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Nov 27 2018

Why I’m Thankful for Public Lands This Holiday Season

This #GivingTuesday, I hope you'll join me in giving back to the public lands that give us so much


The freshly-cut Douglas fir cleared a wide path as my dad pulled it down the powdered trail. Late afternoon sunlight poked through the snow-laden branches as my mom, my wife, and I trailed behind him, laughing as we slipped and slid in the fresh tracks. 

My parents were in town, visiting from Philadelphia for Thanksgiving weekend. We’d been busy the past few days and had already hosted Thanksgiving at home in Helena, explored Butte and the semi-ghost town of Elkhorn, and driven down to Livingston and back so my parents could soak in Chico Hot Springs. 

But Sunday, their final full day in Montana before heading back east, was different. We took it slow. Chopped some firewood. Decorated our cabin. Went to Blackfoot River Brewing Company for a beer. Cooked a nice, light dinner. 

And, most importantly of all, hunted for our Christmas tree. 

My wife and I live in Unionville, a small town just south of Helena, on property that abuts The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. For the two of us, accessing Montana’s public lands is as simple as walking out our front door and up a trail that begins in our backyard. It was along this path that we took my parents, searching for the perfect tree with Forest Service tree tag and bowsaw in hand. Luckily for us, we were spoiled for choice and easily found a nice, bushy Douglas fir with a wide, solid base and a dense, brushy top. Together, my dad and I cut it down, affixed the tree tag to its trunk, and hauled it back down the hill to the cabin. 

The whole time we were out hunting for a tree, my parents kept commenting about how lucky we were to have the opportunity to do this our own: the chance to just step out into our backyard, hike around our public lands, and find the perfect Christmas tree. My mom joked about the Charlie Brown-sized Christmas trees that sell, off a lot, for almost $100 back where they live. Today, all we had to do was pay $5 for a tree tag and find our own. 

This Tuesday, November 27, is Giving Tuesday. It’s a worldwide event - the biggest charitable giving day of the year - and it makes me think about what my parents said about our outdoor opportunities here in Montana. We live in, work in, and visit a state in which these experiences are commonplace. Our public lands are a way for us to reconnect, not just with the wild world, but our family and friends. 

They’re where some of our most amazing memories are forged. 

So today, on Giving Tuesday, take a minute to think about those quiet moments you’ve had with your families on Montana’s public lands. The laughter, sense of adventure, and quiet serenity that come with exploring your own public backyard. 

And please, consider a gift today, this Giving Tuesday, to ensure that these opportunities continue.

Give Now

Thanks, and happy holidays. 

- Mike Rooney, MWA development manager of outreach