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Pine Creek Lake. Photo by Walker Stole
Feb 24 2021

A Bad Bill for Wilderness Study Areas

The Montana Legislature should drop SJ7 and support collaboration for WSAs

The Senate Natural Resources Committee is considering a top-down resolution recommending removing protection from the Hidden Pasture Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA).

Senate Joint Resolution 7 is the wrong way to manage wilderness study areas, and we urge the committee to withdraw the resolution and pursue collaborative approaches to managing wilderness study areas. 

Montanans have made it clear: top-down efforts like this are the wrong way to manage WSAs. Repeatedly, people across the state have rejected attempts to unilaterally remove WSA protections and have demanded significant opportunity for public input. This resolution cuts out those opportunities and deprives Montanans of the chance to provide input before management recommendations are made.

If your senator sits on the Senate Natural Resources Committee (don’t worry, we’ll tell you!), please email them today and ask them to withdraw this resolution. 

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This isn’t the first time the legislature has turned its attention to WSAs. 

Following a resolution passed by legislators in 2019, the legislature’s Environmental Quality Council spent 18 months and significant taxpayer dollars developing a report focusing on unique, local, and collaborative approaches to managing WSAs. During its process, the council gathered 136 pages of public testimony and heard from all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation. 

Ultimately, the bipartisan council approved the resolution by a unanimous 12-0 vote. The current legislature should honor the work and expense that went into the Environmental Quality Council’s report and commit to supporting the collaborative approaches that Montanans expect.

Embracing collaboration would align with the wishes of Montanans, who made it abundantly clear back in 2017 and 2018 that they have no patience for unilateral and top-down WSA management. At that time, Senator Steve Daines and then-representative Greg Gianforte introduced bills that sought to strip protections from over 800,000 acres of WSAs across Montana. Both bills failed after Montanans flooded public meetings, completed thousands of phone calls and emails, and signed petitions calling on Daines and Gianforte to abandon their top-down one-size-fits all bills.

We’re calling on the Montana Legislature to withdraw SJ7 and support collaborative approaches to managing wilderness study areas. I hope you’ll join us by emailing your senator today and asking them to defeat this resolution and pursue WSA management by inviting all Montanans to participate. 

 
Noah Marion
State Policy Director

Noah works to develop state-level policies to protect and enhance our public lands, waters, wildlife, and access to outdoor recreation. He works with elected officials and partners as MWA’s lobbyist in order to advance conservation priorities at the state legislature. He enjoys rafting, fly fishing, backcountry skiing, hiking, and road trips with his wife and two dogs.
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