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!


  1. Thank you for this Terry. I’m working on the letter. (It’s almost done I expect it to be finished tomm) meanwhile, I think few understand the impact of ATV’s until they’ve seen it. Over here we have trails and trail maps that they can go on and they are very limited. However, Ranger Rick rarely goes up on the mt. so new ones are forged everyday… I loath it… but I’ll save that for the letter. 🙂 The ATV really is (at least in my opinion) the enemy of the hiker, photographer and hunter. Thanks for offering a way to make a difference.


    Comment by aullori — November 18, 2007 @ 12:44 am

  2. Thanks for your concern, Lori! The folks at the Pryors Coalition seem to be extremely reasonable in their recommended plan. Be sure to copy them on your letter. I did and received a nice letter back from them thanking me for helping.

    I have seen ATV and ORV damage here which has completely destroyed sizable areas of plants and is causing severe erosion to the mountainsides to say nothing of how much their noise disturbs all of the wildlife. All of this by people engaging in illegal activity while claiming they are “enjoying nature”. Then the dealers advertise on TV, “defend your right to ride”!


    Comment by montucky — November 18, 2007 @ 1:05 am

  3. Thanks for this. Way to go! We need more people like you in the world before we all go extinct. I will use the link.
    what a great collection of photos posted below. Amazing beauty.


    Comment by nouveaufauves — November 19, 2007 @ 1:12 am

  4. Thanks for your interest, nouveaufaves! I feel that there are folks all over America who are concerned about these issues but hesitant to say anything because they don’t live in the area affected. It’s important to realize that the National Forests and Parks belong to ALL of us, and it will take all of us to make sure they are protected. There are almost constant attacks on the wild country by a variety of interests, but I can’t help but think that those who are doing it are not in the majority. However, the majority will suffer as a result. I’m always sad when I think about the 6 states that have no wilderness left at all!


    Comment by montucky — November 19, 2007 @ 9:48 am

  5. Last night, I wrote a letter to an address on your link…Northern Beartooth Custer or something. I will write to some congressmen too. It went….
    “Make sure these wilderness areas are for the use of the NATIVE inhabitants, the bears, the wild sheep, the wild flowers and plants. Not people. I don’t care if I never see it. I just want to know it’s there. We humans don’t need to go in there except on foot and take our chances with the rest of the animals. If we limit the access from the public to foot traffic, it will have the least impact on this beautiful area. If people can’t get in there on foot, so be it. We don’t own this planet. We share it. It isn’t real estate. If we aren’t really careful from here on out we will destroy everything”.


    Comment by nouveaufauves — November 19, 2007 @ 11:05 am

  6. Thanks for doing that! Everything we do helps. If the “silent majority” were no longer silent, I think we could whip these problems fairly quickly.


    Comment by montucky — November 19, 2007 @ 2:50 pm

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