Don’t Strip Wilderness Study Areas of Protection

WSAs like the Sapphires represent some of our state’s greatest reservoirs of wildlife habitat

By Sonny Mazzullo

In July 2020, on the slopes of Rooster Comb in the Sapphire Wilderness Study Area, I crossed another item off my Montana bucket list. It was remarkably cold, I was trudging through snow drifts, and it started to snow. After 10 years living and hiking in Montana, I’d finally been snowed on every month of the year. 

This moment was made all the more special because of where I was: wild country. Wilderness Study Areas like the Sapphires represent some of our state’s greatest reservoirs of wildlife habitat. Clean water, and solitude for those who visit. It’s places like our WSAs that brought me to Montana and why I’ll never leave. 

For several years now, Senator Steve Daines has tried to rob Montanans of experiences like mine in the Sapphires. Despite the fact that only 6% of Montanans support removing protections from WSAs, Daines repeatedly introduces legislation to do just that.

Daines’ latest attempt at top-down robbery is the deviously named Montana Sportsmen Conservation Act. Rather than meet with community groups or gather citizen input to hear what we want, Daines has bypassed us in proposing the Middle Fork Judith, Hoodoo Mountain, and Wales Creek WSAs be stripped of protections. Such a move would undermine our values as Montanans, how we get things done. It would make these areas vulnerable to exploitation, from commercial exploitation and motorized recreation. And it would threaten our ability to experience wild moments in wild places. Let’s put Daines’ bill in the trash can where it belongs.

Sonny Mazzullo