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Wisconsin holds its presidential primary today, despite late action by the governor to try to postpone it. And public assistance programs are overhauled in response to COVID-19.

2020Talks - April 7, 2020 

Today's the Wisconsin primary, although Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tried to delay by executive order. A conservative majority on the state Supreme Court blocked the delay, after the Republican Legislature previously stymied similar efforts.

For Veterans Day, MT Vet Advocates for Public Lands

Anson Nygaard, a veteran who lives in Montana, says the thought of "cold, clear water" provided an escape while serving in Iraq. (mzagerp/Flickr)
Anson Nygaard, a veteran who lives in Montana, says the thought of "cold, clear water" provided an escape while serving in Iraq. (mzagerp/Flickr)
November 9, 2018

HELENA, Mont. – With Veterans Day approaching, one Montana vet is speaking up for public lands.

Anson Nygaard spent two years on active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and when he returned in 2012, decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Nygaard says the trek helped him re-calibrate and settle back into civilian life.

He eventually moved to Montana for the ample access to public lands, and joined the Montana Wilderness Association to advocate for them and reach out to other veterans. He says for some vets, public lands can be a healing place.

"This is something we fought for,” says Nygaard. “This is something that's ours. We have skin in the game, and that's an element that adds to that rejuvenative process, in terms of being outside and in wild places."

This summer, Nygaard and three other veterans organized a "ruck march" through public lands in northwestern Montana, traveling 60 kilometers to symbolize the country's 60 national parks.

Montana is home to the highest number of veterans per capita – and also, two of the country's most iconic national parks: Glacier and Yellowstone.

Nygaard says overseas in the deserts of Iraq, the thought of "cold, clear water" back home was an escape. The unprotected forests of Afghanistan also made him think of public lands.

"In the mountains in Afghanistan, I saw what thousands of years of human impact on the landscape can do, and [it] made me appreciative for mountains and forests here,” says Nygaard. “There's a big problem with illegal forestry in Afghanistan, and it's visible on the landscape."

Nygaard is concerned about threats to public lands, in Montana and nationwide. He thinks calls to transfer lands from federal to state governments and remove protections from oil and gas drilling would hurt these special places.

While the midterms are now past, he adds, civic engagement, such as speaking to lawmakers, still is important.

"Active participation in our democracy is a way to thank veterans for their service; and one of the ways you can participate in that is to speak up in defense, or act in defense, of things that matter to them. And public lands matter to a lot of people in Montana,” says Nygaard.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT