Montana is having a natural resource identity crisis. With Rep. Denny Rehberg’s endorsement of the Roadless and Wilderness Area Release Act (HR 1581), this state has plunged into a public lands conundrum. Last year marked the finalization of the Montana Legacy Project, an effort that succeeded in buying back from Plum Creek the checkerboard lands in the Swan Valley and elsewhere. Now, with the introduction of the bill by California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the opposite has been proposed. As a co-sponsor of the bill, Rehberg wants to release undeveloped roadless areas throughout Montana into the eager hands of developers. Access, says Rehberg, is the driving force behind releasing these lands. Montanans, says Rehberg, deserve to access these lands.
But Montanans, and Americans across the country, already have access to these pristine lands, and it is their purity that makes them worth accessing. These are the lands that outdoorsmen have been using for generations. More roads of any kind would severely diminish these natural areas—not just aesthetically, but functionally as well. Habitat is fragmented and reduced, streams are clouded and crippled, weeds are introduced and spread. The problems that Montanans are already fighting would only become worse in these natural areas if they were released. Without these wild places, hunters have no wildlife to hunt, anglers have no fish to catch, and recreationalists have no space to roam. The things Montanans value most are lost, and lost things aren’t accessible once they’re gone. Extinction is forever.
There is such a thing as loving something too much. Montana’s land is Montana’s future, and by releasing these areas protected under roadless legislation, Rehberg is robbing my generation of something valuable to call our own. As a member of Montana’s future, I oppose HB 1581 and encourage others to do the same.