March 23, 2006
David Stalling, Trout Unlimited: (406) 721-4441, (406) 531-7840 (cell)
Nathan Birkeland, Montana Wildlife Federation: (800) 517-7256
Rich Day, Montana Wildlife Federation: (406) 546-9347 (cell)
GREAT FALLS—More than 400 Montana hunters and anglers have signed a letter urging the state’s congressional delegation to protect fish and wildlife and fishing and hunting along the Rocky Mountain Front, according to Russell Country Sportsmen, Montana Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited.
The three groups will host a press conference Thursday, March 23, at Paris Gibson Square in Great Falls to discuss the letter and sportsmen’s efforts to protect the Front from further oil and gas development. The press conference starts at 1 p.m.
“Our professions vary from ranchers, business people, doctors, lawyers, engineers, wildlife professionals, to educators,” the letter states. “All of us share a common passion for hunting and fishing, and a love of the Rocky Mountain Front. We are writing to ask that as our elected senators and representative, you all work together to support the permanent protection of the Front from oil and gas development.”
Speakers at the event include: John Borgreen, of Russell Country Sportsmen and the Montana Wildlife Federation; Roy Jacobs, a taxidermist and former hunting guide from Choteau; Kirk Evenson of Missouri River Flyfishers and Trout Unlimited, and Jim Posewitz of Orion: The Hunters Institute.
“We want to send a clear message to Sens. Burns and Baucus and Rep. Rehberg, that there is a strong diversity of grassroots hunters and anglers, from all walks of life, who support the permanent protection of the Rocky Mountain Front,” says Craig Sharpe, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “In others words, their constituents here in Montana will support any efforts to protect this special, wild place.”
In the late 1990s, the U.S. Forest Service withdrew most of the Front from new oil and gas leasing, but there remained old leases that could still be developed. Last summer, in response to concerns expressed by Montana residents, U.S. Secretary of Interior Gale Norton temporarily suspended development of existing leases. The letter signed by hunters and anglers urges Montana’s congressional delegation to “seek common sense solutions, such as trading or buying out existing leases” to permanently protect the Front.
“We all use gas and oil, and we all support responsible energy development,” says David Stalling of Trout Unlimited. “However, some places are simply too important for fish and wildlife to drill, and the Rocky Mountain Front is one of these places.”