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http://www.americanlands.org/news.php?subsubNo=1090602339&article=1177338838&PHPSESSID=b4acd2ebfa89671c165151f60afac3d2
Lawmakers propose sweeping Western wilderness area
Followed by
Bill would ban development on 23 million acres across the Northern Rockies

The Billings Gazette 4/21/07 by NOELLE STRAUB

Email your senators with comments. Some are:
Senator Tester's Office - Rachel Stagg:
  rachel_stagg@tester.senate.gov
Sen Max Baucus Office - James B. Corson
  james_corson@baucus.senate.gov
Sen Max Baucus:
  maxbaucus@earthlink.net

WASHINGTON - Two East Coast lawmakers introduced a bill Friday with 73 co-sponsors that would designate as wilderness 23 million public acres in five Northern Rocky Mountain states, including Montana and Wyoming.

Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Christopher Shays, R-Conn., wrote the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act. It would give the government's strongest protections to areas of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. They announced the measure along with singer and songwriter Carole King.

Three co-sponsors are from Washington and three from Oregon. Both Montana and Wyoming's representatives condemned the bill and vowed to fight it.

Similar measures have been introduced in several previous Congresses. But this time, the chairmen of the House Natural Resources Committee and the relevant subcommittee have both signed on as sponsors of the bill.

A panel spokeswoman said the committee is reviewing the legislation now and may hold hearings on it, although there are no immediate plans for one.

The bill would designate as wilderness all 20 million acres of inventoried roadless lands in the states and another 3 million acres in Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. It includes 7 million acres in Montana and 5 million acres in Wyoming.

A wilderness designation generally prohibits timber harvesting and permanent roads, structures and facilities. Hunting, fishing and other recreational activities generally are allowed.

Maloney and Shays said the bill would protect some of the country's most beautiful and ecologically important lands. They said it would save taxpayers $245 million over 10 years by managing the land as wilderness and eliminating "subsidized development" there. They said more than 2,300 jobs would be created through the bill's program to rip out old logging roads and restore the areas to their natural state.

"NREPA has always been ahead of its time by drawing wilderness boundaries according to science, not politics," Maloney said in a prepared statement. "NREPA would also help mitigate the effects of global warming by protecting the corridors through which vulnerable wildlife can migrate to cooler areas."

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., said all legislation on public lands must take into consideration the opinions of local communities and people who depend on the resources for work and recreation.

"I oppose this legislation because it's a top-down approach that doesn't properly take into account the impacts on the local economy nor does it adequately protect access for hunting, fishing and other forms of recreation," Rehberg said in a prepared statement. "I'll continue to work to implement responsible policies to protect Montana's natural resources."

Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., called the bill a "147-page assault on our Western way of life" and said local input and control would be slipping away.

"This is an absolutely offensive attempt by East Coast liberals to create sweeping, over-reaching laws for Western public lands without any public input from the folks living in Wyoming who would be heavily impacted by this legislation," Cubin said in a prepared statement. "I have always supported a carefully balanced multiple-use policy when it comes to public lands, and this bill would essentially do away with that type of sensible evaluation."

Cubin said the wilderness designation on Wyoming public lands could lead to "tremendously negative impacts" on local economies.

"Legislation this bad does not warrant committee attention, but if that happens, Wyoming citizens need to know that I will be fighting this bill tooth and nail," she said.

In the Greater Glacier/Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, the core of which is Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness, the bill would place about 2.2 million acres under wilderness designation.

In the greater Yellowstone region, about 6.5 million acres would be designated wilderness.

About 2.7 million acres of mountain ranges separated by prairies, including the Bighorn, Big Snowy, Pryor, Elkhorn and Caribou mountains, would become wilderness.

About 129,000 acres within the Lewis and Clark National Forest and known as the Badger-Two Medicine Area would be designated the Blackfeet Wilderness.

About 6.2 million acres in the Greater Salmon/Selway region, about 1.1 million acres in the Greater Cabinet/ Yaak/Selkirk ecosystem, and about 525,000 acres in the Greater Hells Canyon ecosystem would become wilderness.

About 8.5 million acres would be designated as biological connecting corridors in the Bitterroot, Sapphire, Lost River, Lemhi and Bridger mountain ranges. Another 1 million acres would be wildland recovery areas, meaning work would be done to return the areas to their natural state after development activities.

Hundreds of miles of rivers and creeks in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho would receive the designation of wild and scenic rivers.

Bill would ban development on 23 million acres across the Northern Rockies 04.21.07


Apr 21, 2007

By MATTHEW BROWN AP

BILLINGS A wide-reaching wilderness protection bill that would forever ban logging, oil exploration and other development on 23 million acres across the Northern Rockies was introduced Friday by two East Coast members of Congress.

The proposal drew a quick backlash from natural resource industry lobbyists and some Western lawmakers who view it as an intrusion on their turf. But supporters hope a Democrat-controlled Capitol Hill will improve the odds of a bill that has gained little traction during eight prior attempts at passage.

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act would more than double existing wilderness acreage in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.

Sponsored by Reps. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, and Christopher Shays, R-Ct., the act would forbid most development across broad swaths of public land in the five states. It calls for the removal of more than 6,000 miles of existing roads, primarily within national forests.

Maloney said the bill "would protect public lands owned by all Americans, whether you're from New York or Montana, Connecticut or Washington State."

Earlier versions of the bill have been rejected by every Congress since 1992, said Michael Garrity with the Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which has lobbied for the measure. The last time it made it so far as a hearing was in 1994, just before the Republican takeover of Capitol Hill that lasted until Democrats regained control last election.

Yet support for the bill has grown since its early days. It had 187 co-sponsors in the last Congress, although none from districts directly affected by it. Some prior sponsors now wield significant power in the 110th Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resource Committee.

Whether that's enough to overcome local hostility to the measure is uncertain.

Since the passage of the federal Wilderness Act in 1964, Congress has designated 702 wilderness areas totaling more than 107 million acres, according to the University of Montana's Wilderness Institute. The Shays-Maloney bill would add an additional 7 million acres in Montana, 9.5 million in Idaho, 5 million in Wyoming, 750,000 in eastern Oregon and 500,000 in eastern Washington.

Reaction to the bill's introduction was swift and sharp from Western members of Congress both Democrat and Republican.

Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., called the bill "an absolutely offensive attempt by East Coast liberals to create sweeping, overreaching laws for Western public lands." She added she "will be fighting this bill tooth and nail."

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said that while some undeveloped areas in his state may need greater protection, it should "come from the ground up, from local communities working together not from the top down."

Montana Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg offered a similar message and added "the people who depend on these resources both for work and recreation ... deserve a seat at the table."

And in Idaho, a spokesman for Republican Sen. Larry Craig offered a quote from former President Theodore Roosevelt, a champion of conservation.

"Roosevelt said, 'Conservation means development as much as it does protection,"' spokesman Dan Whiting said. "Responsible use can include everything from hiking and mountain biking to development of timber, mining and cattle. It's not appropriate to just lock this land up."

Criticism also came from the logging industry, which warned of ruined local economies, and recreation groups concerned that snowmobiles, ATVs and even bicycles would be prohibited in the new wilderness areas.

Supporters called the wilderness bill an "ecosystem-based" plan meant to transcend political boundaries and replace natural resource jobs with others tilted toward restoration.

The intent is to connect fragmented areas of wildlife habitat into highly protected "biological corridors" stretching across a vast landscape, according to the text of the bill. That would allow recovering species such as the grizzly bear due to be taken off the endangered species list in parts of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming later this month to expand their ranges and gain permanent footholds in the Northern Rockies, Garrity said.

"We can protect our greatest economic asset or continue to subsidize its destruction with timber sales," he said.

The latest version of the bill also includes a jobs-creation element meant to answer worries over jobs lost in the logging or mining industries. More than 2,300 people would be employed to remove existing roads in the wilderness areas and restore approximately 1 million acres of clear-cut forests, according to Shays and Garrity.

 

 
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