Senate Subcommittee holds hearing on collaborative wilderness and conservation bills in Montana and Washington

Jul 30, 2013

Rocky Mountain Front

Official website of Senator Max Baucus

The Wilderness Society applauds Subcommittee on Public Lands for continuing to support wilderness and other conservation measures

Today, The Wilderness Society applauded the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Public Lands for holding a hearing on two wilderness bills in Montana and another measure in Washington state.

The hearing signals continued momentum in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has passed eight wilderness bills to date.  The Wilderness Society is working to ensure that the 113th Congress does not follow in the footsteps of the 112th: the first Congress since 1966 to not protect a single acre of wilderness. It was also the first Congress since World War II to not protect a single new acre of public land as a park, national monument, or wilderness area.

The Wilderness Society supports the following bills taken up at the hearing:

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2013 (S. 37) – introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) –  would permanently protect nearly a million acres of spectacular backcountry throughout western Montana, including nearly 700,000 acres as wilderness on three national forests in Montana: the Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Lolo National Forests. It would create important additions to the renowned Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and further protect one of the most intact ecosystems in the lower 48 states called the “Crown of the Continent.”

“Montana’s forests and outdoor opportunities are an important economic asset,” said Alex Philp, owner of GCS Research in Missoula, Montana. “Many people and businesses come to Montana because of our high quality of life, which is tied directly to our forests and public lands. The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act offers good, balanced forest stewardship that will generate jobs and economic development for our communities.”

The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (S. 364) – introduced by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) and co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) – would add 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat Wilderness Areas, would establish a 208,000-acre Conservation Area in the heart of the Rocky Mountain Front, and help federal agencies better control harmful noxious weeds. The Rocky Mountain Front forms the eastern edge of the vast Bob Marshall wilderness complex where the northern Rocky Mountains meet the plains. Home to some of the last remaining intact ecosystems in North America, the Front provides habitat for elk and native trout. As part of the “Crown of the Continent,” it is one of the last places in America where grizzly bears still roam the plains. The Front is a world-class destination for hunting, wildlife viewing, birding, backpacking and horseback riding.  The Act will ensure that critical components of this vital ecosystem are permanently protected and the traditional uses along the Front are protected for generations.

“Max is making good on his commitment to keep the Front the way it is for future generations,” said Karl Rappold, a rancher in Montana.  “It’s a fitting legacy. The Heritage Act has been custom tailored to meet the needs of traditional uses while also protecting the beauty of the Front for future generations.”     

Green Mountain Lookout Heritage Protection Act (S. 404) – introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and co-sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) – would ensure the continued operation and maintenance of the historic Green Mountain fire lookout within the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area of Washington state. For decades, the Green Mountain lookout has been a popular destination for hikers seeking to enjoy the impressive vistas and endless acres of wildflowers of the Glacier Peak Wilderness and experience a historic fire lookout.

“We are encouraged by the continued momentum from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on lands legislation,” said Alan Rowsome, senior director of government relations for lands at The Wilderness Society.   “We hope the committee will approve these measures as soon as possible, and urge the House to follow suit by bringing these and other wilderness bills up for a vote.”

To see a complete list of wilderness bills introduced in the 113th Congress: http://wilderness.org/article/113th-congress-wilderness-bills

Jeremy Garncarz
(970) 403-6186