Colonizing Montana Wilderness in 2022

The following is an op ed piece submitted to Montana’s print media with the hope of reaching some people who have been duped by the dupers. Whenever you hear about a western congressman or senator talking about “wilderness protection,” there is always more to the story, and more seizing native forest land for commerce than there is wilderness protection. My argument follows:

Technology and machines encroach into rural homes, schools and businesses, changing the private and public values that have long defined quality of life in Montana. Fragments of virgin forest fall to man’s replacement: expensive, more powerful machines.

Local, year-round residents in towns like Seeley Lake and Lincoln have always struggled to make ends meet. Local businesses always worked hard just to keep their heads above water. Life in Montana has always been a struggle to survive; it makes us smile.

Lately, political operatives with fancy titles and university degrees in political science and social engineering are now trying to sell Montanans a fable that these isolated communities were once thriving mining and logging towns.  According to Webster’s, to thrive is “to grow vigorously, flourish or to gain in wealth or possessions: prosper.”  My question to these (self-appointed) superior intellectuals: Is that so? 

Using their “superior intellect” and revisionist history as a political battering ram, these modern-day settlers/trust-funders polarize communities by creating anxiety and chaos. Like any good pitchman selling “product,” they have a ready-made solution.  Divide and conquer is their game, colonization, enslavement and plunder their aim.

To experience true wild country, or to catch a wild trout or observe wildlife in its native habitat are treasured values most Americans lost long ago.  Montana is being overrun by wealthy newcomers and tourists who desire a little of what Montanans have always had in abundance.  Quality of life can’t be measured only in dollars and cents.

Thousands of commenters who oppose the Holland Lake Lodge expansion by Categorical Exclusion clearly see how this loophole is being abused widely to benefit a few “chosen people.”

The Lincoln Prosperity Proposal and Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (Senator Tester’s wilderness-plunder bill) promise the “good life” through expanded commercial exploitation and domestication.  Clearcutting de facto wilderness backcountry and overrunning local roads and trails with sprinter vans, mountain bikes fragments rural community.  

Tester’s bill is a deregulation bill with contempt for public participation and sound environmental analysis. Restoration is logging, pure and simple. The poison pill imbedded in Tester’s Blackfoot bill is the expanded, codified use of Categorical Exclusions. Bulldozing new logging roads
fragment the roadless landscape. If restoration logging is excluded from NEPA review, Tester’s frontal attack on citizen enforcement and judicial review will succeed.

Seeley Lake’s backcountry is currently protected by the Clinton-era Roadless Rule. 

The Lincoln Prosperity proposal reclassifies roughly 70,000 acres for expedited “forest restoration” near Lincoln. Legislating “greater management flexibility” is a recipe for forest plunder. Don’t be fooled, restoration means NEPA-exempt logging. 

Three “conservation areas” totaling 63,000 acres, are reserved for enhanced conservation, or more specifically, play areas for mountain bikers on high-elevation trails.  Subtract 63,000 acres.

One more subtraction is needed to account for the 10,600 roadless acres (de facto wilderness) reserved for ATVs, dirt biking play areas.

By my calculation, that amounts to 70,000 + 63,000 + 10,600=143,600 acres subtracted from 200,000 acres of existing Inventoried Roadless Lands.  All 143,600 acres of small “w” wilderness will be converted to accommodate motorized recreation and mountain biking, including e-bikes — a staggering loss.

Most supporters of the Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act legislation and Lincoln Prosperity think they’re supporting wilderness protection. Neither initiative protects wilderness characteristics or wildlife habitat values in Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs). Neither preserves Montana’s quality of life.

To avoid self-inflicted harm to Montana values, why not consider supporting a more holistic option? The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA), which protects all IRAs in the 5-state Wild Rockies bioregion. No CE’s, no clearcuts. “…the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32.

Steve Kelly is a wilderness and wildlife activist, artist and gardener residing in Bozeman, Montana.

14 thoughts on “Colonizing Montana Wilderness in 2022

  1. The series Yellowstone is currently stealing thunder on this subject. Here is an excerpt from a speech by fictional governor John Dutton, played by Kevin Costner:

    You don’t see it on your way to work, in the fields, or on the mountain, but there’s a war being waged against our way of life. They’ll tell you all the reasons – why our way of life … are bad for this country, bad for our future. How it’s immoral that you live here, work here, grow their food here. They will tell it so much you might even start to believe it yourself. Question what you do and who you are. They’ll tell you that the land’s only hope is for them to be its steward. The ugly truth is they want the land, and if they get it, it will never look like our land again. That is progress in today’s terms, so if it’s progress you seek, do not vote for me. I am the opposite of progress. I am the wall that it bashes against, and I will not be the one who breaks.

    But the other side of this is the Climate fear campaign, whose message is that any intervention in nature is offensive to mother earth. The reason we can afford to have wilderness is because when we go there, we know we have a civilization to return to.


  2. Genesis 1:28
    King James Version
    28; And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

    From Yahweh, to pope Alexander VI’s papal bulls (1493), to European kings and queens and their agents, to the U.S. government, to Governor John Dutton (2022), the foundational mindset (cognitive model) is “chosen people”/”promised land.”

    I know absolutely nothing of Yellowstone, the series. I would be shocked if the issue of property=dominance (political power from property), and the original seizing of North, South and Central America by “God’s will” is put on the table for us to contemplate. I could be wrong, but to this day is the delusional justification (sans justice) for Indian nations having no “equal” property rights (dominion of their own), established in European minds (imagined as reality).


    1. “I would be shocked if the issue of property=dominance (political power from property), and the original seizing of North, South and Central America by “God’s will” is put on the table for us to contemplate. ”

      That seems to be a big part of the series to me, that historical backdrop. One of the Duttons is married to a native American and they are active players in the ongoing land and development battles.


    1. Steve: I do not know; was it just for money that the various treaties with the Indian Nations were abridged? They sold out for oil, gas and mineral cash/rights? If They and Their treaties really had acknowledged/defined a sovereign entity, could they not “cancel” such treaties as a threat to their very existence? Or is this yet another of those arrangements where the higher-ups get all the payolla while hiding behind whoever or whatever is handy?


        1. My reading of the Commentary presented seems to reinforce my belief that Conquest underlies all – the rest is window-dressing. All those generous treaties still left the natives subordinate to the conquerors.


          1. It was discovery and conquest combined that created NEW law. It stands as precedent to this day, which is quite remarkable, IMO.

            From the conclusion: “Marshall took dominion from discovery, but limited it to a preemptive right. Consequently, he needed a rule that would establish American title in the Americas. The conquest rule was the European justification for the establishment of a property regime, providing the doctrines that justified and organized new title systems in new lands. Using these rules together, Marshall concocted a nation’s narrative, with subtleties of tone that questioned the justice of the past while nodding toward the inevitability of it all.”

            “Concocted” law is the law of the land in 2022! I’m digging in on this one.


            1. As always, it’s the obfuscation that bothers me most. Had the statement been made “we conquered you, now shaddap” from the onset, I think that there would have been far less “we stole their land” bullshit in centuries henceforth. “They”, not We, or me stole anything… they de facto conquered. The Law of Conquest was mentioned, no?

              “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” comes to mind.


              1. “Discovery” (payments, treaties, etc.) came long before the post-hoc rationalizatoin (“conquest”). It was the “heathen” (non-Christian) category/class that did not recognize Indian nation sovereignty as equal to “Christian nation” dominion. I realize, in hindsight, as a “practical matter” conquest carried the day. However, Roman law governing outright conquest wouldn’t have exempted the U.S. government from fair compensation for “taking” property from a sovereign nation. As it played out, Christian conversion (schools, language, culture, food conversion) WAS considered the compension for taking the land, and reducing Indian soverign rights to “occupation” and hunting and fishing rights. All treaties after Johnson v. M’Intosh only granted “occupation” not absolute title, even ON the reservations. It was creative, imaginative, and devilishly evil and effective — and “necessary” — to circumvent legal precedent(s) at the time (1823).


  3. I’ve been watching Yellowstone (no streaming – the local library has it.) I actually find it hard to decode the overall messaging – they’re too clever to make it blunt (or else I’m very dense, a strong possibility.) “Liberal” and “conservative” ideals seem to both get an airing. What I come away with so far (first four seasons) is that it’s a paean to the “Duttons”, warts and all – their virtues and strengths, their sins and failings. But with a sense of doom hanging over them, as the changing times are like a tidal wave about to crash over them and wash it all away.


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