Gianforte proposes to release wilderness study areas

AP

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BILLINGS (AP) — Montana U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte has drafted two bills proposing to release almost 690,000 acres of wilderness study areas in Montana.

One of Gianforte’s bills echoes Montana Sen. Steve Daines’ bill introduced in the Senate late last year. It proposes to release 449,500 acres of wilderness study areas all on national forest lands.

Gianforte also authored a separate act to release an additional 240,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management wilderness.

Gianforte says the land has been in limbo for as long as 40 years, stuck in a perpetual study that was actually completed years ago.

“Congress didn’t act then like it should have, and it’s about time we did,” Gianforte said in a press release Monday. “Unlocking these lands and returning them to Forest Service and BLM management will increase Montanans’ access to their public lands.”

U.S. Sen.Steve Daines, R-Mont., who introduced the Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act in the Senate, welcomed Gianforte’s action.

“I’ve heard from county commissioners, outdoor recreationists, Montana families and the Montana state legislature — they are tired of Washington, D.C. paralysis locking up access to their public lands,” said Daines. “It’s time Washington, D.C. listen to Montanans and keep public lands in public hands.”

The legislation recieved support from leaders of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation and the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Wilderness advocates oppose the proposals, saying the areas provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat and sustain the state’s recreation economy.

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