It’s been nearly a year since the largest public protest in Montana history occurred on the front lawn of the capital in Helena. The Women’s March inspired young and old to brave the cold, band together, and show up for our rights as women…and Americans. As we flip the calendar to a new year, much progress has been made to elevate women’s voices nationwide.
Yet, there is still much to do. In this era of “fake” news, nonfactual social media posts, and a loss of decorum, dignity, and public process in our elected officials, our voices are needed more than ever. Our votes are needed more than ever. And the example we set for the next generation is more important than ever.
The last twelve months we’ve seen an unprecedented attack on our public lands, and our public process. Secretary Zinke, under the Trump administration, directly challenged Teddy Roosevelt’s legacy and the Antiquities Act by “reviewing” and reducing several national monuments across America. While our own Upper Missouri River Breaks was spared, many Montana families’ spring and fall retreats of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante – both in Utah – were stripped of protections and thrust into uncertainty.
Despite overwhelming public comment in support of leaving national monuments nationwide as-is (tens of thousands of comments in support of monuments from Montanans alone), it appears special interests have a louder voice for some of our elected officials than the every day business owners, teachers, plumbers, and engineers they are elected to represent.
Americans are outraged. Montana families are outraged. Montana women are outraged.
Just a few weeks ago, Senator Daines introduced the “Protect Public Use of Public Lands” bill, which would strip nearly 500,000 acres of public land of wilderness study area protections – with zero public process.
Again, many Montana women are befuddled. Where is the public process? Where is the opportunity for input from the local communities that are supplied drinking water, storied hunting grounds, and annual camping trips from these lands? Montana’s $7.1 billion recreation economy is dependent upon access to high-quality public lands. We will not allow a small group of special interests to decide the fate of lands that are vital to the health, quality of life and economic livelihood of so many.
We can do better than spending our time looking in the rear view, reopening old wounds long-healed by “reviewing” more national monuments (what is next, our national parks?) or supporting legislation that completely shuts out each and every Montanan’s ability to weigh in on how our public lands are managed and designated.
Montana women, now is the time to make your voice heard. Now is the time to stand up for what is best for your children, and your grandchildren. Now is the time to vote, to run for office, to write letters, to hold house parties, to take your children outside and instill in them a love for our public lands and waters so that they, too, protect what is theirs.
We will not be silenced.