John Heenan, candidate for U.S. Congress in Montana, issued the following statement:
When Greg Gianforte introduced his bill H.R. 1519 “Unlocking Public Lands Act,” I knew there was good reason to be alarmed. Every Montanan who has children and grandchildren, or who loves our way of life, or who understands the importance of the tourism and outdoor industry to Montana’s economy should be alarmed too.
A recent Bozeman Daily Chronicle article (Saturday, March 24), reported on an “unlocking public lands” meeting hosted by Gianforte featuring hand-picked lobbyists rather than regular Montanans. These should be public meetings with people from all perspectives represented, but Gianforte has long failed to understand how strongly we Montanans feel about out public access rights.
“Unlocking” is simply corporate code for taking away our cherished wilderness and handing it over to oil, gas, gold mining and timber corporations. The 700,000 acres of wilderness study areas that Gianforte and his wealthy corporate donors want to “unlock” is a massive takeaway from those of us who enjoy hunting, hiking, biking and recreating on public lands. It is your water that will be polluted and exploited for the benefit and profit of multinational corporations and ultra-rich donors. Even worse, the negative impact on the outdoor industry and manufactured goods businesses that employ tens of thousands of Montanans will be significant.
The wilderness Gianforte is going after are Axolotl Lakes, the Bell/Limekiln Canyons, the Henneberry Ridge, the Hidden Pasture, the Twin Coulee, the Black Sage, the Blacktail Mountains, the Centennial Mountains, the East Fork Blacktail Deer Creek, the Farlin Creek, the East Pioneers, the Ruby Mountains, the Bitter Creek, the Billy Creek, the Bridge Coulee, the Seven Blackfoot, the Terry Badlands, the Hoodoo Mountain, the Wales Creek, Antelope Creek, the Cow Creek, the Dog Creek South, the Ervin Ridge, the Stafford and the Woodhawk.
You may not know the location of each of these special places in Montana. Still, the people whose businesses and lives revolve around them may not want them to be “unlocked” by Gianforte and his corporate donors. Their voices should be heard.
Montana is a huge state with lots of wilderness. As well, there is a lot of other private and public land other than wilderness that is already available for oil, gas and timber development. Why must the people who rely on these special wilderness areas for their businesses, their recreation, hunting and for their Montana way of life, get cashed in on by Gianforte?