Holding Our Ground in Livingston

By Skye Borden
State Director

From the Kootenai’s ancient cedar groves to the Absaroka’s jagged peaks, Montana is blessed with beautiful mountains and abundant wildlife.

These are the wild places where grizzly bears forage for food, where bighorn sheep perch on rocky ledges, and some of the last great American wolf packs still roam free. These are the mountains where adventurers and athletes venture out to test themselves, where families and friends escape to recharge and reconnect. They remind us, as John Muir did, that “going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”

Oil and gas drilling is a direct threat to the mountains and wildlife we love. Access roads and drilling pads slice through native habitat. And, toxic substances in fracking chemicals and wastewater spill into waterways and seep into groundwater.

Sacrificing our mountains and wildlife is no longer, if it ever was, the price we must pay for progress. That’s not a world we have to live in anymore. Nor is it the future our children deserve.

Now, more than ever, we need to hold our ground – to stand up against oil and gas developers and protect America’s last best places.

But, the Trump administration has different priorities. Since taking office last year, the President and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have slashed protections for American wilderness and auctioned off an unprecedented 12 million acres of the nation’s public land for oil and gas leases.

Under the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, the Interior has aggressively moved to silence public input and expand lease sales, even in areas where oil and gas companies have expressed zero interest, including parcels in Montana’s iconic Big Hole River Valley and near the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument.

Earlier this year, residents in scenic Livingston, Montana, learned that a large section of public land on the outskirts of their town was slated to be auctioned for oil and gas development. For a town that thrives on outdoor recreation, the idea of fracking pads sandwiched between the banks of the Yellowstone River and the iconic Livingston Peak was nearly unthinkable. But, thanks to the tireless work of some dedicated local organizers, the town banded together to fight back – and they won. This summer, Secretary Zinke announced that he was deferring the Livingston parcels from the sale. I decided to talk with folks in Livingston to see what we can learn about their successful campaign. If public opposition won a reprieve for Livingston, could it do the same for other communities? How can we keep more drilling and fracking from spoiling our mountains and harming our wildlife?