Study: Montanans support for public lands strong, growing

A new survey by UM's Crown of the Continent and Greater Yellowstone Initiative shows strong, and even increasing support for public lands in Montana, said a Crown spokesman.

"Some of the results over the years have been very consistent, in fact, if anything, they’ve been going up in favor of public lands," said Rick Graetz, a UM geology lecturer, in a Montana Public Radio interview. "And we’ve had some surprises since 2014, and we’ve seen a huge number of people who recognize the economic benefits of public lands."

Five hundred registered voters were surveyed, and 90 percent said public lands have a positive impact on maintaining what is best about Montana, up from 83 percent when the survey was last conducted in 2016.

Respondents also recognized the important of sportsmen in driving awareness of public officials and their positions on conservation issues. It's no surprise, but the survey shows that Montanans are far more likely to fish and hunt than the average American. A majority of Montanans participate in both: 52 percent hunt compared to a national average of 28 percent, and 55 percent fish compared to 29 percent nationally.

 

The survey also indicated Montanan's oppose efforts by Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Greg Gianforte to remove Wilderness Study Area protection for 29 sites in the state. Fifty-seven percent said they supported maintaining the current status for the study areas.

The pair challenged the conclusions of the study, saying the survey question failed to describe current management on the lands, as well as how it would change if their legislation was approved.

In 2009 Gianforte sued Montana to close a public access site on the East Gallatin River, claiming users were damaging his adjacent property. Gianforte dropped the suit after FWP upgraded trails and fencing at the site.

Caribou gone from the lower 48

It isn't a surprise, really, that woodland caribou were finally declared extinct in the U.S. We've been watching the remaining woodland caribou in the Pacific Northwest dwindle to just a few stragglers for sometime. The animals, the lone pre-European settlement big game animal native to Montana that is now absent, once roamed as far south as Lolo Pass in the Bitterroot.

The last time woodland caribou were in the Treasure State was 2012, when five wandered down from British Columbia.

Here's my latest Flathead Beacon column about these extinct gray ghosts — extinct in the U.S. that is.

Forest ranger’s fight for access earns award

Forest ranger Alex Sienkiewicz has been on the frontlines fighting to protect public access to public land in the Crazy Mountains. Things grew so heated he was temporarily removed from his job when well-connected access opponents complained to higher-ups in Washington.

Sienkiewicz is back on the job now, and the Cinnabar Foundation honored his work with the Jim Posewitz Professional Conservation Award. The award was presented to Sienkiewicz last Friday in Helena.