Montana has a long tradition of listening to and respecting — revering — its writers and the state’s literary tradition. In an unprecedented show of unity, more than forty of Montana’s best writers have gathered, in rapid response fashion, to write original essays and testimonials advocating for the protection of our public lands, and endorsing Democratic House of Representatives candidate Rob Quist’s position on this (literally) most common ground of issues. Please vote on May 25.

For the Public Good

Amanda Fortini

Far too many of my teenage memories involve being chased out of this or that wooded area by police, praying I wouldn’t get arrested for trespassing. My friends and I were always looking for a hidden copse of trees or patch of grass where we could sit on the ground away from the hectoring gaze of adults, and find some companionable isolation (and, OK, drink a few beers). But in the Illinois suburb where I was raised, the nearest we got to a space where we could roam around unencumbered was the mall.

It was only when I moved to Montana 20 years later that I realized the psychic toll it takes on a person not to have anywhere wild and natural to retreat to. Here, I finally experienced the beautiful liberation of being able to hike somewhere far from the blare of billboards and advertisements and manmade anything, and feel yourself and your anxieties diminished by the vastness and grandeur of nature, even while your animal self feels a part of it. In Montana, anyone can fish, hunt, hike, or just meander around and think under the wide blue expanse of sky and not worry that the police are on their way to run you off. Those who have not spent time out West will have a hard time understanding the immeasurable public good conferred by our precious public lands. They keep us free.

Amanda Fortini is a writer in Livingston, Montana.

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