More From America’s Great Outdoors in Montana

America’s Great Outdoors Montana Listening Session Bozeman, Montana
Wednesday, June 2, 2010 Montana State University

Post by Ron Craighead

introductory speech was given by Will Shefolk who works directly under Ken
Salazar, Secretary of the Interior.  The
stated purpose of these sessions was to ‘reconnect’ to people and issues
regarding wilderness and public lands and restart conservation efforts that
were absent in the previous administration. 

There was
an emphasis on reconnecting our nation’s youth to the outdoors, as children are
spending less time in nature, and a desire to build momentum for local
grassroots organizations to raise environmental awareness.  Will Shafroth referred to the creation of Yosemite and the National Trail System as examples of
thinking ahead for future generations.

Montana was the first stop on the tour, because they felt that Montana offered a good
representation and diversity of views on wilderness and public land use.

They then
showed a 10-minute video of how government and volunteer-assisted conservation
efforts in the past have helped protect some of our most treasured wildlands
and parks.

We (200 in
attendance) were then divided into three breakout groups in different
rooms.  I was in the group led by Jay
Jensen from the Department of Agriculture, which oversees the National Forest

The main
emphasis of these sessions is to get direct input on land use issues, seek
cooperative solutions from the public and to get input on what works and what
doesn’t.  What role should government
play?  They are starting with a blank
slate and it is up to the public to provide direction on future land use

At this
point, Jay opened the floor to public input.  Jay mediated and commented while
another person took notes on a large note pad. Most of the people in the room
made comments and a variety of people were represented:  dairy farmers, ranchers, ATV advocates,
climbers, mountain bikers, hunters. 
Three ranchers from southeastern MT drove four hours to have their voices

A very wide
spectrum of views and subjects were expressed. 
The government panel seemed most interested in efficient, grassroots
projects that can be run on a local level by mostly volunteer effort.  Budgets are tight, and little money available
to launch new national initiatives.  Jay
seemed particularly interested in ideas that increased management and budget
efficiency on the local level.  One
person in attendance was an accountant who was on the MT board of Ducks
Unlimited and had some very specific suggestions on how to improve efficiency
of the local Fish, Wildlife and Parks operations.  Jay and crew were very interested in his

This forum
really is a rare chance to present groundbreaking ideas directly to the people
who create government policy – and they seemed eager to get that input.  They
appreciated detail and forethought and all comments were listened to, although
some time was spent on very broad concepts and emotional issues that, frankly,
are difficult to act on.  They really perked up whenever someone presented a
clear, concise, feasible idea.  It is
also beneficial to let them know what programs work and what doesn’t.

I commended
the Dept of the Interior for canceling the past administration’s oil and gas
leases in Utah
and for initiating reforms for onshore drilling.  I also read a brief history of Utah’s ‘No
More Wilderness’ settlement and asked them to repeal it in order to allow the
millions of acres of wilderness quality lands now held in limbo to be able to
move forward with possible wilderness designation.

I was
honored to be able to represent Utah Wilderness at this event, and I think
having two representatives (Carolyn Hopper and myself) in two separate groups
bring up the ‘no more wilderness’ policy in Utah was very effective. 

Make your
voice heard online at:

The final
draft of their recommendations is to be presented this November.