U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Dear Mr. Gilles,

I write to you today to express my strong support for the proposed Lost Trail Conservation Area in Flathead and Lincoln Counties. This proposal is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire up to 100,000 acres of conservation easements, thereby securing public access, preventing residential development, and permitting sustainable timber harvests for years to come.

Protecting and expanding public lands access is personal to me. As a lifelong Montanan, I know that the freedom to access Montana’s public lands is our birthright. I’ve spent my entire career – including 12 years serving on the Land Board – defending public access and fighting against attempts to sell lands off to the highest bidder.

You don’t need to be a millionaire to spend the day fly-fishing on our blue-ribbon trout streams. Whether you can hike or hunt or bike or camp doesn’t depend on the size of your checkbook. These lands belong to all of us, which is why I’m so proud to support the Lost Trail Conservation Area, guaranteeing public access to pristine wildlife habitat for generations of future Montanans to enjoy.

While this proposal is much to be celebrated, we must never become complacent about the attacks being waged upon our public land access. Montanans are all too familiar with the powerful special interests who want to see our streams blocked off and our lands sold to wealthy out-of-staters. That’s why I’ve released a plan to protect and expand public access in Montana, and I’ve pledged to oppose any attempt to restrict public access or privatize our public lands.

I’ll always speak up for pro-public lands proposals like the Lost Trail Conservation Area – just like I consistently have and will continue to do – and I look forward to working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the Trust for Public Land, and most importantly, Montana public land owners, to make this proposed vision a reality.

Mike Cooney, Lt. Gov. and candidate for Montana governor