Okay, another brewery story out of Missoula. Big surprise. But unlike many others, this one has some larger significance. On Wednesday afternoon representatives from the Montana Wilderness Association along with organizations such as Montana Conservation Voters, Montana Wildlife Federation, the Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Horseman of Montana and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, among others, all gathered at the Tamarack Brewery on Front Street for the release of Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Ale. The summer saison, which has been in the works for months, is brewed in celebration of Senator Max Baucus’s signature legislation, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act.
Senator Baucus was on hand, and in front of a sizeable crowd, the senior senator reminded the audience that those who have the most, have the responsibility to do the most, which was a reference to Montana’s unparalleled natural beauty and our duty to protect it. With this in mind, he spoke about the importance of hard work and civic duty, and reminded the crowd it is up to us to protect treasures like the Rocky Mountain Front and to make sure that Congress passes this legislation. He urged everyone in attendance to be diligent, call their representatives and even encourage out-of-state friends to do the same. He also spoke favorably about Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, and at times during his short speech, Baucus was inspirational. By the end of his talk, the room seemed motivated to see the Heritage Act campaign to victory before Baucus retires from the Senate at the end of 2014.
Although much of Baucus’s talk focused on the political aspects of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, he did not forget to invoke the land itself. After all, this legislation is not about lines on a map or political maneuvering in Washington as much as it is about the special places and experiences that should be available for generations to come. Author and photographer, Rick Graetz, who introduced Baucus, described the Front as “wasting no foothills,” and he kicked off the event by painting a picture of the Front as a timeless landscape whose uniqueness dates back millennia. Bringing the concept into more concrete terms, Tamarack owner Josh Townsley, remarked, “Good water makes good beer,” lending increased importance to the need to protect this landscape.
When Baucus stepped to the podium, he followed suit by reminiscing about past hikes he had done on the Front and elsewhere across the state. These vivid depictions reminded everyone in attendance that this legislation will preserve the aspects of Montana that make our state special. It is rare to hear politicians speak about the land in such romantic terms, but as Baucus later half-joked, “This is Montana,” epic landscapes are our most valuable resource, and it is up to us to ensure their future existence.
A representative from the Montana Conservation Voters also spoke at the event and discussed the organization’s summer campaign, which took canvassers across all of western Montana circulating a petition supporting Baucus’ legislation. The organization collected more than 30,000 signatures, but as Baucus repeated multiple times, the battle is not over. Because he is not running for reelection, Baucus can devote all of his time to doing what Montanans elected him to do. So the time is now to seize the moment, help our long-time Senator, turn up the heat on Congress and get the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act passed.