Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Credit:
flickr, U.S. Forest Service Northern Region
The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Dec. 19, advancing a years-long campaign to protect almost a million acres of incredible backcountry throughout western Montana, including over 600,000 acres of new Wilderness Area.
The bill, which was reintroduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) in early 2013, would secure wild space in the Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Lolo National Forests and promote forest management and thinning projects in some areas that already feature roads.
This legislation is important to wilderness advocates because it would create important additions to the headwaters of Rock Creek, the Italian Peaks, the Snowcrest Range and Pioneer Mountains. It would also add land to the renowned Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and further protect one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states, referred to as the “Crown of the Continent.”
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the largest of Montana’s national forests, covering 3.35 million acres. Some of the wilderness area created in the bill would overlap with this region. Credit: flickr, U.S. Forest Service Northern Region
Along the Rock Creek in Lolo National Forest, just east of Missoula, fishing and wildlife-watching are popular pastimes. Credit: flickr, Tim Schleicher.
The picturesque Kootenai (or Kootenay) River runs 485 miles through Montana, Idaho and British Columbia. It goes through the Kootenai National Forest, part of which will be protected as wilderness under the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Credit: flickr, Seattle.roamer
Another body of water that may gain new protection is the Big Hole River, a popular spot for anglers due to its abundance of brown trout and other fish. Credit: flickr, Latham Jenkins/Circumerro Stock.
Hiking in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area, which would expand under new legislation. Credit: flickr, U.S. Forest Service Northern Region
Looking into the spectacular million-acre Bob Marshall Wilderness, whose acreage would grow under the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. CreditL flickr, AlbertaScrambler.
Congress hasn’t protected any new acres of wilderness in several years but activity surrounding Sens. Tester and Baucus' proposal attest that progress is still possible. Voice your support for America’s wilderness, and ask Congress to add to our legacy of protected wildlands in 2014.