Montana is literally being loved to death
A campsite at Sourdough Creek in Yellowstone National Park (Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park | Public Domain).
It’s becoming more clear every day that the endless push to develop Montana in every way possible is conflicting with and denigrating the very reason most Montanans live here – for our quality of life. Despite society’s delusions about “having it all” the simple truth is you can’t have it both ways.
It’s not often you see Republicans whine about the negative effects on Montanans of too much development. But when Libby Rep. Steve Gunderson brought his HB 440 to limit the reservation system for Montana state parks Republican Dave Galt, former director of Montana Department of Transportation, and former executive director of the Montana Petroleum Association, told a sobering tale.
Things have changed alright – and you can hear it from just about any long-time Montanan you talk to these days. When it comes to state parks, overdevelopment boomed when Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer brought his old college roommate Joe Maurier up from Colorado to run Montana’s state parks division. Maurier had been running Colorado’s state parks, which are very highly developed, and apparently Schweitzer thought Montana should emulate that commerce-heavy model.
It’s safe to say his Colorado pal wasn’t very familiar with Montana’s laws and policies governing state parks. But in the ’90s the Legislature actually decided to take steps to curtail overdevelopment of state parks with a number of prescient bills. The state parks and fishing access site development act required a pre-development report on “the desires of the public,” “long range maintenance” costs, and “the capacity of the site for development.”
George Ochenski is a longtime Helena resident, an environmental activist and Montana’s longest-running columnist.
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