Montana Senator Steve Daines introduced a bill in the Senate on Thursday that addresses the reopening of public lands that had been locked up for over 35 years as Wilderness Study Areas.

Daines outlined the criteria to release some of the 449,500 acres of Montana lands involved from Wilderness Study designation.

“What I’m doing here today is submitting a bill that would release those acres that the Forest Service has deemed to be not suitable for wilderness, and we have strong local, grass-roots support to release it,” said Daines. “Over time, Montanans have been locked out. Whether it’s motorized recreation, bicycles, snowmobiles, logging, they’re being prohibited from using those lands that belong to them. This is about public use of public lands.”

Daines listed some of the local support he has received for his bill.

“Far more important than support here in Washington, I’ve got support from Montanans, like county commissioners, because those who are closest to the lands should have the greatest voice. We have a number of different sportsman’s groups and multiple use groups that are behind this.  If there’s one frustration I hear from Montanans is that Dainesthere are people in Washington, D.C. or some of these special interest groups that are telling us how to manage our lands in Montana.”

Daines warned that extreme environmentalist groups will strongly oppose the bill.

“The extremists are going to be out there shouting about the fact that we’re taking away wilderness, but that’s absolutely false,” he said. “These acres have been determined to be not suitable for wilderness and they ought to be released. It should have been done 35 years ago. I went back and read the law, the study was for five years and began in 1977, so its 35 years overdue. It’s time to get this done.”

The lands involved are located in the Bitterroot and Lewis and Clark National Forests.




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