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Wilderness Elimination Act of 2011

On July 26, 2011 a subcommittee of the U.S. House Natural Resource Committee will begin hearings on HR-1581, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011. This GOP legislation stinks to high Heaven and our congressional delegation needs to hear from you.

Ostensibly the legislation would roll back forever protections for 60 million acres of unroaded federal land that are currently protected under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule passed during the Clinton Administration. The Wilderness Society is calling this bill and it’s companion, S. 1087, the “Wilderness Elimination Act“. This bill would do irreparable harm to our fishing and hunting heritage in Montana by removing environmental protections from millions of acres of federal land.

Native fish in northwest Montana rely on our clean, clear mountain streams for spawning and rearing habitat. Over 5 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Area supporting these streams in Montana would lose current protections under this legislation.

More than 60% of the economic output of the Crown of the Continent region is dependent on outdoor recreational spending. Most of that spending depends on the quality of our magnificent outdoor amenities. According to Headwaters Economics of Bozeman, more than $38 million is added to the Crown region economy by resident and non-resident anglers each year. Angling in Montana accounts for $300 million of economic output annually. Our unique fishing opportunities and pristine streams are central to retaining those opportunities for the future.

The U.S. Forest Service already has an $8.4 billion dollar backlog on the maintenance of their more than 400,000 miles of existing roads. Many of these poorly maintained roads already contribute sedimentation to streams containing wild trout resulting in stress and mortality to our native fish populations. More roads and less protection is not the answer.

Our threatened native Bull Trout and our state fish, the Westslope Cutthroat Trout are dependent on many of the areas currently protected by the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. Bull trout make annual spawning migrations of more than 150 miles to many of the streams that exist in these roadless and wilderness areas. The State of Montana is currently spending millions of dollars to restore habitat and protect these valuable native fish. This legislation would remove needed protections from many of the very headwaters areas that we have tried hardest to protect. Our protected roadless areas offer some of the best fishing for native and wild fish in the world. We cannot afford to reduce our opportunities to hunt and fish in these stronghold areas.

The current policy protects over 60 million acres nationally and was the result of more than 600 public meetings. It remains one of the most popular environmental initiatives with Montana’s outdoor recreational community. Montana is currently working hard to add protections to wild areas in the Crown of the Continent region in keeping with obligations and International agreements with our Canadian partners. Overturning the current roadless policy and opening these areas to industrial activities and harmful road building would not only jeopardize these agreements, it would drastically reduce the value of these pristine and beautiful areas for future generations.

Write to your Senators and Representative today and let them know that you to oppose H.R. 1581/S. 1087 and want to maintain our current Inventoried Roadless Areas as the unparalleled natural resource that all Montanans and millions of visitors enjoy every year.

Max Baucus


511 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-2651

Jon Tester


724 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2604
(202) 224-2644

Dennis Rehberg


2448 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC, 20515
(202) 225-3211


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