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.
Keep Federal Land in Public Hands
My wife and I own and operate Linehan Outfitting Company. We provide lodging, fly fishing and hunting guides to clients who travel here from all over the country seeking an adventure. This year we are celebrating twenty-five years in business.
Public lands are the backbone of our life and the lungs of our business. We have the great good fortune of living within the Kootenai National Forest in Lincoln County in the northwest corner of the state. This is a place of dense, coniferous forests, incredible biodiversity, it’s rich in fish and game populations, and a place where it smells like Christmas all the time.
We never take these public lands for granted. We remind ourselves they are a gift to be treasured and protected at all costs.
These public lands, specifically the 1.8 million acres on the Kootenai National Forest have provided my wife and I, and our staff with a means to make a living. Our guides are now in their middle thirties and are having children. They are making a living, paying their bills, and saving for their children’s college tuition due entirely to the fact that they live within an area of public lands where they can pursue their version of the American dream by making a living off the land. And I’m certain you are aware of the trickle down economic effects of businesses like mine that provide income to families and small businesses through a variety of channels.
Our guests often comment on how lucky we are to live here with so much access to these mountains, these valleys, these rivers, lakes and streams. Some are surprised when we remind them it’s their land too. This is a national forest, I tell them. Your taxes are also funding the management of this and many other large tracts of public land around the country. I offer, you can come back here anytime on your own and camp, catch a native westslope cutthroat trout, hike to the top of a mountain and stay in an old firetower, slip through the dark timber and chase one of the biggest whitetail bucks you’ve ever seen, pick huckleberries, ride a snowmobile into the frozen backcountry in January or just sit by the creek with your toes in the water on a summer day. A smile usually spreads slowly across their faces as the reality of the fact sinks in.
We are completely aware that there is a movement within certain political philosophies to sell off public lands or to transfer ownership in some form. And we want you to know we believe that’s a terrible idea and totally outside the realm of what’s even vaguely appropriate.
There’s talk in some circles of transferring ownership of federal lands to individual states. Wait, what? Let’s do the real math on that and not offer up alternative facts. Any reasonable person would agree that individual states would have a very difficult time funding and managing vast tracts of public lands and that without doubt, states would have to drastically change the scope of how lands were managed in order to cover cost. While that may have a specific appeal to certain corporations and alt political agendas, the vast majority of American families and small businesses that rely on federal lands to pay bills have made it clear they want federal public lands to stay in public hands.
Tim and Joanne Linehan own and operate Linehan Outfitting Company in Yaak.