For once, I disagree with Governor Schweitzer
With summertime fishing and recreation in full bloom, Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Wednesday praised a handful of new laws that protect Montanans' access to state wildlife and waters.Now, I'm not here to impugn the Governor's environmental credentials. But if Schweitzer wants to properly conserve wildlands, opening them up to ever more human traffic is not the way to do it.
"If Montana didn't have 30 million acres of public lands," including wild lands and world-class fisheries, Schweitzer said, we'd be "just like a lot of the other states."
The state has some of the best laws in the West guaranteeing access to almost all waters in the state, he said. The 2005 Legislature passed four bills that Schweitzer said makes citizen access to water and wildlife better.
...The governor praised HB269, by Rep. Paul Clark, D-Trout Creek, which clarifies that counties cannot abandon a roadway or bridge that allows access to public land or waters unless they replace it with another access site that's just as good.
This all goes back to former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt's idea of the National Wilderness Area, whose sole purpose is to prohibit excessive traffic in the nation's most sensitive wild areas. The National Wilderness Act was recently gutted by President Bush and his corporate cronies. But I wouldn't have expected to see Schweitzer siding with them rather than with environmental groups such as the Sierra Club in guaranteeing public access to sensitive wildlands.
The purpose of this site is to promote Schweitzer's Presidential candidacy, and it must be admitted that Schweitzer's wildland position is probably the proper political calculus on both a state and national level. However, as an environmentalist, I personally am quite disappointed in the governor.
Nevertheless, it's good to hear that he's a flyfisherman -- something he shares with the late President Grover Cleveland, who wrote two books on the subject.
[Update] In comments, Lavoisier1794 makes the good point that Schweitzer hasn't actually pledged to open any NEW wildlands to human contact, just to preserve access for sportsmen to lands they already enjoy. Given that, I don't have a problem with what Schweitzer's doing. In fact, it's actually shrewd politics. I respectfully retract my criticism.