two Medicine from industrial development and give the Blackfeet Tribe a significant role in helping determine how this area is managed.
5. Compelling the BLM to take better care of our public lands
For as little as $1.50, oil and gas companies can buy a lease for an acre of public land. This “noncompetitive oil and gas leasing” wastes taxpayer dollars intended for public lands, forcing the Bureau of Land Management to spend its precious resources managing bargain-basement leases rather than improving habitat for pronghorns, sage grouse, and elk or maintaining trails.
We’re leading the movement to put the public ahead of corporate speculation, activating our networks to get rid of this antiquated practice, and we’re already seeing progress: In July, Sen. Tester introduced a bill, called the Leasing Market Efficiency Act, that will put an end to noncompetitive leasing.
6. Preventing anti-public lands zealot from overseeing public lands
More than a year ago, William Perry Pendley became acting director of the Bureau of Land Management. Perry built his career advocating against public lands, the same lands he’s overseen at the helm of America’s largest public land management agency. In September, a Montana judge confirmed what we already knew: Pendley illegally directed the BLM. And because illegal directors make illegal decisions, the judge later nullified two management plans for more than 800,000 acres of BLM-managed lands in central and western Montana finalized during Pendley’s tenure, plans that prioritized development above everything else.
Our voices, together, are truly powerful even in times when it’s easy to feel powerless. Thanks to our movement today, my daughter, your children, and other future generations will have the chance to enjoy the wonders of a wilder world in Montana.
Amy is responsible for guiding and supporting our program work to protect more wilderness and defend our wild areas in Montana. Among other things, she enjoys exploring rivers and climbing high into remote mountains.