Fifty years ago this September, the Wilderness Act was signed into law. It protects over 110 million acres of American land from development, including roads, mining, and other industrial activities.
Common Ground is a film by Alexandria Bombach about the fight to preserve the iconic landscapes at the edges of wild places like the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana — places that have been used for ranching and recreation for generations, but have recently felt the encroachment of development, especially by mineral-extraction operations.
Being from Montana, this film holds a special place for me. I’m currently seeing both the costs and benefits as gas and oil drilling booms all over the state. Common Ground beautifully lays out the arguments for both viewpoints, and comes down on the side of the reasoned approach of the Heritage Act currently awaiting passage in Congress.
In the film, Stoney Burk comments on the feelings expressed by both wilderness activists and industry with a parable: “They always say that if you have both parties unhappy in a divorce settlement, you probably got a good settlement.”
If unhappiness is what creates common ground, then legislation like the Heritage Act might just be the best way forward.