OPINION: Global warming will have huge impact on Montana’s economy, outdoor heritage

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Our climate is changing and global temperatures are soaring. NASA climate data shows that January 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded — until February broke January’s record.

The science is settled. Carbon pollution is impacting Montana’s outdoor heritage. Drought and high temperatures are making our forests more susceptible to insect infestations and disease. Our wildfires are larger and more extreme. We are seeing more rain, less snow and reduced snow water content — along with earlier snowmelt and peak streamflow. Summer river closures are becoming the norm as we try to protect our world-renowned fisheries from high summer stream temperatures and low stream flows. Glaciers are disappearing. The list goes on.

Our outdoor economy and treasured heritage are at risk. A recent study prepared for the Montana Wildlife Federation projects that the changing climate will cause the loss of 10,922 Montana outdoor recreation and tourism jobs and $281,000,000 in labor earnings. It’s hard to sell the amenities of our “Big Sky” to tourists and new businesses when it is frequently obscured by unhealthy amounts of smoke from Western wildfires.

We need to move forward with policies that reduce our CO2 emissions. The Clean Power Plan would slash emissions and reinvigorate our energy sector. Let’s hope its stay in the courts is short-lived, and that it will be implemented soon. In the meantime, Montana needs to develop its own plan to transition to clean, renewable energy. There’s too much at stake, both ecologically and economically, for us to wait any longer.  


Larry Timchak, of Kalispell is the president of Flathead Valley Trout Unlimited. Hilary Hutcheson, of Columbia Falls, is vice president of Trout TV. Todd Tanner, of Bigfork, is president of Conservation Hawks.

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