Jacole Johnson

To echo a recent statement made on the Senate floor by Sen. Jon Tester to U.S. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore, the Forest Service has done a great job of bringing Montanans together.

Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and many folks new to politics and advocacy have united in an attempt to save the public land at Holland Lake and protect the historical, cultural, and ecological values of our pristine mountain lake and surrounding wilderness. 

I’ve had the honor of watching firsthand as people from all backgrounds and political beliefs set aside their differences to join forces and work together for the best interests of Holland Lake. 

Seeing this movement grow from its conception has been truly astounding. Within a week of the initial expansion plan being released, I connected with a fellow Montana born-and-raised mother through social media, and we decided to do whatever we could to save Holland Lake.

A private Facebook group we started to give the local community a voice, named Hands Off Holland, now has over 3,700 members and is continuing to grow every day. We branched out into other public social media platforms, created a website, and connected with a core group of individuals dedicated to protecting Holland Lake.

Hundreds of signs were given out at community meetings, thousands of bumper stickers have been sent out across the state, hundreds of large banners are hanging at residences and businesses, flyers are plastered on countless bulletin boards, hundreds of yard signs are displayed, six billboards are up across Montana, information is continuing to be shared at various community events, and over 6,500 public comments were sent to USFS, with 99 percent opposed to a giant lodge expansion.

Local businesses and organizations have reached out to create and donate bumper stickers, provide discounted prices for print materials, coordinate and sponsor campaigns for clothing, logo coffee mugs and decals, and offer free advertisements and public tabling opportunities at high-profile events. Monetary donations continue to roll into our Go Fund Me account and Preserve Montana jumped on board to be our fiscal agent for tax-deductible donations.

The entirety of this work, in addition to countless hours of research and preparations for meetings with local, state and federal officials and community groups, has been done solely by volunteers. All the while, the USFS (who is supposed to work for us), has spent their time working with a billion-dollar Utah ski corporation to support this unpopular and unethical expansion. 

The following quote is from John Gatchell’s acceptance speech into the Montana Outdoor Hall of Fame in December 2022: 

It’s the people who keep the flame alive, nurture it in others –and pass it on. Just this fall, the Flathead Forest triggered an uprising in the Swan. People refuse to allow Holland Lake and the wild Swan to become another playground for the rich. Led by young mothers who never before stood up. Their candle is lit.”

So, thank you Flathead National Forest, for lighting a fire inside of so many of us. The flame you have sparked is impossible to extinguish. You really did push Montanans together in a way we have never experienced before.

We are united, and we are not backing down. You’ve created a movement of folks who will fight to ensure the public land at Holland Lake can be enjoyed by generations of Montanans to come. And we are here now, stronger than ever, to hold you accountable every step of the way.