We oppose removing wilderness study areas

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To the editor: We’ve recently become aware of Sen. Steve Daines’ intention to introduce legislation removing protection from Montana’s wilderness study areas. We cannot state strongly enough how much we oppose this withdrawal of protection.

We are a fifth-generation Montana family, and love this state. Living and working from Kalispell to Great Falls to Bozeman; attending both of Montana’s universities; earning degrees in forestry and resource management, education, and land rehabilitation; and starting two small, successful businesses. Throughout, we gained perspective on the nature of the roadless vs. open development debate. We have hiked, camped, fished, and hunted many wilderness study areas, and treasure these remote wild country experiences — favorite hunting spots of our fathers, ours, and now our children’s.

While we recognize and are not opposed to our own and our nation’s need for minerals and lumber, the solution is not to unilaterally open these special areas for development. The Forest Service should first manage its roaded lands better, and practice great caution in permitting any new mining activities considering their potential long-term adverse impacts and short-term gains. Remember the Butte Superfund Site, the Blackfoot contamination and others. The last thing Montana needs is divisive legislation that pits us against one another.

Outdoor recreation and Montana’s beauty, solitude, and abundant wild places have become driving forces in our economy, and are renewable as long as we manage responsibly. These wilderness study areas were set aside for the purpose of allowing future generations opportunity to enjoy them, and make thoughtful decisions regarding their development. Montana’s landscapes are our responsibility to steward. Let’s begin by doing an excellent job with land that has already been allocated for development, before we leap ahead and begin to high-grade the few remaining roadless areas for the benefit of a few special interests.

—John and Connie Doty, Polson

—Faith Doty, Bozeman

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