Bullock Calls on Daines and Gianforte to Change Course on Wilderness Study Area Bills
Montana's governor is “particularly troubled by the lack of public engagement”
On Tuesday, Governor Steve Bullock sent a letter to Senator Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte addressing their legislation that would strip protection from 29 wilderness study areas (WSAs). He spoke for Montanans across the state who are disgruntled that Sen. Daines and Rep. Daines have refused to hold any public meetings or hearings before and after introducing bills that could open more than 800,000 acres of our wildest public lands to mining, oil and gas development, and expanded motorized use.
“I am particularly troubled by the lack of public engagement used to formulate these proposals,” Gov. Bullocks writes to the junior senator and congressman. “All Montanans value their public lands and have a stake in their future management. No matter how hard fought, our state’s citizens value the ability to gather around the table and advance solutions born of compromise and of collaboration.”
We can’t thank Gov. Bullock enough for listening to Montanans and standing up for collaboration, inclusiveness, and transparency in deciding how our wildest public lands will be managed for the long haul. After all, we rely on these lands for our drinking water, our vibrant fish and wildlife populations, and our $7 billion outdoor recreation economy. We also rely on these places – the Big Snowies, the Terry Badlands, Bitter Creek, the Centennials, the Sapphires, and the 24 other WSAs targeted in Sen. Daines’ and Rep. Gianforte’s legislation –for keeping our outdoor legacy alive. Montana wouldn’t be the state it is without that legacy.
The release of Gov. Bullock’s letter follows the release of an open letter that Our Land, Our Legacy has been asking Montanans to sign over the past few months asking our entire Congressional delegation to take a bipartisan, balanced approach to resolving our WSAs and to engage the spectrum of people who benefit from, cherish, and use the WSAs, especially those who live near the WSAs.
Well over 2,000 of you signed this letter, as did 100 business, organizations, and elected officials.
If you haven’t signed the letter yet, you can still do so. If you did sign the letter, thank you.
“All Montanans value their public lands and have a stake in their future management.... Our state’s citizens value the ability to gather around the table and advance solutions born of compromise and of collaboration.”
- Governor Steve Bullock
A growing number of local governments have also recently sent Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte letters asking them to take a different approach to the future management of Montana’s WSAs, an approach that includes public input from a diversity of stakeholders. Anaconda-Deerlodge County, Whitefish, Missoula County, and Butte–Silver Bow are four of the most recent commissions to send such a letter.
These letter, Governor Bullock’s letter, and the 2,000-plus signatures on the Our Land, Our Legacy letter no doubt reflect a recent poll showing that Montanans overwhelmingly oppose that approach Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte are taking towards resolving our WSAs.
Sponsored by Montana Wildlife Federation and conducted by Public Policy Polling on February 14 and 15, the poll shows:
- 85 percent of Montanans say that members of Congress should hold in-person town hall meetings to hear from their constituents about land management issues. Nine percent say they shouldn’t.
- 75 percent of Montanans are more likely to support a national forest management plan developed through a collaborative approach that seeks input from many different communities and types of people.
- 64 percent say protecting some public lands in Montana as Wilderness is more of a good thing than a bad thing. 26 percent think it’s more of a bad thing.
- 71 percent say that protecting some public lands in Montana for wildlife habitat and non-motorized use has been more of a good thing for the state.
The poll strongly suggest that Montanans expect to have a say on how our public lands are going to be managed, and they certainly want protection as one of the management options for our wildest public lands.
Governor Bullocks says it best in his letter to Sen. Daines and Rep Gianforte:
“I have great confidence that the lands in question are big enough to accomodate the many diverse perspectives across the state, while still affording future Montanans some measure of say in the acess and conservation of their public lands heritage. Including the diverse perspectives of Montanans in an open, transparent, and inclusive dialogue should be a first step in crafting any legislation that aims to resolve these issues."
- John Todd, MWA conservation director