Flathead Beacon: Delegation divided on Roadless Area Act

A group of 26 Montana hunting and fishing groups recently sent a letter to Montana’s federal delegation urging the lawmakers to oppose legislation that would remove protections on nearly 43 million acres of backcountry wilderness and roadless areas nationwide.

A week later, Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, one of the bill’s cosponsors, defended the legislation as “common sense,” while Sen. Jon Tester called it an “attack” on the state’s outdoor industry.

The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act — HR-1581 in the House and S-1087 in the Senate — would open up 36 million acres of U.S. Forest Service “Inventoried Roadless Areas” and nearly 7 million acres of Bureau of Land Management “Wilderness Study Areas ” to multiple uses, including new road construction and natural resource development.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said the acres in question have been designated by the Forest Service and BLM as unsuitable for wilderness designation but are still managed similarly to wilderness areas.

“Millions of acres of land across the United States are being held under lock and key unnecessarily,” McCarthy said. “By opening these lands up to residents of our local communities and across the country for their use and enjoyment, we can help create jobs, boost local economies and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires.”

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