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Montana conservation voters: celebrating 20 years, "Political Muscle"

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Big Sky Connection

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Eric Tegethoff

 

October 11, 2019

LIVINGSTON, Montana - A "who's who" of Montana conservationists gathered in Livingston on Thursday to celebrate Montana Conservation Voters' 20th birthday.

 

The group rang in two decades of work educating voters about environmental issues. Its executive director, Aaron Murphy, said the list of candidates who were at the gala speaks to the important role environmental issues play in Montana elections.

 

"When we have a celebration like this and nearly 20 candidates running for office, most of them statewide candidates want to show up because they believe in our mission, because they know that we provide the political muscle," he said. "That tells us that we've done something right over the past 20 years."

 

Keynote speaker for the event was U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

 

Murphy said he hopes Tester will continue to support the group on some of the biggest issues facing the state, including preventing public-lands privatization and addressing climate change.

 

This year, the Brainerd Foundation, a grant-making organization that supports groups protecting the environment in the Northwest, is putting the spotlight on Montana Conservation Voters.

 

The foundation's co-director, Keiki Kehoe, predicted that environmental concerns will be key in the 2020 elections, and said the Montana group does important work to combine voting and the environment as one issue.

 

"You cannot have a healthy environment if you don't have a healthy democracy," she said, "and what Montana Conservation Voters does is, it makes sure that the people who live in Montana understand the importance of voting - the connection between protecting the environment and the ballots that they cast."

 

Along with keeping "public lands in public hands," Murphy said, his organization is working toward a politically feasible clean-energy economy for the state in order to address climate change.

 

"Five years from now," he said, "we hope to be in a political landscape where all of our elected leaders are talking about the importance of climate change, and how important it is for our economy and our kids."

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