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In early March, 14 prominent conservation leaders, including retired Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth, retired regional forester John Mumma, former congressman Pat Williams, longtime outfitter Smoke Elser, and Jim Posewitz, president of Orion, The Hunter's Institute, urged Montana's congressional delegation to stop stonewalling make introducing and passing a statewide Wilderness bill a "top priority." In response, the delegation did what they've been doing for years. Nothing. A few weeks later, conservation leader George Wuerthner actually presented a detailed list of areas that should be in a statewide wilderness bill. In response, more nothing. Now, Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Congressman Dennis Rehberg have received another call for more Wilderness, this time from several prominent business people who want more Wilderness in northwest Montana because it creates jobs and is good for business. Will they get the same response? Or will Wilderness becoming a pro-business mission do what it takes to get our delegation off the dime?

Business People Call for More Wilderness in Northwest Montana

In early March, 14 prominent conservation leaders, including retired Forest Service chief Dale Bosworth, retired regional forester John Mumma, former congressman Pat Williams, longtime outfitter Smoke Elser and Jim Posewitz, president of Orion, The Hunter’s Institute, urged Montana’s congressional delegation to stop stonewalling make introducing and passing a statewide Wilderness bill a “top priority.”

In response, the delegation did what they’ve been doing for years. Nothing.

A few weeks later, conservation leader George Wuerthner actually presented a detailed list of areas that should be in a statewide wilderness bill.

In response, more nothing.

Now, Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Congressman Dennis Rehberg have received another call for more Wilderness, this time from several prominent business people who want more Wilderness in northwest Montana because it creates jobs and is good for business.

Will they get the same response? Or will Wilderness becoming a pro-business mission do what it takes to get our delegation off the dime?

“In our area, a lot of people move here for the quality of life,” Edwin Fields, a building contractor from Whitefish, told NewWest.Net. In a phone interview, “and they build houses when they get here. People move here because of our wilderness and hire people like me to build houses and create jobs.”

Fields believes “a number of other builders” share his viewpoint. “I’ve often heard that business people aren’t conservationists, but that’s not true. Many of us are conservation-minded. People want to integrate the way they live with the natural environment, which is why wilderness is so important to our area.”

Nowadays, it seems all we hear from our delegation is jobs, jobs, jobs, so this letter should pique their interest. “I see more wilderness as a way to create more jobs,” Fields emphasized. “They go together.”

“In Northwest Montana we have many irreplaceable wildlands that are every bit as deserving of wilderness protection as the Bob Marshall or Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Areas,” agrees Carol Blake a real estate broker from Eureka. “In fact, many of these lands are used more on a day to day basis by local people than the Bob, which means they’re incredibly valuable to local communities.”

Blake, Fields and the other business people signing the letter supported the earlier letter sent by 14 conservation leaders, but asked for more focus on wilderness issues in northwest Montana, particularly for areas such as the Scotchman Peaks, Mount Henry, Great Burn, Cube Iron, Ten Lakes, Swan Crest and several other wildlands.

Among the 21 signatories, all long-time residents of northwest Montana, on the letter were former state senators George Darrow of Bigfork and Dan Weinberg of Whitefish, Thompson Falls city councilman Mark Sheets, Trout Creek building contractor Doug Ferrell, Condon millworker Mike McGrew, Whitefish doctor Ron Miller, Lindbergh Lake developer Tom Giles, and Buckskin Clothier of Kalispell owner Elaine Snyder.

“Times have changed,” Fields said. “All of us agree that protecting Montana’s last wild places as wilderness is good for business. After 26 years, now is the time to act.”

“Establishing new wilderness areas under the National Wilderness Preservation System requires vision, decisive action and a willingness to recognize the inherent value of land in its natural state,” they wrote. “We ask that you support this–our vision–of wilderness.”

“Inevitably, the value of our wildlands grows more priceless, like any resource in short supply, with each passing year,” the letter concluded. “We believe in a bright and prosperous future. We firmly believe that Montana’s economic and cultural future requires we protect our remaining wildlands.”

Footnote: Click here for more on unprotected wildland in northwest Montana.

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10 comments

  1. Out of state Lindberg Lake “Developer”, and a McMansion Builder signing on to a Wilderness bill. These are the type of guys that have ruined Montana with their personal trophy homes and their projects in biologically sensitive areas through the development of pristine waterfront or large rural parcels that used to be defacto wilderness with public access. “I got my trophy home , I’m closing the gate and the taxpayer needs to buy all the land around me to protect my investment”. It’s a good racket they have going to create or preserve personal wealth.
    In the mean time, real wages are dropping at McGrew’s mill and the Swan and Whitefish have become a playground for the rich. Money, Power and Wilderness is the New West while the middle class heads toward extinction or worse becomes the boot kissing servant class of the elite.

  2. A letter and press release. And why am I not surprised to see Bosworth on this list? Another reason the Bush administration was such a disappointment.
    Diverse? Carol Blake, a realtor from California on the board of Headwaters along with Diverse Edwin and Diverse Dave Hadden, who I suppose signed the letter too but there’s no copy. And George Darrow (and his late spouse Elna) have been MWA for years. And Buckskin Elaine, Citizens for a Better Flathead donor?
    Never mind that the writer here is a long-time member of the MWA, even on the board of directors at some point?
    Real diverse.

  3. I agree, I believe Wilderness is good for business. And, maybe even more importantly, I believe Wilderness in many areas of MT is simply the right thing to do.

  4. More wilderness is always good. But in this case, I’d like to see a bill banning lake and riverfront development as well as McMansions to go along with it. However, I get the feeling some people won’t like that – even a few people who support wilderness. 😉

  5. SAVE THE YAAK!!! The area has some of the most important lands remaining in Montana which need to be protected before it’s too late. I love the Yaak as much as any place in the world but the unpleasant sight of clearcuts dominate the landscape.

    In a related issue we need to legalize hemp nationwide. Why? Because hemp can grow up to 20 feet in a single growing season yet we still harvest trees that are hundreds of year old for paper and tissue. The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper but yet in 1937 the marijuana prohibition began because of a jealous culture war to keep white women from hangin out with black jazz musicians and other artists. Please people, get on board with ending the senseless marijuana prohibition so that we can save our national forests nationwide!

  6. I agree that Northwestern Montana should have a good portion of Lincoln County delcared a Wilderness Area. I was born and raised northwest of Eureka and if we don’t save this area, it will soon be overpopulated with immigration and gone forever for our grandchildren.

  7. Save the Yaak, smoke pot. Is there a pattern here?

  8. No pattern here. I don’t smoke–I did as a youth but we do need to save some of the wilderness for the next generations of America. It takes a group effort on the part of many Montana citizens to pull this off. The areas I used to explore is now a golf course, surrounded by homesites for sale at prices most of us cannot afford. We are losing America slowly but surely.

  9. Yeah, and the mills your dad worked at are all dead, too. And lots of the trees are dead, too, even though no logger ever touched them. As for dying America, apparently you’re only interested in the landscape, and not the culture?

  10. Love it or leave it Skinner