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Hundreds gather in Helena at the Montana State Capitol to “Rally for Public Lands”



Helena, Montana – On Thursday, hundreds of individuals defied sub-zero temperatures and snowfall to attend the “Rally for Public Lands” at the State Capitol.

The Rally for Public Lands was staged by conservation organizations for the fifth consecutive legislative session.

“Let’s sort of make sure that our legislators are aware how important our public lands are economically and for our outdoor quality of life, and make sure that as they’re doing their business during the session that they prioritize our access and our ability to continue to recreate and enjoy our families outside in our public lands,” said Becky Edwards, executive director of Mountain Mamas, one of the sponsoring groups.

Cole Mannix, a rancher family member and current president and founder of the Old Salt Co-Op, a regional meat processor and retailer with a focus on land conservation, was one of the speakers.

“The mandate in our Constitution since ’72, of a clean and healthful environment and for Montanans to maintain and improve that – that’s pretty simple, and it’s I think it’s the best North Star for a citizenry that there could be,” he said.

In Montana, Mannix said he is especially committed to fostering deeper collaborations between agriculture and conservation.

“We have so much in common,” he said. “We all eat, we all breathe the air, and drink the water. For our kids, for ourselves, protecting and enhancing the Montana landscape – that’s pretty common ground.”

The state’s Habitat Montana program, which offers incentives to landowners to maintain animal habitat on private land, was the target of criticism from several speakers at this year’s rally in opposition to proposed laws that would divert marijuana tax income away from it.

House Bill 669 would take marijuana revenue that now goes to Habitat Montana and many other particular programs and redirect it to the general fund. Senate Bill 442 would allocate marijuana earnings to county road maintenance. House Bill 462 would shift that money mostly to law enforcement.

Since 2019, this was the first Rally for Public Lands to take place in person. According to COVID, it was conducted online in 2021.

Edwards emphasized the significance of demonstrating Montanans’ dedication to the state’s public lands.

“It’s so many people, it’s so bitter cold today, and it was so heartening to walk up and see so many people making it a priority to make their voices heard on behalf of their public lands,” she said.


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