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One of America’s oldest and most prominent grassroots conservation organizations announces new name, reveals new brand

The organization formerly called Montana Wilderness Association has changed its name to Wild Montana.

The organization revealed its new name and brand – including its new logo – at a celebratory event held outside its main office in Helena. The organization also released a video on its new website and social media channels announcing the changes it had made.

“We made all of these changes for one simple reason – so that we can more effectively do the work we must to keep Montana wild,” Ben Gabriel, executive director of Wild Montana, said at the event.

With a staff of 22 spread across the state, Wild Montana is one of the biggest and oldest grassroots conservation groups in the country.

Founded in 1958 at the Baxter Hotel in Bozeman, the organization played an instrumental role in passing the 1964 Wilderness Act and designating all 16 wilderness areas in Montana. In recent decades, the organization played a key role in drafting and passing the 2014 Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. It also helped draft, and is now championing, the  Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, recently reintroduced by Sen. Jon Tester.

The organization helped lay the groundwork for establishing the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument in 2000. Seventeen years later, it fended off an attempt by the last administration to shrink the monument or eliminate it altogether. It also defeated legislation in 2017 that would have stripped protection from 29 wilderness study areas across the state.

Since 2015, the organization has led a public lands coalition at the state capitol that advocates for wildlife habitat, funding for public land infrastructure, and enhanced access. It was the lead organizer of the 2015, 2017, and 2019 rallies for public lands, which drew upwards of a thousand people to the state capitol on each occasion.

The organization has recently focused on reforming America’s oil and gas leasing system, a system that Gabriel says “has stood in the way of conserving millions of acres of wild public lands across Montana, especially in the central and eastern parts of the state.

Our new name and brand, we believe, will better reflect that breadth of work and will help us attract and engage a wider audience. Ultimately, it will help us bring more people into the movement to protect wild public lands and waters in Montana.”

Debo Powers, president of Wild Montana’s board of directors, revealed the new name and logo at the event during her remarks.

“With our new name, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting Montana’s wild public lands and waters from development, degradation, and privatization…. We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring that Montana’s fish and wildlife thrive,” she said.

Powers added that the organization’s new name and brand was part of an effort to make itself more welcoming to people who have felt excluded by the conservation movement.

“Public lands belong to all of us, and they represent the diversity of who we are, what we revere, and what we hold sacred,” she said. “With our name and brand, we intend to recognize that diversity and honor the many ways people relate and connect to public lands.”

Tim Lynch, president-elect of Wild Montana’s board of directors, said that the new logo “conveys our commitment to a wild Montana in all its geographical and ecological diversity, from our state’s western peaks and forests to its eastern prairie grasslands.

“And it conveys promise – of a future where people and wildlife flourish because public lands and waters are wild and connected. That is our vision for Montana, and you’ll note that it begins with people. That’s because our work is first and foremost about people, about connecting, uniting, and mobilizing people.”

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