Protection Tour Coming to Helena

By EVE BYRON, Independent Record

Rick Graetz, renowned Montana publisher and photographer, is bringing his Rocky Mountain Front Protection tour to Helena on May 12.

Graetz will give his presentation, titled “Discovering the Front,” at the Grandstreet Theatre from 6:30 to 8 p.m. He’ll exhibit photos of the Front’s most sought after destinations while describing the area’s rich history of conservation, and a newer grassroots legislative effort to protect it for future generations.

That effort, known as the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, would add a new layer of protection for  307,000 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front, plus add 86,000 acres to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness areas.

The protection mainly affects a 100-mile swath of public and private lands that is home not just to people but also to grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep, elk, deer, antelope and dozens of smaller creatures.

The act, which was put together mainly by people who live along the Front, has three main points: to focus efforts and federal money on noxious weed control; to add to the existing wilderness; and to institute a newly created designation of a “Conservation Management Area” along the Front.

The CMA designation is meant to lessen opportunities for road building, logging and development on forest lands along the Front and to act as a buffer zone between private lands and the federal wilderness area, by making permanent the current Lewis and Clark National Forest management and travel plans, according to members of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front.

Gloria Flora, a member of the coalition and former Lewis and Clark forest supervisor, has said that keeping those plans in place, instead of revising them every 10 or 15 years as required under current law, would allow the Front to forever remain as it is now.