Here in Northwest Montana, we are fortunate to have the Ten Lakes Wilderness Study Area (WSA) – an incredibly beautiful area offering recreational opportunities to residents of Eureka and people from across the nation. It is a natural treasure and a boon to the local economy. While Ten Lakes has long been the source of conflict among various recreational user groups, we cannot let ourselves stand divided while big government sneaks in and destroys the natural environment forever. Ten Lakes is a central tourism driver to Northwest Montana, and the community loves this place. We all need wild spaces, for our psychological and physical wellbeing. We all need Ten Lakes WSA.
And, we need it to stay just the way it is today. Montana Sen. Steve Daines is scheming to introduce legislation that would strip WSAs of the designation that has kept them “just the way they are” for decades. While this may be ostensibly appealing to recreational user groups, it is a woefully misguided approach. Daines is not respecting the needs and wants of his constituents, but rather those of oil and gas companies and their lobbyists. The outcome will be lands permanently scarred by the interest groups with deeper pockets and louder voices than the Montanans Daines should be representing. Removing the Wilderness Study Area designation would undo decades of conservation and community-based collaboration with one single big-government, top-down swipe.
Daines, your constituents are doing the work for you by creating collaborative, community-driven land management solutions like the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition. It’s time to listen to the communities you claim to represent and support diverse, grassroots-led land management.