Friday, December 14, 2012

Supporters lobby for Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act as clock winds down on Congress

Time is running out on the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, but the bill’s backers continue to lobby on TV and online while the state’s senior senator looks for opportunities to advance the legislation in a Congress preoccupied with fiscal issues. The bill, six years in the making and crafted by the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, would protect 278,000 acres of public land in Lewis and Clark National Forest where the prairie collides with the Rocky Mountains west of Choteau and Augusta. Backers of the bill are holding out hope that members of 112th Congress, although busy with talks about the nation’s finances, will find time to talk about wilderness before they adjourn Jan. 3. The bill would added just under 70,000 acres of new wilderness to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Patrick’s Basin, Silver King Falls Creek, Deep Creek, Our Lake and the West Fork of the Teton River. It also would designate 208,000 acres as “conservation management area,” which provides protections but allows more flexibility than wilderness, such as allowing use of chainsaws and mountain bike riding. It’s unclear at this time whether lawmakers will agree on a year-end lands package that would include the Heritage Act, but Baucus is not ruling out other ways to advance the legislation, according to his office. “I’ve heard from thousands of Montanans who want to make sure our kids and grandkids have access to the treasures of the Rocky Mountain Front, which is what our bill does,” Baucus said in a statement. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat and I’ll be looking for the right opportunity to move the Rocky Mountain Heritage Act forward.”...more

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