Thursday, October 01, 2009

The battle for the Front

What you see in the Rocky Mountain Front
Here is what I said at the Sept. 30 public forum on the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Bill proposal.

"It is with mixed feelings that I offer this opinion on the draft Rocky Mountain Heritage Bill.
I respect the tremendous amount of work that has gone into crafting this proposal, and have particular admiration for the conservation community’s sincerity, dedication and spirit of compromise. I belong to the Montana Wilderness Association and have served on its Island Range Chapter Board.
Like others here I view the Front as a special place. I think of the Rocky Mountain Front as the scenic backdrop to Great Falls. It is thrill to be able to see peaks like Steamboat, Sawtooth, Caribou, Castle Reef, Choteau, Rocky Mountain, and Ear from my hometown. I raised my children hiking, backpacking, camping, climbing, skiing and snowshoeing there.
I return there with my special friends.
It is a destination I show all my out of town guests.
I write about the Front every chance I get.
What a thrill to know I can see grizzlies, black bears, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, mountain lion and moose in this wild place.
I think Great Falls and northcentral Montana are missing a great economic opportunities by not promoting the Front for its wild recreational character just as Kalispell promotes Glacier or Bozeman touts Yellowstone.
While I’ve been exploring this country for many years, there’s hardly a time that I don’t find some new aspect to admire.
Unfortunately, I don’t think this proposal goes near far enough in protecting this land’s wild profile. To steal a phrase from my friend Randy Gray, we have a Sistine Chapel here and we should give as much of it the highest protection we can, and that’s full wilderness designation.
I don’t understand why we could pass a much stronger bill 20 years ago when Ronald Reagan was President, and now with a liberal President and Democratic Congress we can’t do it again. The acreages and units in that bill should be our starting point, our minimum. We make a mistake in foregoing an opportunity for greater protection for these lands when nationally and I think, locally, the odds our on our side for support. We make a mistake in not showing Sens. Baucus and Tester that there is greater support for preservation of more of these lands for wilderness than any other vaguely understood alternative.
These lands are a national treasure and a key to a healthy tourism industry.
Why should they be held hostage to a few locals who would just as soon see these lands roaded, logged, grazed, drilled and subdivided? Protection other than wilderness is promised in this bill, but I don’t trust the motives of those outside the compromise group who oppose wilderness for land every bit as beautiful and wild as is now within the boundaries of the Bob Marshall.
Wilderness is sure protection for this land. This I understand. Anything other than that leaves the door open for various forms of development that could spoil this land’s wild character.
So, do I support this bill?
I can’t imagine a bill that doesn’t seek wilderness for Old Man of the Hills, Mount Frazier, Choteau Mountain, Volcano Reef, the Falls Creek bottom, Sawtooth and Castle Reef, the full Lockhart to Teton Peak ridgeline, the Headquarters Pass-Rocky Mountain Peak Area directly connected to Deep Creek…and more.
I guess I won’t oppose the wilderness additions that are in the compromise.
But, there should be more."

Here is a link to the Great Falls Tribune article:

1 comment:

David said...

Bravo Zulu on the comments. Support the remarks. I love the out doors and the beauty the present. Thanks Tom for leaders like you. I am behind you and thoughs that have like views.