After years of waiting, the Bureau of Land Management has finally released a draft Lewistown Resource Management Plan (RMP). The BLM states that their preferred plan is one which “makes the most of resources that target social and economic outcomes” – but they mean opening up public lands to more oil and gas leasing, roadbuilding, and development, instead of protecting wildlife habitat and public access. The new draft does not protect any roadless, backcountry lands, including Lands With Wilderness Characteristics, Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, or Backcountry Conservation Areas, which are essential to preserving the wildlife and the economy of this region.
Given the “Energy Dominance” mandate, the draft Lewistown plan prioritizes speculative leasing and development over all other uses of this public land. It threatens to permanently alter some of Montana’s wildest backcountry lands and richest wildlife habitats. Hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and everyone else who values Central Montana’s wildlife and outdoor heritage have the responsibility to speak up before the end of the comment period in August.
The public lands covered by the Lewistown RMP include crucial habitat that connects the Rocky Mountain Front to the Great Plains. With the new draft’s prioritization of oil and gas development, this habitat is going to be degraded and lost forever. Instead of drilling and roadbuilding, the plan should focus on keeping public lands intact for wildlife and people. Protecting habitat for elk, deer, pronghorn, and other wildlife will maintain world-renowned big game hunting — which also supports local communities across the region. In 2015, the hunting expenditures for elk alone in HD 410, 412, 417 and 426 totaled $3.8 million and gave a much-needed boost to the economy in counties within the Lewistown RMP range.
Protect these lands for future generations and speak up now. Public comment on the Lewistown RMP Draft will be open until mid-August and we are urging all stewards of this landscape to get involved.