Long-term economy depends on natural environment

Dear Editor,

To the Fergus County commissioners: First, let me say how extremely disappointed and dismayed I am about your decision to support Daines’ misbegotten bill to do away with Wilderness Study Areas. Regardless of protests to the contrary, this bill is a blatant effort to open these fragile areas to motorized vehicles, mining and other exploitive enterprises. The history of these enterprises is short-term employment that leaves behind a mess for the taxpayers to clean up, and silted in creeks and degraded water quality.

Next, your decision ignores the long term benefits of maintaining WSA status or, preferably, declaring them Wilderness. Whether you have noticed or not, there are obviously new young families in our community, as evidenced by the increased enrollment in our schools. Unless I am completely mistaken, they aren’t here to see this area industrialized in the fashion of our grandfathers. No, they are here for the clean air, the clean water and the outdoor amenities we currently have available. The long-term economy of this area in particular, in part, depends on maintaining and improving the outdoor recreational environment we are so privileged to have. It seems to me there are ample arguments for this point of view as witnessed by the community support for maintaining the integrity of Brewery Flats and for the Machler Project on Big Springs Creek.

There are other examples of efforts to remediate past travesties to our steams. Try fishing the Middle Fork below Lost Fork that would be negated by repeal of WSA status. The way forward is to maintain WSA status and advocate for permanent wilderness. That is the way to ensure the long-term economic health of Lewistown and the Judith Basin.

Mike Chapman

Lewistown

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