Whitney Tawney

Before many have had a chance to put away holiday decorations, the 68th session of the Montana legislature gaveled in at the Capitol in Helena. This historic new session marks the first legislative supermajority since Montana’s Constitution was adopted 50 years ago.

And although it may only be the first week, there are well over 4,500 bills – some introduced, some awaiting introduction. Many of these bills are true threats to what makes Montana the Last Best Place.

There are bills that will limit our freedom to access our public lands, bills that hinder our ability to protect Montana’s unique landscapes, bills that will denigrate our clean air and clean water and bills that will make it harder for working farmers and ranchers to pass on their farms and ranches to their kids.

I strongly believe Montana’s brightest days are ahead, but it will take committed Montanans of all stripes standing up and pushing back against all ill-conceived ideas that would deprive future generations of the clean air, clean water and public lands that so many of us often take for granted.

Whether you’re a fifth generation Montanan or a newcomer, you’ve chosen Montana as home for a reason. So before it’s too late, it’s time to rise up and defend the Montana we know and love - where our quality of life includes the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains and the vastness of our rolling plains.

This legislative session, the Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund will defend our freedom to access our public lands as well as protect our right to clean air and clean water.

In his draft budget, Governor Greg Gianforte proposed eliminating voter-approved funding for our public lands generated through the sale of recreational marijuana despite a $2 billion budget surplus. When Montana voters initially approved recreational marijuana in 2020, you voted for a portion of the revenue to support conservation programs.

Now dubbed the “Montana Outdoor Fund,” the funding is intended to unlock access to our public lands through Habitat Montana, support state parks and trails and protect working lands. And the fund is popular with Montanans — a recent University of Montana poll found that 82% percent want to keep using recreational marijuana revenue to protect our public lands.

Thankfully the Governor’s proposed budget is not final and we’ll be working with you, our partners and the legislature to stand with Montana voters and restore the Montana Outdoor Fund in the final budget.

The MCV Education Fund is also working to protect our Montana Constitution. In 1972, delegates to Montana’s Constitutional Convention from across the state and political spectrums enshrined a right to a “clean and healthful environment” in our state Constitution. For 50 years the Montana Constitution has protected our environment and public lands, but now that’s under threat.

Powerful interests want to rip up our Constitution, threatening our freedom. In fact, a well known anti-conservation legislator, Representative Steve Gunderson of Libby, has already introduced a constitutional amendment targeting our right to a clean and healthful environment. This threat is real, and the MCV Education Fund opposes all irresponsible efforts to strip this provision from the Montana Constitution.

So what’s next? Make your voice heard. There are less than 90 days every other year to make the difference. The MCV Education Fund will update MontanaPushback.org weekly to keep you informed and provide action opportunities for emails, phone calls and in-person visits to the legislature.

Visit MontanaPushback.org today to tell your legislators about the importance of protecting the Montana Constitution.

Whitney Tawney is the executive director of Montana Conservation Voters.