We urge Senator Daines to re-think this top-down approach and instead identify ways to better engage Montanans and the businesses closest to the Wilderness study areas in question, rather than a blanket removal of protections on hundreds of thousands of acres of Montana’s public lands.
Wilderness Study Areas
Business for Montana’s Outdoors believes decisions about management of our public lands should be locally-driven, guided by Montanans working collaboratively in an inclusive process with diverse stakeholders and user groups.
In December 2017, Senator Steve Daines introduced a plan to remove protections on nearly half a million acres of public lands in Montana without public comment or meaningful dialogue among diverse stakeholder groups. The bill, "The Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act," targets five Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in Montana. It aims to remove protections from the Blue Joint Wilderness Study Area (WSA) in the Bitterroot, the Sapphire WSA east of Hamilton, the Middle Fork Judith WSA, the Big Snowies WSA south of Lewistown and the West Pioneer WSA east of Wisdom. The bill, S. 2206, went before a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on February 7, 2018.
The debate is not whether the WSA designations should change, but rather the process of removing public lands protections without public input.
Given the fact that Montana’s outdoor economy generates $2.2 billion in wages and salaries, $7.1 billion in consumer spending, $286 million in state and local revenue and supports 71,000 jobs – broadly removing protections on nearly half a million acres of public lands without public comment or stakeholder dialogue is a big red flag.
Business for Montana’s Outdoors represents 170 businesses responsible for more than 4,600 jobs. When public lands decisions are made without local input, it creates uncertainty for our businesses and their ability to plan for growth.