WASHINGTON, DC – A bill to withdraw five parcels from Wilderness Study Area designation is generating a tremendous amount of debate across Montana this week. And Wednesday, we’ll get our first indication as to how the proposal could play out in the Senate.
Sen, Steve Daines’ (R-MT) Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act is a response to a request from the Montana Legislature last year to review the ‘WSA” designations that have been in place without action since the 1970s.
The study areas in question include some that have seen a lot of debate over motorized use and resource extraction in recent years, including the Sapphire and Blue Joint WSAs.
Backers of the Daines measure believe it’s time to release the study areas. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) is worried just removing the designation without a specific plan to replace it is problematic.
“If these lands are managed in a different way and it has serious impacts on water quality, has impacts on wildlife habitat, we could really be causing some problems that are unintended,” Sen. Tester said.
The hearing happens first thing Wednesday morning before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Granite County joined the list of Western Montana counties on Tuesday that have expressed support for the Daines bill. Ravalli County commissioners will take another look at writing a letter during a Wednesday morning meeting.
Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News