“Agricultural help” for the end, the best wildlife ecosystem in the Lower 48?

In the American West, cowboys have long been portrayed as arch-hero underdogs who are easy to cheer for. And thanks to the past, there is an almost universal sense of respect for local agrarians who grow healthy food and protect land often at the center of community identity. In the mid-1980s, hearing about the plight of pop moms and farmers struggling to survive, musician Willie Nelson and a group of other kind-hearted performers got together and organized Farm Aid as a benefit concert.

Farm Aid is still going strong, and so is Willie, surprisingly. Today, there’s another annual musical event that lovers of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem are trying to get off the ground. Like Farm Aid, its values ​​are rooted in advocating for the plight of another outsider whose once pervasive abundance continues to dwindle –wild lands.

Yes, wild lands, as in those rare places still capable of perpetuating the survival of species large and small. Nowhere in the lower 48 does the full range of native large mammal species exist as in Greater Yellowstone – an artifact in many ways and now itself threatened by a number of factors, including the danger that humans love him to death.

Greater Yellowstone not only attracts international attention around the world and holds arguably the nation’s most beloved nature preserve, Yellowstone National Park, but its admirers include Willie Nelson’s son Lukas and a band of esteemed musicians. who have an affinity for our region. They will arrive in August for the second annual Wildlands Festival in Big Sky, Montana, with proceeds from the concert going to protectors of the land, water and a third group dedicated to human-powered recreation.

The Wildlands 2022 lineup is stellar. Taking the stage on Friday August 12 are Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real with Jason Isbell and Unit 400, followed on Saturday night with Brandi Carlile and dynamic Indigo Girls’ duo Amy Ray and Emily Saliers.

Interrupted in 2021 by Covid (and ironically made more important than ever by the pandemic and the development spurt it has unleashed in Greater Yellowstone), the Wildlands Festival will certainly bring cathartic relief and it is destined to be part of a broader movement, says Eric Ladd, whose company, Outlaw Partners, is producing the event.

Lukas Nelson &  Promise of the Real.  Not only does he look like his famous dad, but he also enjoys using his music to promote good causes, like saving Greater Yellowstone.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. Not only does he look like his famous dad, but he also enjoys using his music to promote good causes, like saving Greater Yellowstone.

Over the past few years, Ladd and I have had many focused and intense conversations about the future of Greater Yellowstone, on topics ranging from Grizzly Bear 399 to water issues, the role of wilderness in protecting character of the wildlife-rich Gallatin Range, and the impacts of the growing human footprint on things like wildlife migration corridors.

He and I agree that once a person becomes aware of ecological thinking and begins to think about what is at stake in Greater Yellowstone, it is impossible to “spend” and remain passive if one is really care. We are the stewards of the lands and wildlife whose intrinsic value is far greater than ourselves and that is part of our heritage. Ladd counts himself among a group of business people who are doing more to embrace conservation and the preservation of the natural world.

“It’s a rally for a cause – a way for people to have fun while raising awareness about the things that make this area special,” Ladd said. “Inspiration for me came from my friend, Lukas Nelson, and what his father and other great musicians have done with Farm Aid. Music unites people and becomes a way to channel our collective energy to make something good in times like these where individuals struggle to figure out how.

Jason Isbell and Unit 400

Jason Isbell and Unit 400

The three nonprofits benefiting from ticket sales this year are the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, a group that works to keep agrarians off the land, protect wildlife habitat and open spaces, and build recreational trails amid a tidal wave of development; Gallatin River Task Force, which tackles water quality issues on the Gallatin River (which was the backdrop for the movie “A River Runs Through It” 30 years ago), and community organizing Big Sky devoted, in part, to the construction and maintenance of recreational trails.

That the Wildlands Festival is taking place in Big Sky (the first was held at Montana State University in Bozeman) is more than ironic as the pandemic has only heightened concerns over land, water and people who make a great contribution to local towns but can’t afford to live there. Sympathetic to all three concerns are musical acts, some of whom have previously performed on behalf of Greater Yellowstone issues and appreciate the value of wilderness and wildlife.

“There’s power in world-class musicians bringing people together around the goal of trying to protect a world-class ecosystem,” says Ladd.

The festival coincides with a special edition of Mountain Outlaw magazine titled “The Action Issue” which is a creative collaboration with a non-profit media organization Mountain Journal. Free copies are being distributed throughout the northern Rockies and this too coincides with the release of my new book “Ripple Effects: How to Save Yellowstone and America’s Most Iconic Wildlife Ecosystem” whose royalties go to Mojo to expand its coverage of the region’s issues and to Friends of Yellowstone nonprofit, Yellowstone Forever.

“There’s power in world-class musicians bringing people together around the goal of trying to protect a world-class ecosystem.”

“I think we’ve all felt a significant shift in public attitudes towards the rapid change and growth that’s happening in our region and that we have to do something or we’re going to lose the very essence of what inspires people. people to live and visit here,” Ladd said, noting that he wanted the Wildlands Festival to be an annual summer touchstone.

Weather permitting, Ladd said, the musicians are excited about the opportunity to go wildlife viewing in Yellowstone National Park during their stay.

Note: Watch the first shorts, below, of Bozeman’s famous “Main Street to the Mountains” trail system designed and operated by the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, one of the Wildlands Festival grantees in 2022. GVLT, who has also worked with landowners in setting aside conservation easements to protect wildlife habitat and open spaces forever, has seen his prominence grow as the Gallatin Valley faces exurban sprawl . The second video is about the Gallatin River Task Force working to protect the Gallatin River, one of America’s most famous trout streams. He has dealt with pollution threats to water quality posed by development.

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