Guest Column

Public Lands’ Legacy in 2024 

Montanans celebrate outdoors no matter which side of the aisle you’re on

By Michael Dedman

Senator Steve Daines’ Montana Sportsmen Conservation Act permanently withdraws three Montana Wilderness Study Areas from wilderness consideration.

In the bill’s Senate committee hearing last year the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) voiced opposition and the Forest Service cautioned the bill’s intent. Ninety-four percent of Montanans indicated in a recent survey we want continued protection.

The Wilderness Study Areas were left alone with wilderness character for 41 years. They provide “an integral role supporting fish and wildlife, ecosystem services, and enabling the public to experience their naturalness and enjoy opportunities for solitude, and unconfined recreation.”

Senator Daines indicated Montanans had a chance for comment to the Forest Service and BLM. Not in a focused way for the Wales Creek, Hoodoo Mountain, and Middle Fork Judith Montana Wilderness Study Areas.

Public access, wildlife habitat security for elk, moose, fisher, pine marten, wolverines, streams with cutthroat trout, subalpine environment and outdoor enthusiasts’ opportunity is gouged with this act. Economic losses accrue as hikers, hunters, and camping businesses are sorely affected.

Retract the Act. Montanans celebrate outdoors no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. 

The “Last Best Place” Senator Steve Daines and Senator Jon Tester could champion a bill adding wilderness. Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks met Wilderness Act requirements. Management plan recommendations for a wilderness designation of Big Snowy Mountains, with moose, knife-like rock ridges and pristine lake environment would make all Montana proud.

This is the public lands legacy Montanans would like to see you lead, Senator Daines.

Michael Dedman lives in Rollins.