Forest Service backs new wilderness, dropping others

AP

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BILLINGS (AP) — A senior U.S. Forest Service official has voiced support for measures before Congress that would create a new wilderness area in Montana while removing five other sites from consideration.

U.S. Forest Service Associate Deputy Chief Glenn Casamassa testified Wednesday before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Five areas covering more than 700 square miles in central and western Montana have been studied as potential wilderness since 1977. Casamassa says they should be released from consideration.

Conservationists object to the proposal and say Republican Sen. Steve Daines drafted it without enough public input.

Casamassa says the Forest Service also supports Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s goal to designate a 125-square-mile wilderness in western Montana, but has concerns including a provision to allow mountain biking around Spread Mountain near Ovando.

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