Don’t sweat small stuff

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While walking by a newsstand on campus last week, a headline jumped off the page at me from the Sept. 3 issue of the Independent, “Tester bill may rewrite the book on wilderness.”

I wasn’t sure what it was getting at, so I flipped to page eight. I found a piece dwelling on minuscule suggestions from the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act concerning sheep grazing and infrequent helicopter uses. What about the bigger picture?

The Wilderness Act was passed in 1964, which lead to the RARE (Roadless Area Review and Evaluation) process to recommend public lands for Wilderness designation. Following on the heels of RARE II starting in 1979, former Rep. Pat Williams worked to pass multiple wilderness bills for Montana, one of which was passed by both the House and Senate and then vetoed by President Reagan in 1988. This was the last time that a Montana wilderness bill was proposed by Congress. Twenty-one years ago!

In the past, Montanans have led the way with wildland protection. America’s first Wilderness was “The Bob” in our own backyard. “The Rattlesnake” was a model for community designated wilderness as well as cooperative multi-use areas. Now is the time for Montana to once again show the nation how it’s done!

Tester’s bill aims to work as a community collaborative. This bill truly reaches across the proverbial aisle designating large tracts of permanent wilderness, as well as releasing some areas (tied up in bureaucracy since RARE II) to timber harvest (creating important jobs), and designating funds from stewardship contracts back to much needed restoration projects. 

“War of words” seems to imply that there is a fissure between the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and environmentalists like myself. With support from conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, the Montana Wilderness Association and the Wilderness Society, I beg to differ. If anything, this bill is a solution to many of the fissures that have kept Montanans from working together on public lands management for far too long. I fully support Tester’s efforts, and encourage other Missoulians to do the same.

Sarah Red-Laird, Missoula


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