Thursday, May 16, 2013

Hardly legendary

Posted on Thu, May 16, 2013 at 4:00 AM

I must take exception to Gabriel Furshong’s stunt to paint Montana Sen. Max Baucus as an unrelenting conservationist (see “Lasting impression,” May 2). It might be true that Baucus used some back door sway to protect Montana’s wild areas, such as his creation of the Montana Legacy Project. But Max never publicly stood up against big money to protect the frontal assault threatening the rivers we fish, the roadless lands we hunt and the wide-open spaces that animals like the grizzly and the bull trout need to survive.

Both Baucus and Pat Williams agreed on a bill in 1988 that would protect 1.4 million acres out of 6.2 million acres available for protection, hardly legendary. The majority of that acreage was high-altitude country, not prime habitat where Montanans hunt and fish, or where the grizzly bear roams. I am not alone as a Montanan in remembering that we were short-changed then, as we are short-changed now with Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

Montana is a special place. That’s why we live here. Not to use really big words, but in the continental United States, Montana has more habitat to offer than any other, except our sister state Idaho. As Montanans we have a responsibility to represent ourselves as protectors of these last remaining precious lands. I would be inspired as a citizen of Montana to see my elected officials buck the trend of bowing down to the big-money interests of other states and say, “Hey, here in Montana these lands mean more to us than anything—so back off, or we’re gonna kick your ass.”

While this sort of rugged language may be abrupt and lost to the rest of the country, we know what it means here in Montana. Before I see Baucus or Williams or Tester touted as behind-the-scenes gurus of environmental integrity I would have liked to see them stand up for Montana’s wild country, against all odds, and say enough is enough, no more horse trading. Protect it all, no matter the fallout.

That sort of action earns a public lands legacy. Max Baucus’ contribution is not worthy, no matter what his public-relations team says.

Josh Mahan

Missoula

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