The Big Snowy Mountains are most intact wild public lands in Central & Eastern Montana and they’re now at risk because of Senator Daines’ bill to strip protection from the Big Snowies and four other wilderness study areas. The bill was introduced without any opportunity for public input.
As a primary recharge area for Madison Aquifer, the Snowies are a vital and pristine source of our domestic and stock water. They provide recreational opportunities and feed our blue ribbon trout streams. Hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, skiing and camping are all allowed in WSAs and wilderness areas.
In 2017, tourism/recreation exceeded agriculture for the first time, as Montana’s top economic driver, with $7.1 billion consumer spending, supporting 70,000 jobs, $2 billion wages to Montanans, and $286 million state and local tax revenue (according to the Outdoor Industry Association).
It’s primarily because of the protections provided by the WSA designation that the Big Snowies remain an isolated refuge for a variety of wildlife, while also offering a unique backcountry experience. And, once places are developed, it’s almost impossible to restore their wilderness character.
I support local, collaborative and transparent efforts to determine how this unique wild area will be managed. The Forest Service is in the process of determining how this unique wild area should be managed. Daines bill is an end run around that process.
Multi-use and public access are important to all Montanans, but we don’t need every use in every area. Public lands belong to all of us and we deserve the opportunity to work together on how they’ll be managed.