Montana Outdoors

November 17, 2007

Outsiders and public access

“it’s important I have written proof that Montanans don’t want members from New York and Connecticut dictating our land-use policy” (this is taken from a press release by Denny Rehberg, Montana’s sole member of the House of representatives, concerning his opposition to the Wilderness Bill, H.R. 1975. In the opening sentence of that release, he also called it a bill, “which would harm public access and recreation in Montana”.

It seems that every time an issue concerning the preservation of our National Forests or Parks arises, Montana’s representative the the House, Denny Rehberg, and Senator Max Baucus, throw their heads back and start braying about “public access” and outsiders “dictating our land-use policy”.

Some 50 miles south of Billings Montana lie the Pryor Mountains, a 78,000 acre high-country zone partly in the Custer National Forest. The Pryors now face a huge problem: unmanaged ATV and dirt bike riders are scarring the land, using and creating illegal trails through large parts of that area.

In a recent edition of the Billings Gazette, is printed a letter by a person defending the Pryors. Here is a link to the letter: Don’t let Pryor Mountains get chewed up by ATVs.

The letter itself is not all that informative, but if you are interested in seeing what some of the local people think “public access” means and why it will take outsiders to protect the National Forest lands in Montana, read the comments after the letter. It suggests to me that Montanans are more interested in playing with their motor toys than they are in protecting the environment!

The Custer National Forest is asking for comments on their new plan for this area, and the comment period is now open until December 19. This is a National Forest issue and therefore concerns not just the residents of Montana, but all of the citizens of the United States. For those of you interested in making your opinions known to the Forest Service about OHV use in our National Forests and helping make a difference, the following link will take you to the website of the Pryors Coalition where you will find more information about the situation in the Pryors and information about how to send your comment to the Forest: YOUR VOICE COUNTS!

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