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Name Change Refocuses MT Org on Wild Places of All Kinds

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Friday, June 4, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. -- One of the country's oldest grassroots conservation groups is changing its name, and also broadening its mission.

The Montana Wilderness Association, founded in 1958, announced on Thursday that it will change its name to Wild Montana.

Andrew McKean, one of the newest members of the organization's board of directors, lives on the prairie in northeastern Montana.

He noted the region isn't filled with mountain peaks and forests, places people typically think of as "wilderness."

"What excites me is less of an emphasis on the wilderness with a capital 'W' and federal wilderness designations, and an increasing emphasis on wilderness with a lower-case 'w,'" McKean explained. "Wild lands, wild places, wild rivers and access to all of that."

McKean noted wild places exist across Montana, but face threats from development. He added without proper management, public lands in the state are at risk from overuse because of their increasing popularity.

Ben Gabriel, executive director of the group, said Wild Montana also is committed to confronting perils like climate change.

"We're also seeing surging development in Montana," Gabriel observed. "And so, we're preparing as an organization to meet the moment and believe that 'Wild Montana' will be a more inclusive name that brings people into the conservation movement. That will help us more effectively reach our long-term goals."

The Montana Wilderness Association was founded in Bozeman 63 years ago, and played a key role in passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act. The state has 16 designated wilderness areas. The organization has more than 27,000 members across the state.

Disclosure: Montana Wilderness Association contributes to our fund for reporting on Endangered Species and Wildlife, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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