Sustainable Missoula: Hitting the trail (and slopes) for climate action

At trailhead tabling events, Environment Montana volunteers and interns have recruited hundreds of hikers, bikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to send postcards asking their senators to fund climate change programs, and many more have posed with our climate change banner on their favorite local trail. (Courtesy photo)

Missoula residents see that our changing climate is already altering the places that we love.

Anglers face longer, more frequent summer river closures. Hunters push farther into dry mountainsides that were once reliably covered in snow.

And we all suffer as earlier, longer wildfire seasons draw us indoors and away from our favorite summer lakes, trails and parks.

Yet instead of addressing these problems with decisive action and robust resources, we now face a presidential administration that is relentlessly moving to roll back existing protections and drastically cut funding for climate change programs.

Unless we are able to reverse course, cars, trucks and power plants will pollute more carbon into our air; the government’s climate scientists will be censored; and other climate protection programs will be weakened or flat-out eliminated.

That’s why Environment Montana is working to raise up local voices for climate action – one skier, hiker, and river surfer at a time.

For the past year, our team of interns and volunteers have hit the trail (and the slopes!) to educate and activate Montanans to push back against climate rollbacks.

At trailhead tabling events, we’ve recruited hundreds of hikers, bikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to send postcards asking their senators to fund climate change programs, and many more have posed with our climate change banner on their favorite local trail.

Here in Missoula, we’ve talked with folks in local parks and at Rattlesnake, Waterworks Hill, the M Trail, Snow Bowl and even Brennan’s Wave.

Our message is simple: Unless we act now to curb carbon pollution, our favorite past times are in jeopardy.

Among its many findings, the Montana Climate Assessmentestimates that global warming will cause earlier and faster snowmelt, reduce late-summer water availability in streams, worsen drought, and increase wildland fires in Montana.

These findings spell trouble for a range of our favorite activities, including skiing, fishing, hiking and camping.

In our view, we have a moral obligation to future generations of Montana adventurers, as well as all life in this great state, to reduce the pollution that’s warming the Earth and disrupting our climate.

This is a view that’s shared by the countless folks we’ve met on the trail, many of whom have spoken up for local, state and national action on the issue.

The good news is that no one person can stop the progress that Americans are making in reducing carbon emissions. But they can slow it down.

We need faster, not slower, action on global warming – as anyone who lived through last summer’s fire season will tell you.

So we’ll keep on hitting the trail for climate action. I hope we’ll see you out there soon.

Do you have an idea for a trail we could go to, or an outdoor group we could talk with? We’d love to hear from you! We’ll be atMUD’s annual Earth Day celebrationthis April 22 in Missoula with postcards and our climate change banner. We hope you can stop by to chat, take action, and learn about ways to get more involved.

Happy trails!

Skye Borden is the director of Environment Montana. This column is part of a 2018 weekly Missoula Current series, Sustainable Missoula, which highlights community sustainability efforts.

Upcoming sustainability events:

April 14: Run for the Treesand support Missoula’s urban forest – 5K and 10K races.

April 14 – 22: International Wildlife Film Festival – celebrate wild critters and this planet.  Climate and sustainability films include:

  • April 15: 11:15 a.m. Adaption Bangladesh
  • April 17: 2:15 p.m. Check out Tipping Point – a cool film about Kids and Climate in the Conservation Nation short block.
  • April 17: 6:00 p.m. The Beaver Believers  – film followed by a panel discussion. Learn how beavers are climate manipulators
  • April 18: 6:15 p.m. An entire film “block” all about plastics. We really can live without them.