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Montana has some of the best spectacular unprotected wildlands left in the lower 48 states, but it lags behind other western states in the amount of land protected as designated wilderness. To catch up with our neighbors, Montana's delegation should abandon the piecemeal approach and recognize that passing a statewide wilderness bill is far overdue.

Montana’s Statewide Wilderness Bill Long Overdue

Montana has some of the best spectacular unprotected wildlands left in the lower 48 states, but it lags behind other western states in the amount of land protected as designated wilderness.

To catch up with our neighbors, Montana’s delegation should abandon the piecemeal approach and recognize that passing a statewide wilderness bill is far overdue.

For instance, California has 138 wilderness areas, covering than 14.3 million acres–more than 14 percent of the state. When the Omnibus Public Lands Bill before Congress passes, California will get another 700,000 acres of new wilderness areas. By contrast, Montana only has 15 wildernesses covering 3.4 million acres, or slightly less than 3.7% percent of the state.

Right now, the Forest Service controls more than six million roadless acres in Montana’s national forests. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manage hundreds of thousands more, all of which could potentially be added to the National Wilderness Preservation System.

Yet, for a host of unfortunate circumstances, the state has failed to see any new wilderness legislation passed for several decades. (For a map of Montana’s roaded and roadless terrain, click here.)

NREPA Is Our Best Option
The most comprehensive legislation dealing with Montana’s wildlands so far is the visionary Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA). The Alliance for Wild Rockies created NEPRA, in part, after the failure of several other statewide Montana wilderness bills to pass Congress or get a Presidential veto. NREPA takes a comprehensive approach to wildlands preservation and includes most of the larger unprotected roadless lands in the Northern Rockies, including Montana. (Click here for more details.)

While NREPA is the best wilderness legislation to ever be introduced, Congress may not be ready for the best. There are many obstacles to enactment, the least of which is that supporters must either convince the Congressional delegations from Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington, many of whom are hostile or luke-warm to wilderness preservation, to support this bill or garner enough votes from other House and Senate members to overrule the opposition from these delegates.

Also, some pro-wilderness groups do not support NREPA. I’m convinced if NREPA were enthusiastically endorsed and actively promoted by the entire environmental community, it could be enacted. Unfortunately, that widespread support has yet to materialize.

A Statewide Montana Wilderness Bill?
An alternative to NREPA is a state-specific approach to wilderness designation that focuses on passage of a Montana-only wilderness bill. Recently, there is a convergence in opinion that we need a statewide wilderness bill that can implement at least a portion of the NREPA vision for Montana. With the election of Barack Obama, the opportunity for passage of such a comprehensive state wide bill has never looked better than now.

What Would a statewide Montana Bill Contain?
If I were creating such a bill, I would, at a minimum, propose the following areas for potential wilderness designation. My proposal is only a starting point for discussion.

In the interest of brevity, I’ve left out many worthy smaller wildlands, included in NREPA, out of the following list, so if you want to see all the Montana wildlands that really could–and should–be protected, go to the Alliance for Wild Rockies website. http://www.wildrockiesalliance.org/

The following list only names the region and area. Click on the name of the area for more details such as size, location and amenities found in of each specific wildland.

At one time or another I have personally visited most of the areas, so I know they should become wilderness.

Northwest Montana
Northwest Peak, Buckhorn Ridge, Mount Henry, Robinson Mountain, Roderick Mountain, Cube Iron Silcox, Catarack Peak, Scotchman’s Peak, Trout Creek, Mount Bushnell, and additions to the existing Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

Bitterroot Divide Complex
Sheep Mountain/State Line, Great Burn, Bluejoint, Allan Mountain, and additions to the existing Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.

Upper Clark Fork Wildlands
Sapphire Mountains, Stoney Mountain, Quigg Peak, Flint Creek Ridge, and additions to the existing Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness.

Trans-Boundary Flathead Complex
Ten Lakes, and the North Fork Wildlands, (also known as Winton Weydemeyer),

Bob Marshall Complex
Swan Crest, Swan Front, Monture Creek, Rocky Mountain Front, and other additions to the existing Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Central Montana
Nevada Mountain, Electric Peak, Whitetail-Hay Stack, Elkhorn Mountains, Camas Creek, Baldy Peak/Mount Edith, Highwood, Pilgrim Creek, Tenderfoot/Deep Creek, Big Snowy Mountains, Middle Fork of the Judith River, Sleeping Giant, Beartooth Wildlife Management Area, and additions to the existing Gates of the Mountains Wilderness.

Southwest Montana Wildlands
Humbug Spires, Highland Mountains, Fleecer Mountain, Anderson Peak, East Pioneers, West Pioneers, South Big Hole/Tash Peak, Italian Peaks, Tendoy Mountains, Lima Peak/Mount Garfield, Ruby Range, Blacktail Mountains, Henneberrry Ridge, West Big Hole, and additions to the existing Anaconda Pintler Wilderness.

Greater Yellowstone Area
Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness additions; Dome Mountain, Emigrant Peak, the Paradise Face, Shell Mountain, Mount Rae, Deer Creeks, the Beartooth Face, Line Creek Plateau, Crazy Mountains, Tobacco Root Mountains, Snowcrest Range, Bridger Mountains, Gravelly Range, Black Butte, Lone Butte, West Fork Madison, the Bighorn units, Centennial Mountains, Red Rock Lakes, Gallatin Range, Lionhead, Lee Metcalf additions; Cowboy’s Heaven, Pryor Mountains, Lost Water Canyon.

Great Plains
Bitter creek, Terry Badlands, U Bend, Medicine Lake, Missouri Breaks, and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.

About George Wuerthner

George Wuerthner has published 36 books, including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy

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33 comments

  1. thanks george for putting the expert’s touch on this. it is nice to blow the dust off the names of these great wild lands again and remember just why it is so important to save all of them, especially now, when we need to encourage our kids and grand-kids to really experience wilderness again. montana’s heritage is at stake here.

  2. New West could actually become legit news source if it would become more centrist with its wilderness approach.

    But no its NREPA this and more wilderness that.

    It makes me sick and pissed off. If only you have traveled 10% of the trails you propose to close to mtn bikes,snowmoboiles and dirt bikes.

    Thats the problem I choose to travel other than foot. Not because I’m lazy because its fun and actually gets me into the backcountry. I snowboard off my snowmobile and its near and dear to me.

    Most of the land proposed in the above typical New West “close it down” rhetoric is not even Wilderness quality. Its a broken record agenda by a bunch of people that dont know the land.

    If you spent any time talking to trail users it seems most people are friendly and non confrontational.

    Go out and explore the areas you propose to close to me. Will crowds be a factor? No. Are the lands in jeopardy of mining or oil gas development? Probably not.

    I have a hard time believing the author has been to 25% of the mountain ranges listed let alone all of them.

    I really like New West aside from the wilderness issue but until it prints other than anti access rhetoric it will not be a legit news source in the inter mountain west.

    Broken record.

  3. Please, you in Montana don’t let the government run any of your beautiful lands. Come to California and see the mess the Feds and the state have made of what they are supposed to be running.
    The agencies are loaded with environmentalists. They only want to control more land and shut it down to everyone except their pals.

  4. Joe:

    Check out the map http://www.wildmontana.org/resources/images/roads_lg.jpg and then tell me there’s no place to run your machines.

  5. yaeger- these are government lands- not private lands. everyone is welcome. you just have to hike in or ride a horse. montana has plenty of roaded areas to play with machines and tear up the country. these are some valuable wildlife and watershed places that deserve to be treated with care and respect.

  6. NREPA is the Naessean wet dream. Basically, NREPA advocates want everything possible, and even much ground that realistically would be better off in a useful category.
    It’s not just about wilderness, but about massive restrictions upon land use in “linkage” areas as well…linkages being everything between wilderness “core habitat” area A, area B, area C, area D…anyplace where charismatic predators (that eat animals that hunters have paid to maintain) might possibly choose to roam free.
    I wish someone would invent a time machine so that George and all his NREPA cronies could be outfitted in era-appropriate gear and sent to their Paradise. I know they’d all go willingly, right?

  7. Actually, nrepa is based on state of the art science, not time travel.

  8. Dave:

    Come on Dave. Take a look at this map and tell me there’s too much land put aside for wildlife, wilderness, etc. If our society can’t survive without delving into the last tiny pieces of undeveloped land, we are in far greater trouble than you might imagine. Wilderness designation is about accepting limits. It’s about being responsible and learning to live within limits. We do live in a finite world. Unlike the government, we can’t just print more Earth’s. Nature doesn’t give bail outs. Check out the map.

    http://www.wildmontana.org/resources/images/roads_lg.jpg

  9. Yah, sure, Geo, that MWA map with every section-line two-track represented as a mile wide? Deception. Just for fun I zapped Google Earth to that scale. Not an honest representation at all, simply intended to take advantage of those who don’t know better.
    And as far as accepting limits goes, why can’t you guys accept limits and concentrate on what you’ve already been allocated and stop trying to confiscate what was allocated to other, higher purposes?

  10. “Other, higher purposes?”

    Like cutting down public forests to produce lumber that nobody wants or needs, Dave?

    Or better yet Dave, cutting down forests to build 5000 square foot homes sprawling into the wildlands? This way us taxpayers at least get to spend hundreds of millions protecting these massive homes from wildfire. And then people like you can blame people like George and me for every fire as you call for weakening environmental laws so that you can cut down more forests to build more 5000 square foot homes sprawling…Oh, never mind.

    Dave, why don’t you go through George’s list and tell us which areas that he’s identified shouldn’t be Wilderness, but instead should be opened up for logging, roadbuilding, mining, drilling, grazing and, you know, “other, higher purposes?”

  11. Dave Skinner –

    Why do you continue to blow anti-wilderness smoke when you are employed by a company that depends on national parks for it’s bread and butter? You do know that most national parks have either unprotected roadless areas or offical wilderness, right?

  12. George – A very thoughtful article, and an outstanding pic.

    Whenver I hike or drive by the Crazy Mountains, I’m “stumped” as to why they don’t have any wilderness protection. They are a spectacular island range of great beauty rising some 7,000 feet over the Yellowstone River valley.

  13. Mike:

    Regards the Crazy Mountains–you’re right, they are a terrific mountain range with outstanding scenery, wildlife values and numerous alpine lakes. In winter, when they are all snow covered, they are the most Alaskan looking mountains in Montana. Quite dramatic.

    Folks around Livingston/Bozeman have always thought that some kind of wilderness designation for them was appropriate. However, this was always held up by checkerboard ownership pattern from the old railroad land grants that created problems for any wilderness proposal. Over the years some of those parcels have been traded out or bought from willing sellers. I recall one deal back in the 1980s where the FS bought some 20,000-30,000 acres (I don’t remember the exact number now) from the Galt Family, and there have been other purchases or trades over the years.

    There is definitely enough land in the Crazies that is solid FS and could be the core area for a wilderness and/or legislation could work out a land swap.

  14. Dave:

    Clever of you to look at Google. Of course, as you go zoom in, the roads will get further apart, however, that does not invalidate the basic idea–we have lots of roads in this country. The FS alone has an estimated 400,000 miles of roads on its lands, and that doesn’t count all the illegal “routes” that have been pioneered in recent years by ORVers, etc.

    In terms of limits, the problem is that we as a society have overshot our capacity–just as the financial system overshot and now we are in a big mess. That tends to be human nature, unfortunately. What we have protected as wilderness, parks, etc. is likely insufficient to guarantee the long term sustainability of ecosystems. And as long as we continue to think we have an endless supply of “resources” for the taking, we will never learn to live in a sustainable manner as a society either.

    If we can provide for sustainable ecosystems, we will wind up by default creating sustainable societies.

  15. Well Geo, Matt, et al,
    Good luck with your big “W” plans. Locals don’t trust you, too many lies over too many years.

  16. Naessean? Actually NREPA is a scaled-back version of a Rockies wilderness ecosystems strategy that protects all publicly-owned roadless lands between the Mexico and Canada border. All U.S. Rockies lands in the Clinton Roadless Rule protected by Congress. That’s the context for anyone interested. Wilderness designation as a vehicle to protect (aquatic and terrestrial) ecosystems.

    ps. This is not to be confused with the trans-national (Y2Y) map (United Nations takeover) often clucked about by the “Black Helicopter” crowd.

  17. your rambling disjointed sentences just barely make enough sense to form a picture of a very ignorant opinionated human with little or no sense of how to engage in a sensible debate on the merits of the issue. but thanks for stopping by. just knowing that you care enough to chime in on this makes the waste of time reading your mean-spirited right wing nut wilderhate drivel so worthwhile.

  18. Mr. Twisted: Could you please give one example of one lie I’ve told over the years? Thanks.

  19. I have often wondered if a bill that closes down access to motorized use could be overturned using the Americans with Disabilities Act since the bill effectively shuts down access to these areas to only able-bodied non-disabled persons. Afterall, the bill acts to restrict access to those capable of hiking in or riding a horse, etc. If a disabled person is used to using these areas via motorized use it would seem the government is now denying access to a protected group of people and the guarantees under ADA.

  20. Whitefishman:

    I don’t know about the legal aspects of your question, but I would assert that access is not denied. That’s a red herring that i typically hear from people who are perfectly capable of walking themselves. The only time they have concerns about disabilities is when they are trying to keep an area from being designated a wilderness.

    But assuming your concern is genuine, there are many ways into designated wilderness that most people can access even if they have a disability. I don’t think one has to be guaranteed motorized access under the law–but again I’ don’t know the legal aspects of it.

    For instance, there are plenty of places in the larger wilderness areas like the Bob Marshall and River of No Return Wilderness with plane landing strips.

    One could ride in a canoe in the Boundary Waters Wilderness and many others with lakes.

    One can raft rivers in many wildernesses including dozens in the West.

    I’ve seen people kayaking with no legs. One guy I knew kayaked the entire coast of Alaska without legs. I’ve seen people on crutches in wilderness. I, myself, was on crutches at one point.

    I’ve seen old people, including my own grandmother (who is 95) hiking in wildernesses. I’ve taken my daughter when she was 3 weeks old on her first backpack trip.

    In most cases, it’s a matter of will not access.

    Not to mention there are plenty of fine places accessible by roads outside of wilderness where you can drive.

  21. Oh hi Matt,
    Have you ever strechted the truth on road densitities? ever used a stable raptor population to try to make the case against logging?
    In other words, if we log this northern gos hawks will be harmed? Ever twisted facts to fit your argument?
    The tactics are well known and you are guilty of using them otherwise people would not discribe your vanity NGO as “fringe”.
    but keep fighting the good fight, who knows, victory could be right around the corner.

  22. Mr. Twisted, I answer “no” to your first four questions and would like to point out that while you lob accusations you apparently lack any specific, documented examples to proves your point. That, and the anonymous nature of your post, says a lot.

    I also find you’re description of our organization, the WildWest Institute (www.wildwestinstitute.org), to be interesting. You clearly have a fair amount of destain for our work. Ok, but it’s funny while you view us as a “vanity” organization, other critics credit us with the demise of the entire logging industry, say we’re the cause of the economic crisis and are responsible for nearly every wildfire. So which is it?

    And by the way, you can come after us as much as you want with your anonymous rants. It’s not going to change what we are working towards, which is a more sustainable future that will benefit people, workers, wildlife and the environment. Thanks.

  23. Matt, you always fall back on the same argument, and I gave you my name once already.
    your rant about “other critics” makes the case better than I ever could. Outfits like yours need to shut up and get out of the way of real progress. Outside of the courtroom you have no standing in any community or the society at large.

  24. Mr. Twisted, That’s right. I forgot, but you did tell people your real name was Michael Gregston a few months ago. Ironically, it was during an exchange of comments where you again accused me of various things, but then failed to offer any documentation to back up your accusations. I guess that’s just how you roll.

    Again, anyone who wants to go back over this comment thread above will see that you stated that I have told “too many lies over too many years.”

    But then when I politely asked “Could you please give one example of one lie I’ve told over the years?” you’re unable to come up with anything specific or documented…so you resort to attacking me personally. Again, that’s just how you roll I guess.

    I’m more than willing to have a detailed discussion/debate about the issues (wilderness, public lands management, logging, restoration, wildfires, wildlife habitat, sustainable solutions, et al). But it seems clear that you are incapable of this rather simple task.

    Once again, you can come after me or our non-profit organization with false allegations as much as you want. It’s not going to change what we are working towards, which is a more sustainable future that will benefit people, workers, wildlife and the environment. Thanks.

  25. Thanks for the spanking Matt, May I have another?
    That same thread of months ago included several comments by others taking you to task for various wrongs, imagined or otherwise. The fact remains, you are thought to be on the fringe by many. As I said before, that whistling sound is the wind blowing through your empty mailbox. i don’t care enough about you or your opinion of me to go back and dig up fodder for tit for tat arguments with you. I always lose arguments against professional greenies. Is it because your cause is just? Nope. I’m just no good at it, as you pointed out. Thanks, and see ya later, though not much later I suspect.

  26. Michael Gregston/Mr. Twisted: See, nothing from you about the issues. See, nothing from you in this entire thread to back up your false accusation that I have told “too many lies over too many years.” Apparently, you can just go around calling people liars…but then offer no evidence to back up your allegations. Instead in your latest post, you attempt to garner martyr status for yourself. Any “spanking” you are getting is of your own doing, not mine.

  27. get a grip Matt
    I will answer your latest later, I’m busy now.

  28. Well isn’t that map quite the laugher. Reminds me of the anti abortionists and their blown up exaggerated photos.You are an embarrassment to those that want to have an educated discussion on wild lands and access. No wonder why Montanan’s hate the extremist environmental movement.
    Oh yeah Geo. No airstrips in The Bob. You might be thinking of Spotted Bear. Get your facts straight or ya lose cred.

  29. Gate Jumper

    I don’t get your point. What is incorrect? There is an airstrip at Spotted Bear in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. And I believe there are 22 airstrips in the Frank Church.

  30. Spotted Bear is in the Scapegoat Wilderness to the North of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
    I have worked the land and raised a family on my grandfathers homestead in the upper Swan and spent nearly 35 summers in the Big Salmon country.
    You youngsters could take a lesson or two on the wilderness front from Steve Kelly. While I have had my share of frank discussions with him over the years he understands the issues and isn’t just trying to run some goofball left wing think tank. Close up your shop, join Steve or get out of the conversation as you are hurting your cause.
    For some the Wilderness isn’t a dummied up map or just a playground for the yuppies.

  31. Johnny Thundersockeye

    It still amazes me every time I see a fresh batch of vitriolic nonsense unleashed about Matthew and Wild West, somehow single handedly being the driving force behind the decline of Montana’s timber industry as well as the cause of forest fires! Etc! How is it that there is never any mention of the fact that the entire timber industry of the Northwest from spotted owl territory all the way to Lincoln and Sanders County has been on a decline for three decades, not primarily from Eastern enviros tying up the courts with litigation that prevents such supposedly profitable logging from taking place, but rather from global and domestic market demand changing, mechanization of the industry, NAFTA and softwood imports from Canada flooding the market. Oh, yeah, regarding Montana, there’s that little pesky fact that it takes trees about two or three times longer to grow than on the Washington coast unless you are in Sanders, Lincoln or Mineral Counties – and until Montana figures out a way to make its plethoric portions of dog hair Lodgepole, that define most of every forest east of the Lolo ,Flathead and Kootenai more valuable, there ain’t much of those counties old growth left for a timber industry. From a scientific standpoint he’s been invariably correct about practically everything I have ever known him to espouse.
    Take the Eastfork fuel reduction project, you know one of the first “Healthy Forest” projects, it seems like any independent professional forester (read not owned by Dave Bull or professional environmentalists), felt the project was totally flawed and certainly not truly going to achieve anything to protect the residents of the urban interface surrounding Sula as it was supposedly intended to! It was equally amazing to hear the rhetoric ramp up regarding fire intensity during the fairly scary 2007 Jocko Lakes and Chippy Creek fire events as the kind of people that seem to criticize Matthew should have been choking on their own ignorant words and lack of scientific acumen when we all watched two of the more dramatic fire events literally explode out of control across the heavily logged Plum Creek owned moonscapes. But wait, I thought logging was the way to prevent forest fires from becoming catastrophic – according to right-wing extreme nutcases it is! Now before you accuse me of supporting only left-wing, hippy-dippy, east-coast preservationist, obstructionist bullies as many of you mistakenly seem to categorize Matthew, realize that I am somebody who is pro-logging, ATV’s, snowmobiles in Yellowstone, wants to see ski lifts on Lolo peak, and is happy about the wolf delisting decision! So I think Matthew may disagree with me on a few things, but the ironic thing is he really doesn’t seem anti-logging either. He just seems like he is against stupid, unethical and unprofitable logging, as well as a few other nonsensical things. By the grace of GOD I make my living through working in the woods ,so I am totally sympathetic to loggers who have lost their jobs but the right wing has got to stop blaming the wrong reasons and people for the modern plight of the West’s Natural Resource extractive industries!!!! Most of these stale Natural Resource usage debates generally just revolve around the same old “jobs vs. environment” jive when really, again ironically, the only real hope for bringing a lot of work back to the woods lies in the sort of restoration work outlined in NREPA ,mills becoming equipped to turn small diameter wood in to something that has value, special forest products and continuing to expand upon the recreation and tourism industry that DOES!! by and large need more designated ,protected Wilderness to sustainably yield the pristine land qualities necessary to provide the world-class hunting, fishing, camping and scenery that Montana has justifiably become so famous for!!! But that doesn’t mean that all grazing, logging and mechanized or motorized use of the forest needs to be significantly restricted!! Folks its got to be a combination of all these things- and most people can see that we who love the communities that define the rural West have no choice but to come together and collaboratively derive plans which address the challenge of providing a reasonable level of economic prosperity and security for the future by BOTH USING AND PRESERVING!! the Natural Resource rich landscape GOD has blessed us to know and enjoy here in 1 of the “Last Best Places”, even if the ratty old Paws UP and the employee exploiting jerks that own it sometimes spoil the serenity of an east –bound Hwy 200 excursion as we realize how many morons like them and the sub-human billionaire monster who now owns Whitefish and people from all walks of life have always and now even more so like to call this lovely place home, at least part of the year and try to figure out how to live with them and not to mistrust , dislike and judge one another!!!!!!! A tall order indeed but really the only choice!!!!!!!

  32. When will both sides of the wilderness issue figure out this is really about deterioration of freedom and increase of federal government control? Politicians can no longer control the population through promises of a better future. They have proven in a grandiose fashion that they are abject failures at that. Rather, they now choose to control the masses by claiming that if we don’t follow their policies, our futures will be dismal at best. They have introduced the science of “speculation”. No longer must they rely on observed facts, they now need only spout speculated conjecture. “If we don’t protect these lands now, they will no longer exist for future generations”. Yea, right. Like every corporation in America is clamouring to build a polluting factory in the middle of the Bob. The great evil is that the ecospiritualists are represented by professional environmentalists who actually earn a living espousing their side of the issue. Their allegience is an economic one, not a moral one. Were I being paid to write this blog, I would likely write more. NREPA is a perennial bill that was introduced this session by a Congresswoman from New York State who has likely never been east of the Hudson River, much less to any of the lands in HR980 that are now being proposed for “protection”. The Wilderness Bill of 1964 was one thing. I doubt any of the readers of this site would be opposed to it were they to have read and understood the text of the bill. It originally encompassed 9 million acres. But government grows like a monster and now they want to add 24 million acres in one fell swoop and essentially without the thoughtful, local discourse called for in the 1964 Wilderness Bill. In 1964, they called for preservation of Wilderness. Now, they are calling for “creation of new wilderness”. If we can now create it, then why don’t they do it closer to home, say in Central Park? Montanans need to wake up and smell the coffee. If it is our desire within the state to add wilderness, that is one thing and doable via the local legislative process. But for the federal government to come in and excercise yet more control in our daily lives by dictating via additional statute where we can go and how we can get there is yet another overstep of authorized constitutional power. This is the politics of fear. And just as it has been used to convince us that there is a great unseen enemy out there who is so powerful and pervasive that we must sacrifice our freedoms for the sake of protection, they are now using fear to try to convince us that an additional 24 million acres of wild Montana land will be turned into a shopping mall if we don’t sacrifice more of our freedoms right here in our own back yard.

  33. Pianoman

    Of course not every acre is under threat. But we don’t know what and how the threat of development may occur. When one considers that in Montana, for instance, more than 92% of the land is already developed, one has to ask where do we stop. Do we need to develop every last acre?

    I don’t know how long you have lived in Montana, but threats are not known until they are on top of us–and if the land isn’t already in some protected status, those threats all too often become reality. It wasn’t that long ago there was an attempt to explore for oil in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. And oil and gas leases were sold on the Rocky Mountain Front (only to be bought back at much higher cost after the fact). And about the same time there was also an attempt to drill for geothermal just outside of Yellowstone. In the 1920s there was a serious attempt by people in Livingston put a dam on the Yellowstone River inside of Yellowstone Park to build a reservoir for irrigation. And let’s see there was a big cynide leach gold mine proposed just outside of Cooke City by Yellowstone’s border and another mine proposed for the border of the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness. Logging roads go right up to the border of many wilderness areas and would have gone further had these lands not been already protected.

    All of these were defeated because they were ill conceived. But had there not been protection of these lands as parks or wilderness, I’m certain that those intent on developing those lands might have succeeded.

    We can’t wait until someone wants to build a “polluting factory” in the Bob Marshall Wilderness or someplace else to try to stop it. It’s far better for people to recognize there are bounds and limits. That’s what an adult learns. It’s only those with adolescent fantasy that cling to the idea of unlimited access to all lands. At some point we have to learn to live within limits–might as well do it now rather than later.