The thermometer read -3°, the wind chill -20°. The roads were icy and snow-covered. Nobody wants to stand outside in conditions like that. But our public lands and conservation funding were on the line. On February 23, 2023, hundreds of public land owners, hunters, hikers, anglers and outdoor conservationists gather at the Capitol in Helena to rally for our public lands.
From across the state, people braved the winter conditions to hear speakers remind us and our elected officials why our public lands are critical to Montana. Ryan Callaghan, Conservation Director for MeatEater told us that it is our responsibly to speak up against bad ideas and champion the good ones during our legislative session. We were reminded of our right to a clean and healthful environment in the Montana Constitution by Mariah Gladstone, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe and founder of Indigikitchen. Hannah Muskiewicz, a Helena teacher, told us how public lands raised her and how she wants to protect those same riches for the future - for our children, for the children she teaches, for every generation after us.
Among the loudest call to our elected officials was the reminder to protect Habitat Montana funding. HB 669 seeks to strip Habitat Montana of all voter-approved marijuana tax revenue and reallocate it to the general fund, despite the huge budgetary surplus. HB 462 takes Habitat Montana funds and reallocates them to law enforcement. And SB 442 takes Habitat Montana funding and gives it to county road maintenance. We rallied, shouted, and braved the freezing cold to reaffirm our commitment as hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, and Montanans to protecting these wild places we love.
We appreciate all Montanans who showed up to Rally for Public Lands and thank our conservation partners for this event: Wild Montana, Montana Audubon, Winter Wildlands Alliance, Montana Conservation Voters, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society and Business for Montana's Outdoors.
If you missed the rally, you can watch it here!
Photos courtesy of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and Wild Montana.