Montana Outdoors

April 26, 2007

More on the Wilderness Bill H.R. 1975: opposition

When the new Wilderness Bill was announced, Montana’s only member of the House of Representatives, Denny Rehberg, immediately came out in opposition to it in a poorly worded, poorly organized and factually empty statement quoted in this story in the Missoulian: “I oppose this legislation because it’s a top-down approach that doesn’t properly take into account the impacts on the local economy. Nor does it adequately protect access for hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation,” Rehberg said in a statement. “I’ll continue to work to implement responsible policies to protect Montana’s natural resources.”

Is there perhaps more motivating his opposition to the bill than that simplistic statement implies?

In March, 2007, Rep. Rehberg held a fundraising event at, of all places, the exclusive Yellowstone Club near Big Sky Montana., which is owned by, as pointed out in this story in the Billings Gazette his friend Tim Blixseth. While some of us might have been able to scrape together $1,000 to attend the event, most of us couldn’t come up with the minimum price for a home there ($1,000,000) or even the $300,000 necessary to join their private country club.

Rep. Rehberg’s friend Blixseth is an interesting person. As mentioned in this story in the Missoulian titled “World’s most expensive home’ for sale in Big Sky”, Blixseth “built the ultra-exclusive Yellowstone Club, a members-only ski and golf resort. Several years ago, he sold a 20-acre lot there for $20 million, at that time the most expensive housing lot in the state. He put the club together after buying 140,000 acres of scattered Plum Creek Timber Co. lands in 1992, then going through a series of land swaps with the U.S. Forest Service that consolidated both public and private holdings. Blixseth and his partners paid about $25 million for the Plum Creek properties, he has said”.

There was also an interesting story in the March 5, 2006 edition of the New York Times about the life and career of Tim Blixseth. It appears he is one of the highest-rolling developers in the world today. Here is that story.

Considering Rep. Rehberg’s ties to Blixseth, I am compelled to ask: is Rep. Rehberg motivated to support the preservation of Montana’s natural resources, or the exploitation of them? I am reminded again of the two sets of rules: one for the rich, and one for the rest of us. It is beginning to appear obvious which set of rules Mr. Rehberg has chosen to by play by.

It seems to me that the saving grace here is that Wilderness bill H.R. 1975 is neither in the hands of Denny Rehberg nor Tim Blixseth, really: it is now at the National level and in the hands of the American people. The natural resources that it would protect, while located in the five Western states, belong to everyone in America. Because it is at the National level, you all can play your own parts in this by voicing your opinions to the elected Representatives from your own states.

At the moment, it seems that Montana doesn’t seem to have anyone in the House to defend our natural resources. However, I think a vote of thanks should be given to its sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney from New York and all of the bill’s cosponsors from other states who can be seen listed here.


  1. I have to say I was pretty disturbed by the connection you made here. I really like life much better if big money operations stay out of the national forests. On this mountain they think there is uranium – I can’t imagine feeding water to my pets when they try mining out that brilliant theory.

    I wonder if there is a connection between his bill in the house (H.R. 461: Backcountry Landing Strip Access Act)? It’s not carrying any co-sponsors really (3) but it seems odd in light of your story on the helicopter guy. Maybe he was getting free fishing trips? :o)

    It’s a side bar but I think it just emphasizes that whole exploitation theory.


    Comment by aullori — April 27, 2007 @ 9:30 am

  2. That one makes me pretty nervous too. It could be construed as another attack on the wild country. I’d be especially concerned about helicopter use because that doesn’t require a highly developed landing area.

    I stumbled across another story last night about Tim Blixseth, the developed of the Yellowstone Club. It’s a very disturbing story, found on the website:


    Comment by montucky — April 27, 2007 @ 9:54 am

  3. Shyster. It was the only word I could come up with after thinking about this off and on all day. (Not too much because what a man this guy is running with…) That Bloomberg article left me completely silent. I think I’m finally seeing the depth of your frustration. It seems like if this ever gets out of the comittee cut up process it sounds like this area deserves a break.


    Comment by aullori — April 28, 2007 @ 12:10 am

  4. Despite these disgusting situations (this is not the only one, although it may be th worst so far), the truly frightening threat no is that of energy exploration and development, especially coal-bed methane. It is a serious threat to all of the west, and on the top of the political hit list at the moment. It also is creating all kinds of interesting bedfellows, each having his own interest and perspective. Through all this, who do we have defending the world of nature?

    Even more than I fear those who are doing the attacking, I fear public apathy and the general feeling of hopelessness and lack of control by the remaining good citizens of the country.


    Comment by montucky — April 28, 2007 @ 8:43 am

  5. I’ve linked to this article in a recent blog.


    Comment by skouba — May 3, 2007 @ 9:13 am

  6. Thanks for the link, skouba!

    Anything we can do to get information out there is a big help. Two of the biggest problems facing the wild country I think are apathy and lack of information.

    While it’s quite clear to me that the wilderness of the northwest is under constant attack and dwindling fast, I know it isn’t that obvious to folks in other parts of the country or the world. A good friend who lives in California kind of summed it up the other day when she said that most people who live outside of Montana have the idea that there are just huge areas of wild country here, and losing some it it just isn’t a big problem. It is, though because there just isn’t any more being made to replace it.


    Comment by montucky — May 3, 2007 @ 9:43 am

  7. I am guessing that may be what folks thought when Lewis and Clark got home….


    Comment by skouba — May 3, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

  8. Exactly! It’s one of those things most people almost have to see to believe. I have 60 years of memories of the Montana scene, so I can clearly see the differences over time.


    Comment by montucky — May 3, 2007 @ 1:17 pm

  9. Why do you folks want more land put into wilderness? Most of the areas in western Montana have limited access as it is and my concern is the available access for the elderly and handicapped folks. Do you not support the statement “National forests are made for and owned by the people. They should also be managed by the people… “? It seems to me that the amount of land that is already designated as wilderness is hardly used, why do we need more? Are we not a Democracy? Shouldn’t our lands be accessible for everyone, not just a few?


    Comment by Dan Smith — June 12, 2007 @ 4:04 pm

  10. Access to wild country for the elderly and handicapped folks is indeed a problem, but I think it is an issue separate from the wilderness designation of the land.

    The intent of HR 1975 is to designate the areas which are now roadless as wilderness so that they will be protected from all forms of exploitation. The wild areas are shrinking rapidly, and the problem is, at some point the may be none at all. I think we owe it to all of those who will come after us to protect what there is left for the preservation of the natural environment.

    What kind of access are you considering? Building roads or trails or some other form of access strictly for the use of the elderly and handicapped realistically isn’t going to happen, simply because of economics. What does get roads built into the wild country is the profit that can be made by logging, by mining, by energy source exploration and development, and real estate development (in those areas exclusively by the very wealthy). None of the access provided by these interests is useful for the elderly or the handicapped or any of the rest of us who love the natural world, because once it’s in place, the wild country is not wild country any more.

    Perhaps in future times, forms of transit not harmful to the environment may be technically possible to provide access for those folks and I certainly would support that.


    Comment by montucky — June 12, 2007 @ 7:44 pm

  11. I believe that you are mistaken if you think that 1975 is just designation of wilderness for roadless areas. I have read the bill and there are a multitude of question. You speak of economic, in Montana alone there is discussion of closing the Skyland road and Hungry Horse area and putting it back into its natural state. That would include access to the Spotted Bear area which is the access to the North end of the Bob. It talks of closing access to the entire north end of Flathead and Lincoln county which includes the Northfork over to Eureka. The bill discusses the ecomonic benefits of the bill by creating 6300 jobs that consist of road obliteration–what economic benefits are there after that for Montana? What about the wildlife corridors that are discussed? What about the rights of the private property owners. It states that there will be no effect on those folks but what is stated and what is real are two seperate issues. Why should lawmakers back east and on the west coast be dictating to Montana, Idaho, etc, how they should be managing their state?


    Comment by Dan Smith — June 13, 2007 @ 7:53 am

  12. There’s already 107 Million acres of Wilderness. And, almost another 80 Million acres of land that is managed as if it had Wilderness designation.

    You speak of “Wilderness Designation” as if it’s the only answer. If you want to protect it from Mining and Foresting, then designate it as such. But, to place the mighty label of “WILDERNESS” upon it, is to kick everyone out that doesn’t use the land as you think it should be used. (A meaningless reduction in other citizens rights and happiness) The other “shared” users of our National Forests have tried to get a “recreation” designation created for years, only to be blocked by Environmental Purist. So, is it really about protecting the area, or just plain kicking humans out.

    And don’t tell me about how it’s everyone’s land. I’m from back east. They don’t have a clue what your talking about. 90% of them don’t even know what a wilderness is, or how it differs from a National Forest. They have no prospective on the situation. They only repeat what lies that have had programmed into them. Many of my friends and relatives have come out west only to be completely dismayed at how different reality is from what they were told. (Take Yellowstone for example).

    It’s discrimination. No two ways about it. It won’t save the wildlife any better than a recreation designation, it will not reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere (quite the contrary, no forest management, as if that’s been pratised for the last 100 years anyways). It’s a simple land grab. A attempt to create a idealistic fantasy place, that can’t be visited or looked upon by a majority of the population. Look at the bill. Most of these areas are so small, your going to still be able to hear the highway from the center of it. You want a wilderness, go hike the Frank Church Wilderness of No Return. That’s what a wilderness should be. Anything less, is just a excuse to deny others.

    So, give me a number. What percentage of Government National Lands should be closed with the Wilderness Designation. What are you people going to do for fun, when you’ve closed it all. Create a mecca for drug growers. (Look up Daniel Boone National Forest if you don’t know what I mean.)


    Comment by Wade Patrick — October 14, 2007 @ 10:42 pm

  13. Anyone find it funny that a wilderness bill targeted at the Rockies was introduced by representatives from NY and CT. I wonder if they have ever even been out here, or into the proposed areas. I doubt it


    Comment by Bob — October 18, 2007 @ 11:01 am

  14. Bob,

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

    I thought that was strange also until I looked into it a little more. It seems that the politicians in this area, Rehberg in particular, are closely tied in to the interests that want to exploit these areas.

    There has been some form of this Act brewing for the last 20 years, always being defeated by the interests of mining, energy, logging and cattle raising. Our political people here have had that long to form some kind of effort to deal with these areas and haven’t done a thing. It takes someone from outside the area to view the situation here more objectively. I don’t believe the Parks were instituted by locals, either.

    By the way, I suspect there are few of those who oppose HR 1975 who have been in many of the proposed areas either.


    Comment by montucky — October 18, 2007 @ 12:22 pm

  15. Hi, Montucky,
    I grew up in Idaho when the Primitive Area, portions of which I hiked and backpacked, was still huge, still intact. I applaud the aims of HR 1975. People opposing it often get the purpose of wilderness wrong. They think its about them, about their desires versus those of other people. It’s not. It’s not about the self-focused interests of people. It’s about the plants, the animals, the rivers, the streams, the geography, and a lot of intangibles. It’s about leaving something that’s a bit more important than you or me free to go its own way. It’s about being a steward, a protector of something that will become more and more valuable to those who follow us as our nation’s population grows and the stresses that go with it rise.

    If you are a westerner who made use of wilderness and then gets displaced east of the Mississippi, you suffer. There is no escape to the untouched. Your freedom has shrunk, noticeably, and you feel diminished.

    If you have never made use of wilderness, then you won’t find the formal designation of a new area makes much difference to you or the life you lead. But that place will be there waiting for you when you change your mind, waiting for you and your children and your grandchildren and their children with all its wonders still intact. Perhaps you don’t care, but what’s out there cares and what’s inside a whole bunch of people care and hungers for it the way it is.

    Sometime it’s good to leave well-enough alone. Especially when its something that you don’t use, that doesn’t mean much to you anyway.


    Comment by Jim Hickerson — January 16, 2008 @ 9:38 pm

  16. Very well put, Jim!


    Comment by montucky — January 16, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

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