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Hundreds of Montana Businesses Voice Support for National Forest Backcountry

March 23, 2006

Helena – Hundreds of business owners from throughout Montana today urged Gov. Schweitzer to help keep Montana’s national forest backcountry the way it is — natural and free of new roads.

Over 350 Montana Main Street businesses — including taxidermists, fly shops, outfitters, logging contractors, and outdoor gear retailers — agreed that Montana’s roadless backcountry provides tangible economic benefits for Montanans, including wildlife habitat, clean water and room to roam. Letters that support maintaining the backcountry were handed to Gov. Schweitzer today.

“Montanans understand that if we want to continue to have the best and longest hunting seasons in the nation, we must maintain big-game habitat,” said Randy Parks, Centennial Trails Outfitters, of Alberton.  “If we want to have blue ribbon trout streams, we need to protect our water by conserving the backcountry.” 

Gov. Schweitzer is taking public input on the future of 6.4 million acres of Montana national forest that is accessed by trails. The U.S. Forest Service calls these “roadless areas” and is seeking the opinions of western governors on their management. 

Parks noted that he is one of 125 outfitters in the state who depend on the backcountry to give their clients a true “Montana experience.”

“Once you include the fly shops, taxidermists, river guides, and sporting goods stores – there gets to be a whole bunch of Montana businesses and families that depend on Montana’s high quality backcountry. We in turn hire guides, cooks, wranglers and use services like veterinarians,” he said.

More than 50 hunting-and-fishing related businesses were among the 350 businesses that signed the letters. Businesses signed on from across the state, including Trout Creek, Butte, Great Falls and Darby.

“When reading the list of businesses, you’ll see pretty quickly that maintaining backcountry areas is a common sense thing that nearly all Montanans support,” says Cindy Mcllveen, owner of the Northern Rockies Outdoor Center in Butte.  “That’s a pretty clear message that maintaining our backcountry traditions is truly a Montanan value.” 

According to Mcllveen, the Northern Rockies Outdoor Center hopes to create an outdoor education center for the city of Butte on their ranch next to the Whitetail Haystack roadless area.
"By keeping Montana's backcountry the way it is, we can draw new workers, families, and investment to our communities," she said. "It's part of what makes Montana special - and competitive - in these changing times."

“We are all in this together,” said Jim Wilson, the owner of Pipestone Mountaineering in Missoula.  “Maintaining the backcountry not only supports Montana family traditions like skiing, camping, hiking, and fishing, but it is a major driving force in the growth of our economy.” 

"Main Street businesses know that Montana's unmatched natural environment is a critical ingredient in the state’s future success and growth – as small business owners, we need the governor's help to keep the backcountry the way it is."

“It goes beyond business, I want my grandchildren to have the same outdoor opportunities that I have had,” Wilson said.