Montanans across the state are being denied the opportunity to influence decisions concerning vast amounts of public land that we all own. As an army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, I believe our public lands are part of the lifeblood of our democracy, and I won’t stand by while politicians prevent American citizens from determining the future of those lands.
For this reason, I hope you’ll join me at noon on Thursday, September 20th at Mt. Helena’s main trailhead to reclaim our right to determine the future of our public lands. In anticipation of National Public Lands Day, we’ll be gathering at the trailhead for a short rally and then, those who are able will march to the top of Mt. Helena in a show of conviction that our elected officials and public land managers must listen to and be informed by what the public wants for our lands.
Rally and March to Reclaim Public Say Over Public Lands
Thursday, September 20th
Main Mt. Helena trailhead, Reeders Village Dr.
RSVP with this link.
Right now, Rep. Gianforte and Sen. Daines are doing everything within their power to strip congressional protections from more than 800,000 acres of wild public lands currently safeguarded as wilderness study areas (WSAs). They introduced their WSA legislation without holding a single public meeting or making any effort whatsoever to gather public input on their proposals, denying Montanans the opportunity to have a say on the fate of our WSAs. They are moving ahead with their bills in spite of recent polling showing that 81 percent of Montanans oppose the legislation.
Right now, commissioners of several counties, especially Ravalli, are also turning a deaf ear to the outpouring of support for our WSAs. Despite overflowing crowds at meetings and overwhelming volumes of comments demonstrating opposition Sen. Daines’ and Rep. Gianforte’s legislation, these commissioners have placed their personal, political agendas ahead of what their constituents want.
Right now, the Bureau of Land Management under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is considering auctioning off leases for 76,751 acres of public land for oil and gas drilling and “fracking.” Nearly 13,000 acres are along Beaverhead and Big Hole, two blue ribbon trout streams that draw thousands of anglers every year. The BLM cut the public comment period to just 15 days, and is racing to sell this wide-open country for oil and gas development at $2 per acre.
Sec. Zinke has also suspended the operation of more than 200 advisory panels and 30 resource advisory councils (RAC), which, for years, have allowed citizens to inform decisions by land managers. Zinke claims he’s “restoring trust” in BLM decision making by eliminating citizen input, but, instead, American citizens are quickly losing their trust in the secretary.
All considered, these efforts to silence our voices represent an anti-democratic trend in public land decision-making – a trend we must work to reverse. Please join me in this important show of unity on September 20th at Mount Helena’s main trailhead.
I look forward to marching with you.
– Anson Nygaard, MWA public lands field organizer
Montana Wilderness Association
80 S. Warren
Helena, MT 59601