I’m a public-land hunter. I live in eastern Montana. Like they say about all types of land — they’re not making any more of it — holds doubly true for public land around here. The best of it — those precious few sections managed by Bureau of Land Management or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that have water, cover, escape routes and solitude — are, to a big game hunter, sacred ground. Those are the places we don’t talk much about, for fear a stranger will bring their friends and ruin the secret.

So it pains me to talk about a few of those places, though in deference to my own friends I’ll try to be as vague as I can. But there’s a danger far worse than a fellow hunter stumbling into paradise. There’s a real danger that all the qualities that make these such remarkably productive places for hunters could be undone by a few short-sighted bureaucrats in Washington.

I’m talking about opening nearly 650,000 acres of public land in central Montana to oil and gas development. That’s the surprising decision of the Interior Department in the final draft of the Lewistown Resource Management Plan. Now, not all those acres are the big-game paradise I described, but thousands of acres are remarkable partly because they’re islands in a sea of public land. To open all the land, even the special parts, to surface occupancy for drill rigs is to degrade the very things that make them precious to hunters and the game we pursue.

After all, they’re not making any more of these places.

Andrew McKean


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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.