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Commentary: Montana Wilderness Association is now Wild Montana

Hikers make their way toward Heart Lake in the proposed Great Burn Wilderness along the Montana-Idaho border. (Laura Lundquist/Missoula Current)

Montana Wilderness Association has a rich and productive history. It was founded in 1958 by outfitters, stock growers, hikers, horse packers, hunters, and others who recognized the urgency of working together to conserve Montana’s wild places and other public lands. Their efforts were central to protecting those wild places that we now value, rely upon, and enjoy.

But threats to Montana’s wildlands and waters are growing and are not always confined to lines drawn on maps. It is therefore timely that we update our approach to our work, based on new challenges and opportunities. Our mission has grown to include confronting climate change, ensuring continued access to public lands by all people, and fighting recurring assaults on Montana’s public lands. Changing our name from Montana Wilderness Association to Wild Montana is part of a broader initiative to increase our effectiveness in celebrating and protecting Montana’s premier wild places and conservation values.

The new name – Wild Montana – also reflects the organization’s determination to become more diverse and inclusive, engaging more people and places than ever before. We recognize that public lands protection depends on welcoming those who have too often been left out of decision-making about wild places, as well as upon engaging a new, dynamic generation of advocates who bring fresh ideas and energy to this work.

What will never change is Wild Montana’s commitment to protecting Montana’s public lands and waters from development and degradation and for the enduring benefit of wildlife, people and communities. As an organization, we have been tenacious and innovative defenders of Montana’s wildlands; as Wild Montana, we remain committed to continuing this work in ways that reflect these core organizational values.

We are so encouraged and proud that Wild Montana is building its brand to be more inclusive and more representative of the work being done, making it better equipped to face the challenges ahead. Wilderness, wild places and attention to the protection of nature’s well-being demand that we must continue to adapt, just as we have always done, while remaining true to our core mission of uniting and mobilizing communities to keep Montana wild.

We the undersigned have each served a term as past president of Montana Wilderness Association – now Wild Montana – and we have a good understanding of a thriving and successful organization’s need to address change. We have been working for a couple of decades engaging with communities to support their goals of protecting special places, increasing recreational opportunities, strengthening and diversifying their economies and enhancing their quality of life. We are thrilled that Wild Montana’s current leadership is taking this initiative to upgrade the organization’s brand and its approach to this work.

Embracing change is essential for organizations to remain vital. More expansive, more diverse, more unified – more reflective of the work and people and landscapes of today! Good luck, WILD MONTANA!

Please visit Wild Montana’s website at wildmontana.org and join us in our positive and inclusive work to keep Montana such a special place.

Former Montana Wilderness Association presidents Gerry Jennings (2003–2006), Daphne Herling (2009–2010), Doug Ferrell (2011–2012), Scott Friskics (2013–2014), Lee Boman (2015–2016), Mark Hanson (2017–2018), and Addrien Marx (2019–2020)