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In her Feb. 25 piece, “Bill is based on forward thinking, not old-school methods,” Montana Wilderness Association council President Daphne Herling responded to criticism from ex-MWA members frustrated with a cooperative approach to wilderness designation. As a member of the future generation of Montanans who are committed to wildland protection in the face of a warming planet, I was proud to read her words: “MWA is not content to sit on the laurels of the old school. There is too much at stake.”

I couldn’t be more appreciative of conservation groups, such as MWA, that have made the conscious decision to move beyond the ideologically driven debates of yester-year, and have joined the timber industry and motorized recreation groups to back Sen. Jon Tester’s bill. Together, they are making a decisive shift away from the era of litigation – the source of so many environmental organizations’ power in recent decades (including MWA’s) – and it’s no wonder those groups whose reputations were built on confrontation are frightened by the prospect of change.

For future generations of Montanans, and the leaders of MWA, the status quo is not an option. We refuse to be defined by the defensive tactics of years passed. Lawsuits should be one tool that we use, not the tool that we use to protect public lands. We see a future characterized by negotiation and – yes – compromise. We refuse to let our rural economies go by the wayside. And we refuse to go another 30 years without any new wilderness in Montana.

With all due respect, those ex-MWA council members had their chance. Now, it’s our turn. It’s time for a new direction in public lands management, and the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act represents that new direction. The future has arrived, and I like the way it looks.

Zack Porter, Missoula

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