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Tribes Can Make the Difference

Stephen Capra, Executive Director, Bold Visions Conservation



We live in such precarious times; it is reassuring that Spring is arriving. While it is cold and the much-needed snows continue, we will soon hear the voices of the birds we have missed, the rivers will pick up the tempo, and we will soon see the new leaves on the trees of Summer.

 

The sense of renewal is one that brings a smile after the long winter.

 

Today, I will be heading to Billings to meet with the Tribes of Montana and Idaho. It is an honor to be asked to present our National Monument proposal to them. I have had the pleasure of working with Tribes since my early days on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They were key to the National Monuments we created in New Mexico and vital to Chaco Canyon.


When you think about the area of the National Monument proposal in Montana and Idaho, Tribes have been there in various forms for 11,000 years; we have been there for more like 250 years. The Gallatin valley was summer hunting and gathering grounds for the Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Sioux, Eastern Shoshone, Northern Arapahoe, Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, Salish, and Kootenai Tribes who shared the wealth of game in the moderate weather of summer.

 

Some in the conservation community do not trust the Tribes. Like any people, the views of Tribes and Tribal members can vary. Still, their engagement and support are vital to the creation of this Monument. My experience over the years has been very positive and allows important dialogue and the building of trust.


It is important to remember that a Monument can be created by the Antiquities Act; this Act allows the President to protect the lands and bypass the dysfunctional Congress we are now witness to. It also does not allow the anti-wilderness and public lands hatred that is at the core of many in our delegation and those at a state level.

This Monument is about protecting the enormously important wildlife corridors that define this mountain range. The importance of rewilding some of these lands so wildlife can genuinely thrive will also enhance the concept that this Monument is for wildlife! Nowhere in the lower 48 are we gifted with so many species that are endangered or threatened by ignorance and a game commission focused on the destruction of wolves, grizzly bears, and wolverines. These lands must be protected for their future.


We need this Monument to relieve some of the pressure from the 4 million visitors who overwhelm Yellowstone each year. We also need this to change the face of wilderness and public lands protection in Montana, which has largely been dormant, thanks to Senator Daines, who only wants to remove more lands and protections.

 

This is not an easy project, but with your support and energy, we can work with the community of Bozeman, smaller surrounding communities, and the Tribes to find common ground that will protect these lands forever and allow our wildlife to truly thrive.

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