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Golden Pen Award: Milk River land buy was a good idea

2012-12-02T00:05:00Z 2012-12-03T10:35:06Z Golden Pen Award: Milk River land buy was a good idea The Billings Gazette
December 02, 2012 12:05 am

I enthusiastically support the decision of Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the Montana Land Board to purchase for the State of Montana the large acreage along the upper Milk River and in the Sweet Grass Hills. For too long, the striking scenery and historical significance of the Milk River has been overlooked.

The region contains one of the largest preserved areas of petroglyphs in the country as well as the largest undisturbed area of traditional Native American encampments in the world, extending back as much as 9,000 years.

In addition, its striking beauty is utterly unique. As one visitor noted, it is "one of the most beautiful places I almost didn't visit." There are striking badlands and sweeping cottonwood groves and blue joint meadows with abundant chokecherry, buffaloberries, antelope and deer populations — and raccoons, skunks, marmots, bobcats, coyotes and rattlesnakes.

Canada is ahead of the U.S. in designating the area as a park. The Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park on the Canadian side of the Milk River Valley is one of the largest provincial parks in Alberta and is nominated as a World Heritage Site with UNESCO.

The state purchase of the site will prevent it being broken into small fenced estates for idle "country-dwellers." Then, the groves, ponds, wildlife and grand grassy meadows would be destroyed and crisscrossed with roads and fences. Access of the general public would be denied for recreational purposes like hunting, fishing, berry-picking, canoeing, sight-seeing, picnicking.

Bill Thackeray


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