Daines’ Bill Not What Montanans Want

Wilderness Study Areas are something we are proud of and need to sustain

By Deborah Schatz

I ride my horse on trails in the Ten Lakes, West Pioneer, and Sapphire Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) regularly. As our state’s population grows and backcountry use increases, it gets harder to find a quiet, wildland trail to ride my horse, and I appreciate wilderness study areas for that reason, and many more.

WSAs and Wilderness designation never restrict public access to Montana’s wildlands – they only restrict access to motorized vehicles. Undisturbed habitat is good for fishing, hunting, hiking, horseback riding and many other types of quiet recreation – all things that I value.

That’s why I’m raising my voice about Sen. Steve Daines’ misleadingly named Montana Sportsmen Conservation Act. This bill would remove longstanding protections from three wilderness study areas. It is misleadingly named because the three areas it would affect are known as incredible places to hunt because of the lack of motorized access and the wildlife habitat security that has been present for decades as a result.

I believe all wilderness study areas should be collaboratively reviewed by local residents, stakeholders, and governing agencies before any action is taken to remove their protections. Daines’ bill skips this important step, which is likely why polling has demonstrated that only 6% of Montanans support its passage. Sen. Daines, your bill is not what the people of Montana want and your thinly veiled attempt to pass it off as a conservation act is disrespectful. Let me know if you’d like to join me on horseback to explore why Montana’s wilderness study areas are something we are proud of and need to sustain.

Deborah Schatz
Columbia Falls

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