Guest blog post by Christian Wohlfeil, owner of the Holland Lake Lodge in Swan Valley, Montana. Christian was one of the 27 wildlife advocates and experts from 17 states who last week flew to DC to highlight the importance of funding for wildlife programs and deliver the message to our policymakers what the real impacts cutting these programs will have.
Let me tell you a little bit about my business. Holland Lake Lodge is an authentic “old Montana” guest lodge, situated between the Mission Mountain and Bob Marshall Wilderness areas. The property is located in a “Grizzly Corridor”— a large swath used by the bears to intermingle with each other between the two wilderness areas. The lake and surrounding Swan Valley is home to bald and golden eagles, moose, elk, whitetail and mule deer, grizzly and black bears, mountain lions, wolves, beaver, lynx and various trout species. Needless to say, it’s a pretty spectacular place.
In order for Holland Lake Lodge to succeed—and the other small businesses throughout Montana that cater to the out-of-state tourist—it is critical to have a healthy respect and understanding of the local wildlife. Our guests come to experience Montana in its most natural state. They seek the quiet, tranquil setting and talk with excitement when they are able to view the nearby wildlife. And yet things like urban expansion, land development and the sale of large tracts of Plum Creek Timber lands threaten those very animals.
I found it fulfilling to find that my elected officials would spend the time to listen to my concerns about the critical need for funding wildlife programs, which in turn strengthen both the Montana tourism industry and small businesses.
It’s up to agencies like the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to find and maintain a balance between man and animal. Last week, I came to DC so I could speak with my Representative and Senators about the funding dangers that these agencies face. It was wonderful to visit Capitol Hill and have my voice heard by Senators Tester and Baucus, Representative Rehberg, and their aides. I found it fulfilling to find that my elected officials would spend the time to listen to my concerns about the critical need for funding wildlife programs, which in turn strengthen both the Montana tourism industry and small businesses. They understand that tourism is a major economic driver that thousands of people like me depend on. I learned that everyone has voice and it is crucial our elected officials hear our stories so they can understand why these wildlife and habitat programs are so vital.
Note from Defenders:
Wildlife-related recreation is a $122 billion-a-year economic engine that is especially important for our rural communities. Many local communities thrive on wildlife recreation and tourism as well as the jobs required to conserve wildlife and to restore and manage its habitat. And yet funding for vital wildlife conservation programs is under assault these days more than at any time in recent memory. Despite the peril, wildlife programs have not received nearly the visibility of many other natural resource programs.
Last week, Defenders and our allies in the environmental community were happy to honor those working to protect conservation programs and the federal agencies who keep them running. In addition to citizen activists like Christian, we were joined at an event on Capitol Hill Wednesday night to celebrate the effort by Representatives Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jim Moran (D-VA), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Dan Ashe, and other officials from the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. We also were honored to have the support of Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Together, we will work to keep these programs funded and moving, and keep our wildlife and natural places thriving for generations to come.