National Public Lands Day, an annual tradition established in 1994, is celebrated this Saturday, September 24th. Thousands of volunteers come together throughout the United States to restore and improve public lands, it is one of the largest single-day volunteer events in the United States.
An estimated 37% of Montana's land is public, the 12th highest percentage of public land ownership in the nation. The Upper Missouri River Breaks monument comprises 375,000 acres of public land in north central Montana.
Nicolle Fugere, the owner of Missouri River Outfitters, says, "I think everyone should have the opportunity to experience the river and have access to this. A lot of people do not even know what's right out their backdoor."
Public Lands Day is a fee-free day at national parks and public lands. There are many other events planned to honor the extensive access to public land.
The Mountain Mamas, a non-profit agency connecting women and families throughout the Rocky Mountains, had its own observation of National Public Lands Day on Friday, September 23rd.
Several Montana women and their family gathered near Fort Benton and floated down the Missouri River into the city of Fort Benton.
The vision of the Mountain Mamas is to ensure a future of clean air and water, climate justice for all communities and continued access to public lands for generations to come.
Sarah Kratzner, a mother of two from Highwood, said, "The goal is just to advocate for clean air and water for future generations in Montana and just making sure we protect these amazing resources that we have here." This group of women is the true embodiment of 'I am woman, hear me roar.' The group has helped push and pass several pieces of climate and conservation legislation throughout the west through their advocacy.
As of 2020, the group had 11,456 members. One of the newest members is Daphne Worrall, a Fort Benton resident and also a mother of two, who grew up on the East Coast.
"People on the east coast or other parts of the country don't even get it. Public land, that doesn't make sense to them. That's why it is so incredible and definitely something to preserve here because it's extremely unique and a lot of people do not have access like that," said Daphne.
Exploring never gets old but a lot of the country does not have access to public lands like in Montana. "That's what I think is really important, to have my kids out here at a young age and getting them involved so they see the reasons why it's so important to advocate for that and to be grateful for it." Her son Luke has already taken a big interest in weather. Click here to learn more about the Mountain Mamas.
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