Take action for public lands.



Saving the Sagebrush Sea: An Imperiled Western Legacy

Nearly 350 plant and animal species depend on sagebrush habitat for their survival.



Senator Tester Introduces Montana Forest Jobs and Recreation Act

July 17, 2009

Montana's Senator John Tester today introduced the Montana Forest Jobs and Recreation Act - legiislation to protect new wilderness areas in Montana, while also enhancing forest-based local economies.

 “Senator Tester’s legislation offers a well thought-out and broadly discussed approach to restore America’s forests, put people to work, and protect and enhance fish and wildlife habitat,” said Larry Schweiger, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “It’s a Montana made solution that may provide a model for national forests across the country.”

The Tester bill promotes restoration-focused logging by directing the Forest Service to use its stewardship contracting authorities that will enable timber revenues to be used in the project area for road reclamation and watershed restoration projects. Logging is also focused on the urban-wildland interface to reduce wild fire threats and in areas where stands of lodge pole pine have been decimated by pine bark beetles.

The Tester bill protects some of Montana’s most important fish and wildlife habitats through wilderness designations. Altogether, the bill designates 24 new wilderness areas covering more than 700,000 acres on both BLM and Forest Service land.

“Senator Tester’s bill will create a legacy in both process and on-the ground results that will benefit our children and their children,” said Tim Aldrich, President of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “Key fish and wildlife habitats will be enhanced and protected for future generations while local economies and communities are strengthened by the economics associated with the logging designed to achieve multiple objectives of restoration forestry.”

The National Wildlife Federation was one of the conservation groups that helped build the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, which provided part of the framework for Senator Tester’s bill.

“The National Wildlife Federation has long believed that people working together can find enduring solutions for natural resource management,” said Tom France, Regional Executive Director of NWF’s Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center. “The broad and diverse coalition of groups and companies that support Senator Tester’s bill is truly remarkable.”

For more information contact:
Tim Aldrich, 406-542-3144
Tom France, 406-541-6706
Land Tawney, 406-541-6733

For more information about local partnerships that are promoting both landscape conservation and healthy economies, visit www.bhdlpartnership.org

Help us THANK Sen. Tester for showing positive leadership to protect the best of western Montana’s national forests, landscapes, and local communities. 








Federal sage grouse listing may go to 2010

June 26, 2009

In a lawsuit filed by Western Watersheds Project over the lack of federal protection for sage grouse, the Idaho-based group and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to extend the deadline for the federal agency to make a decision on whether greater sage grouse should be listed as endangered until February of 2010.

Read the entire story...

NWF Protests Selected Lease Sales in Montana to protect wildlife

On June 1 the National Wildlife Federation officially protested the leasing of four land parcels on BLM property in southwest Montana, asserting that the latest science proves that lease stipulations are inadequate to protect sage-grouse. The leases are being offered across approximately 6,000 acres of prime sage-grouse habitat within four miles of important sage-grouse breeding leks in the Sweetwater basin near Dillon. The area was recently identified by the state as an important "core habitat" for sage-grouse. The latest science shows that high density energy development, with associated road construction, power line installation, and disturbance this close to sage-grouse leks is likely to cause local extirpation of sage-grouse breeding populations. The protested parcels received no bids from industry during the June 16 auction, whereas many other Montana parcels not under protest were leased for 10-year terms. "These are key areas for maintaining not only grouse, but the entire range of wildlife found in this nearly pristine corner of southwest Montana" said Ben Deeble, NWF public lands organizer. "The BLM needs to start adjusting to the new scientific findings, research which they themselves helped design and fund. Otherwise they are managing for extinction."

33,000 Acres Up For Lease in June Oil and Gas Lease Sale

On June 16th, 2009 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will offer 74 leases for sale covering nearly 33,000 acres in Montana.

See a map of the lease parcels.


Montana covers about 94 million acres. About 62 million acres of the underlying oil and gas, or fluid mineral estate, is controlled by private entities or by the state of Montana. The remaining 32 million acres of fluid minerals are owned by the American public and administered by the Bureau of Land Management. This includes minerals underlying all federal lands regardless of the agency that manages the surface as well as minerals that were retained in federal ownership when the government transferred ownership of the surface.

The federal government does not develop oil and gas itself, but instead, leases development rights to private industry. Each BLM state office is required to hold lease sales at least four times per year.

BLM defers leasing in Montana's Centennial Valley... for now

Montana's Bureau of Land Management has proposed leasing for energy exploration and development nearly 30 square miles of the best pronghorn and sage-grouse habitat in southwest Montana on the edge of the Centennial Valley and Red Rock river. The valley is also home to the Red Rock wildlife refuge, one of the most important trumpeter swan habitats in the nation, and a major breeding area and migratory stopover for waterfowl. On March 5, 2009 the BLM deferred until further notice the leasing of this area after NWF and other conservation groups questioned the potential impacts to wildlife and local communities and conservation efforts.

Read comments on the proposed lease sale from the National Wildlife Federation, Montana Wildlife Federation, Montana Trout Unlimited and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Hunters, Anglers, Businesses and FWP Oppose Drilling Near Beaverhead River

Two dozen hunting and angling groups and business representing thousands of Montana sportsmen, sportswomen and outdoor interests sent a letter of protest March 23, 2007 to the Bureau of Land Management in Montana declaring that the plan to lease 27,000 acres along the Beaverhead River for oil and gas drilling would result in lost fishing and hunting quality and opportunity in a region where outdoor recreation is economically vital.

The groups, including Trout Unlimited and Montana Wildlife Federation among 22 others, cite failure to communicate with sportsmen and Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks with new and updated information important to fish and wildlife as one reason for opposition. In addition, the letter points out that the BLM is ignoring dominant uses of the public land in the Beaverhead drainage--fish and wildlife. The river itself is one of the most-prized trout fisheries in the nation--the immediate area is a prized destination for big game hunters and some of the proposed leases are in prime sage grouse country. Beaverhead River

"In a region of Montana heralded for its fabulous trout fishing, the Beaverhead River ranks among the top 10 most popular rivers to fish, with nearly 27,000 fishing days spent on it in 2003," the letter reads. "These anglers don't hire guides, buy gear in fly shops, eat at restaurants, stay at motels, and spend their hard-earned money and vacation time to fish amongst wells, pads, pipelines, heavy machinery, industrial noise and wastewater ponds."

At the very least, the groups claim, the BLM should first determine the risks to fish and wildlife in the drainage before advancing lease sales. The group letter was submitted the same day that state wildlife officials, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks also protested the auction due to inadequate analysis on the impacts to fish and wildlife. FWP said that the agency needs to first conduct comprehensive fish and wildlife research before putting these areas on the block. Once it's leased--it's out there for development and development could undercut more than 100 years worth of conservation in the area.

"Some places are just too valuable to sacrifice to the drill bit," said Tim Tollett, owner of Frontier Anglers in Dillon. "The Beaverhead is a cathedral for thousands of anglers all over the country. Drilling here would be an affront to those who value this place. It's just too much to give up. This river is my livelihood and the economic lifeblood of this region. Without it, the quality of life in this valley would be greatly diminished, and the opportunity for future sportsmen to enjoy this place will be all but eliminated."

"You don't take out a loan before you know if you can afford the payments, but that’s exactly what’s happening here--the BLM is selling energy leases without knowing if it can take care of fish, wildlife, hunting and fishing at the same time," said Michael Gibson of Montana Trout Unlimited. "We need to know how toxic wastewater, pipelines, new roads, and other industrial infrastructure from this development are going to affect our hunting and fishing before we even consider leasing. If the BLM sells those leases now, oil and gas companies will have a trump card over our fish and wildlife resources."

"This is not about how Montana can help meet America's energy needs or necessarily a ban on drilling but where it is appropriate and how we can simultaneously take care of Montana's outdoor legacy," said Craig Sharpe, MWF executive director. Sharpe said that sportsmen and sportswomen understand the need to develop oil and gas, "but here--a landscape that supports a tremendously rich ecosystem and world renowned blue ribbon trout fishery--there is simply too much at stake."

For more information about public lands in Montana contact:

Ben Deeble
Email: deeble@nwf.org
Phone: 406-542-2803