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May 08 2013

Update from Executive Director

MWA Executive Director Brian Sybert's update on what's going on around the organization

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Spring has arrived in its usual dramatic fashion here in Montana, bringing with it snow, sleet, wind, and sunshine—sometimes all at once. Recently I have been enjoying ice-free trails on Mount Helena and watched Mountain Bluebirds staking out their territory amongst the trees. Slowly and steadily, the earth is waking from its winter slumber, bringing with it a welcome transition to the glory of springtime in the Rockies.

Montana Wilderness Bills Reintroduced

Thanks to your support, change is also underway in Montana's political and legislative arena, a sure sign that we are making solid progress towards protecting the wild places you love in Montana.

I'm pleased to tell you both Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S.B. 37) and the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S.B. 364) were recently reintroduced into the 113th Congress. Both bills will likely be heard by the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this spring and could move to the Senate floor for a vote as part of a package of conservation bills by summer.

Both U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) have made it clear that these bills are a top legislative priority this year. By mobilizing vocal grassroots support from influential constituencies, the Montana Wilderness Association has played a key role in providing our Senators with the political support necessary to steadily move both bills through Congress.

MWA is also working hard to make sure that our campaign is having an impact in the U.S House of Representatives as well. Even before the new session of Congress began in January, Montana's newly elected Congressman, Steve Daines (R-MT) had been hearing repeatedly from a broad range of citizens who want both Montana wilderness bills enacted into law.

On April 3rd, Congressman Daines held a public listening session in the small town of Choutea to hear how Montanan’s feel about the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. MWA seized the opportunity to mobilize citizens and give them the opportunity to respectfully tell Congressman Daines that the public overwhelmingly supports permanent protection of the Rocky Mountain Front. More than 200 people turned out, and supporters of the legislation to protect the Front outnumbered detractors three to one. Unfortunately, due to to time constraints, not everyone had a chance to make their voice heard. Of those who did, 17 were in favor of the Heritage Act and eight were opposed. According to the signup sheet, 51 of the 69 people who had signed up to speak indicated they were in favor of the Heritage Act. Thank you to Congressman Daines for his sincere interest in wanting to hear what Montanan’s think about the Heritage Act.

Prairie Wildlands

In recent weeks, the Bureau of Land Management released three separate draft resources management plans that will determine the future of approximately 5.5 million acres of sweeping prairie, buttes and badlands lands in eastern Montana. In our view, hundreds of thousands of acres of these lands qualify for wilderness protection. Wildlife ranging from elk to sage grouse to prairie dogs depend on these landscapes for their survival. Without vocal advocates such as MWA, these precious wild prairies will likely be lost to either neglect or development.

To ensure these wild prairies remain a defining place in Montana’s natural heritage, MWA is proud to announce the opening of a new field office in Billings. Cameron Sapp, MWA's new Prairie Wildlands Coordinator, will be working from this office and teaming up with MWA veteran Mark Good to build support for collaborative conservation solutions that protect the wild prairie while ensuring that rural communities and agriculture remain viable.

As of this writing, Good and Sapp are mobilizing members across eastern Montana to attend upcoming public meetings on the draft resource management plans and generate media stories for local newspapers about the importance of these prairie lands for wildlife and the human spirit.

MWA’s Annual Gathering

To celebrate our Prairie Wildlands Campaign, MWA's Annual Gathering will be held in Billings on May 17th-19th at the beautiful DanWalt Gardens. Michael Forsberg, author of Great Plains – America’s Lingering Wild: A photographer’s journey exploring struggle and hope on the prairie will be the keynote speaker.  For more information about this year’s annual gathering, please visit our Annual Gathering page.

Thank you

Your support makes it possible for MWA to bring people together and create a prevailing bipartisan force for the conservation of the lands that define Montana’s wild natural heritage. Together, I'm confident we will be bringing new wilderness protections to Montana in the near future. Stay tuned!

Warmest regards,

 

Brian Sybert
Executive Director