Holding Our Ground
From Kootenai’s cedar groves to Absaroka’s jagged peaks, our state 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.”
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 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 the Beartooth Mountains and near the Upper Missouri River Breaks.
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 important cultural sites. 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.
Faced with strong grassroots opposition, the administration reversed course in one place: Livingston, MT. Just this spring, after public uproar, Ryan Zinke agreed to remove one parcel in Livingston from auction for further review. The reversal left other Montana communities, leaders and citizens wondering: If Livingston’s public lands are too precious to risk for the sake of oil and gas, why not ours? How can we keep more drilling and fracking from spoiling our mountains and harming our wildlife?
Public and political opposition may have won a reprieve for Livingston. They can do the same for other Montana communities. That’s why we’re making the case against the administration’s actions and plans, and we’re alerting our supporters and public to newly proposed lease sales and mobilizing public participation during BLM and forest serevice comment periods.
In the long run, we need to win enough hearts and minds to our point of view so that even daring to allow lease sales in the High Divide would be a career-ending move for any elected official.
Right now, litigation has bought us some time. Both the spring lease sales and future fall sales are currently being challenged in court. While that litigation plays out, we have an opportunity to build our ground game into an unstoppable force to Hold Our Ground.