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.

The Big Wild

Cristina Eisenberg

For the past 20 years I have lived with my family in a cabin adjacent to vast areas of public lands near the Bob Marshall Wilderness, at 1 million acres one of the largest federal wilderness areas in the contiguous United States. There is a powerful connection between carnivores and public lands. They are a big part of what makes this landscape healthy.

My backyard lies near the heart of The Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, the most important wildlife corridor in North America. Seventeen species of carnivores live there — all the species present at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804.

Looking beyond the Crown of the Continent, public lands matter to carnivores on a continental scale. Public lands provide a refuge. They are essential to create ecologically resilient landscapes.

Large carnivores, such as grizzly bears, need lots of room to roam in order to thrive. As we move into the brave new world of climate change, public lands are essential to help these animals and other at-risk species adjust to climate change. Public lands give them habitat to meet their ecological needs.

Beyond “The Bob,” as those of us who live here call it, from our cabin it’s possible to walk south or east for 100 miles, or north for 2000 miles, without leaving public land. Your land. My land. I like to call this “the big wild.” The animals that live here — particularly the carnivores, which are crucial to the health of ecosystems, and which help make Montana be Montana — need as much big open public land as they can get so that they can thrive.

Cristina Eisenberg is the author of The Carnivore Way and the chief scientist at Earthwatch Institute.

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