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Sustainable Missoula: Trump’s ‘extinction plan’ threatens Montana’s wildness

Grizzly bears are one of many threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. (GrandTeton National Park)

Here in Montana, we have a special relationship with our surroundings. We live close to the land and close to the wild animals that inhabit it, and we work fiercely to defend the wildness that defines our outdoor heritage and our way of life. 

There’s so much in our state that’s worth standing up for. 

Montana is home to rugged alpine wilderness and endless sagebrush seas. It features some of our nation’s most elusive predators, including wolverines, wolves and lynx, as well as many of the most iconic symbols of the American West, including bison, American eagles and grizzly bears. 

We live in daily awe-inspiring beauty that humbles us, grounds us, and shapes who we are. So it’s no surprise that, time and time again, polls show that Montanans are passionate about protecting our wild lands and our wildlife. 

But the job of defending our wild has never been harder than it is today. 

A recent report found that worldwide species and ecosystem diversity is declining faster than at any time in human history. Because of developmental pressures, our changing climate and other impacts, the report estimates that 1 million species are threatened with extinction.  

Despite those grave risks, the Trump administration announced a new rule this week that severely weakens the Endangered Species Act — one of our nation’s bedrock environmental laws that protects wildlife and plants that are in danger of extinction. Since its enactment in 1973, over 95 percent of the species under its protection have survived, including Montana’s bull trout, and hundreds are on the path to recovery.  

With its new rule, the administration is punching holes in this critical safety net, leaving our most vulnerable species at an even greater risk. 

A weakened Endangered Species act will make it more difficult to save threatened species as well as species impacted by climate change, including the wolverine. It will also make it easier for companies to develop mines, pipelines and other industrial sites inside wild places that are critical for endangered species’ survival. 

Volunteers with the Endangered Species Coalition visited congressional offices this week to speak in defense of the Endangered Species Act. (Endangered Species Coalition)

That isn’t who we are. These aren’t Montana values.

That’s the message that we, along with dozens of other Montanans across the state, delivered to Senator Tester and Senator Daines this week. Organized by the Endangered Species Coalition, we joined thousands of constituents across the country for a day of action for imperiled wildlife – writing letters, stopping by district offices, and making our voices heard. 

We had a simple ask: Stop extinction. 

Our elected officials must stand up for Montana’s wildlife by defending and strengthening the Endangered Species Act; they should create new opportunities for species to thrive by protecting wildlife corridors; and finally, they should work with the states to strengthen their wildlife protections as well.  

Now is the time to defend our wild, before it’s gone. 

Skye Borden is the Director of Environment Montana and Derek Goldman is the Northern Rockies Representative of the Endangered Species Coalition.

This column is part of a weekly series, Sustainable Missoula, which highlights community sustainability and conservation efforts and is brought to you – via the Missoula Current – every Friday by Climate Smart Missoula and Home ReSource.

Upcoming Sustainability Events:

August 20. Wildfire Smoke Ready Home and Businesses. 5pm – 6:15pm at the Missoula Public Library Large Meeting room. A mini-workshop cosponsored by the Missoula Federal Credit Union, Climate Smart, and the Missoula Health Department. Free and snacks provided! Details here.

August 23-24. Help “green” the annual downtown River City Roots Festival. Volunteers needed for two-hour shifts both days – head HERE to sign up or HERE to learn more.

September 7. Free Cycles Climate Ride. Community cycling event to raise awareness about climate change and benefit Free Cycles’ programs. Different ride lengths available starting at 9am. 

September 12. Climate Smart Missoula’s Monthly Meetup. 5-6:30pm at Imagine Nation Brewing Community Room. This month’s topic: Green Building and Energy Efficiency.

September 14. Spontaneous Construction – Home ReSource’s fabulous annual creative reuse art event. You can still register your team. Or just plan to come by for the festivities. Details here.

September 20-27. Global Climate Strike! People of all ages all across the globe are striking on Friday, Sept 20, and planning is underway for a rally and festivities here in Missoula on that day. Then there are multiple events throughout the week, including a youth-led teach-in. Find out about local events and actions here.  

 

September 28, Missoula’s second annual Clean Energy Expo. 10 am-3 pm, Caras Park. Join Climate Smart Missoula, The Montana Renewable Energy Association and many others to learn about and celebrate climate solutions and clean energy. Learn more here and contact Abby at Climate Smart if you’d like to co-sponsor or volunteer.  

All summer. Join the Logjam Presents Green Team. The Green Team will assist with teaching patrons how to use Zero Waste stations at events. Sign up here.

View more climate and energy events via Climate Smart Missoula’s Calendar.

There are many more conservation events for 2019 HERE.