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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Mar 02 2018

Gianforte Follows Daines’ Lead and Shuts Montanans Out

Together they are waging the single biggest assault on public lands in Montana history

Alerts, Featured

Just when we thought the attacks on our most cherished public lands couldn’t get worse, yesterday Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced two bills that would open over 700,000 acres of public lands to hard-rock mining, oil and gas development, commercial logging, and motorized recreation. 

These two bills represent the biggest rollback of protected public lands in Montana history. Like Sen. Daines, Rep. Gianforte did not hold a single meeting or town hall before introducing these bills - shutting Montanans out from having a say on how they would like these places managed in the future.

One of Rep. Gianforte’s bills is a companion bill to Sen. Steve Daines’ S. 2206. It puts five wilderness study areas totaling 450,000 acres – including the Big Snowies, Middle Fork Judith, West Pioneers, Blue Joint, and Sapphire – on the chopping block. 

According to the press release Rep. Gianforte’s issued yesterday, his other bill “would release 24 Wilderness Study Areas, comprising over 240,000 acres, that the Bureau of Land Management found not suitable for wilderness designation by 1980.”

That statement appears to be inaccurate.

Portions of eight of the WSAs in his bill, totaling over 100,000 acres, have actually been found suitable by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for wilderness designation. 

Also, we tallied the total number of acres of all the WSAs in his bill. The number we arrived at is 366,452 acres.

It appears Congressman Gianforte hastily and irresponsibly included entire areas in his bill without acknowledging that one third of them have long been determined as suitable for wilderness by the BLM. Not only do his bills fail to include transparent public input, they fail to consider the unique circumstances of these diverse areas, including long-standing recognition of their wilderness character and suitability. 

Below is a list of all the WSAs included in Rep. Gianforte’s bill. Portions of the WSAs in bold have been found suitable for Wilderness protection. 

  • Axolotl Lake, in the Gravelly Range foothills, just south of Virginia City (7,804 acres)
  • Bell/Limekiln Canyons, near the Clark Canyon Reservoir in the Tendoy Mountains, southwest of Dillon (9,650 acres)
  • Henneberry Ridge, south of Bannack State Park near Dillon (9,806 acres)
  • Hidden Pasture Creek, in the Tendoy Mountains west of Dell (15,509 acres)
  • Twin Coulee, in the Big Snowy Mountains, southwest of Lewistown (6,836 acres)
  • Black Sage, in the south Elkhorn Mountain foothills near Boulder (5,917 acres)
  • Blacktail Mountains, south of Dillon (17,479 acres, 10,586 of which have been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Centennial Mountains, along the Idaho border and Continental Divide, south of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (27,691 acres, 23,054 of which have been suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • East Fork, Blacktail Deer Creek, in the Snowcrest Mountain foothills, southeast of Dillon (6,230 acres)
  • Farlin Creek, in the East Pioneer foothills, northwest of Dillon (1,139 acres, 610 acres of which have been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Ruby Mountains, east of Dillon (26,611 acres, 15,615 of which have been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Bitter Creek, north of Glasgow (59,660 acres)
  • Billy Creek, adjoining the south-central border of the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge southwest of Glasgow (3,450 acres)
  • Bridge Coulee, south of the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge along the Mussellshell River (5,900 acres)
  • Seven Blackfoot, adjoining the south-central portion of the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge southwest of Glasgow (20,250 acres, 5,710 of which has been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Terry Badlands, between Miles City and Glendive (44,910 acres, 33,024 of which have been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Hoodoo Mountain, between Drummond and Lincoln (11,380 acres)
  • Wales Creek, south of Ovando (11,580 acres)

Also included are six wilderness study areas located within the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument:

  • Antelope Creek (12,350 acres, 9,600 of which has been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Cow Creek (34,050 acres, 21,590 of which has been found suitable for Wilderness protection)
  • Dog Creek (5,150 acres)
  • Ervin Ridge (10,200 acres)
  • Stafford (4,800 acres)
  • Woodhawk (8,100 acres)

These places span the state, from the extreme southwest corner near Idaho to the northwest corner near Canada. They are essential for our fish and wildlife populations. They provide nearby communities with drinking water. They serve as the foundation of our $7 billion outdoor recreation economy. They also hold cultural resources that are invaluable to Native Americans.

By introducing these bills, Congressman Gianforte has joined Senator Daines in showing disdain for transparency, inclusiveness, and collaboration.

We’re not going to tolerate it.

Be sure to call Congressman Gianforte’s office at 1-855-935-3634 to let him know that you will not allow his assault on our public lands to stand. 

And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign the Our Land, Our Legacy letter, urging our entire congressional delegation to take a balanced, bipartisan, and collaborative approach to resolving the future of all of our wilderness study areas that includes the full spectrum of people who benefit from, use, and cherish them.

- John Todd, MWA conservation director