By India Maxwell, Bozeman Montana Outdoor Heritage Project Ambassador

Montanans are blessed with a wealth of natural resources. We delight in the great open spaces and the big sky. We talk about the mountains, and the almost unreasonable ease with which we can access them. We revel in the boundless opportunities for recreation and the unbusy corners where we can carve out a sense of place and home. What we voice far less often is how all of it is possible. These opportunities exist in large part because of our history of thoughtful land stewardship, both private and public. With continuing growth in Montana, we face increasing budgetary constraints in preserving public lands and are also challenged with understanding why we talk so much about loving our public spaces but not about what we are willing to do to preserve them.

The Montana Outdoor Heritage Project is a collaboration of Montana citizens interested in maintaining and investing in our outdoor tradition. MOHP wants to deepen the conversation about the realities of growth in Montana and what it means for conserving our way of life and supporting healthy communities. We face a growing need to dedicate funding to conserve our outdoor heritage and as we determine that future, it must include Montanans from all different backgrounds, beliefs, and propensities. 

As a rock climber and trail user in the Gallatin Valley, I believe it’s high time for a frank conversation. Throughout this process, I would like to focus not only on our shared values and desires, but on the intentions and emotions driving those who have alternate definitions of what open and public spaces look like. If we are to have fruitful discourse, it should include the viewpoints and values that might be dissimilar to our own, which all lend to the unique character of Montana. In this way, we can find solutions to preserve our outdoor heritage that are non-condemning.

India Maxwell is FMF’s Bozeman Montana Outdoor Heritage Project ambassador.

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