Protecting Montana’s Wildlife Heritage for Future Generations

Adam Wallis
Saturday, August 6, 2022
Protecting Montana’s Wildlife Heritage for Future Generations

Adam Wallis

As the owner of K Bar L Ranch, I have the privilege of taking guests on hikes, hunting trips, and horseback rides so they can experience first-hand the magnificent wildlife and blue-ribbon trout streams that have made Montana a vacation paradise and one of the best places on earth to raise children. I’m worried, however, that future generations may not be able to enjoy our wildlife traditions because of the biodiversity crisis that faces our nation. One-third of all wildlife species are at heightened risk of extinction and here in Montana, our wildlife agency has identified 47 species in critical need of conservation, including bull trout, harlequin ducks, and sharp-tailed grouse.

The main reason that wildlife species are in decline is because of habitat loss. It’s no secret to any of us who regularly spend time on our public lands and waters.

Drought, wildfires, impacts from climate change, and human development have degraded habitat and disrupted wildlife migration.

The National Wildlife Federation recently released a report that showed that game species lost 6.5 million acres of vital habitat over thelast two decades.Fortunately, in June the U.S. House of Representatives passed a historic, bipartisan bill that will give state and tribal wildlife agencies the funding they need to restore wildlife habitats so that wildlife can survive and thrive. It’s called the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and it will give $1.3 billion to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies to implement congressionally mandated wildlife action plans. For Montana, it means that wildlife managers will receive nearly 28 million dollars every year to use the best available science, alongwith public input, to ensure that our wildlife recovers and survive.

This legislation has broad support from both Republicans and Democrats because it takes a common sense, locally led approach to address the wildlife crisis.

Improving wildlife populations before a species becomes endangered and has to undergo a costly Endangered Species Act listing saves us all money. Reversing declining populations of pollinators can provide priceless benefits to America’s farmers. Restoring grassland and forest habitat can help safeguard drinking water suppliesand make communitiesmore resilient to drought.

Helping fish, big game, and other wildlife species recover can expand opportunities for hunting, fishing, bird watching,and other outdoor recreation. Montana’s outdoor recreation economy generates$7 billion in consumer spending and almost $300 million in state and local taxes. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act can help our economy grow even more.

Apart from the profound economic benefits of recovering our wildlife populations, it’s the right thing to do, and the right time to do it. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is the best chance we have to win the race against the wildlife crisis. The U.S.

Senate is expected to take up this legislation this month. I hope that Sen. Daines will join Sen. Tester and 16 Republican colleagues in supporting this historic legislation. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will conserve Montana’s wildlife, restore our lands and waters, and safeguard our sporting traditions so they can survive and thrive for future generations.

Adam Wallis owns the K Bar L Ranch outside Augusta, Montana.