We Montanans can protect our own backyards

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The legislative session brings one of Montana’s most powerful and widely held values into question, our public lands. Some aim to transfer management and ownership of our public lands heritage, and this is unacceptable.

Montanans value the responsible use of public lands for reasonable commercial purpose, recreation, tourism and research. Public lands, accessible and universally shared by all, are an important part of our heritage and identity. We don’t need the top telling us how to manage our land — we the citizens of Montana have the solution.

Two strong Montana-made collaborations in western Montana are the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Project and the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition. Both collaborations include the timber industry, conservationists, local officials, business owners and outdoor folks of all types. These citizens agreed to sit down together to discuss their needs and differences and move forward as neighbors toward balanced solutions. And just last week, Senator Jon Tester listened when he announced he will introduce the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act. Turns out, there’s room for timberlands and motorized recreation alongside Wilderness. How refreshing is that?

These collaborations are made for Montanans, by the local Montanas who know and cherish their public lands. These spontaneous efforts by responsible citizens, collaborating for the benefit of the entire community, is the essence of democracy and the real work of patriots. The citizens of Montana are demonstrating that we do not need wealthy outsiders to tell us how to use our land ... and they can keep their greedy hands off our heritage. We are figuring it out ourselves, for our own backyard.

Rick Nagle

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