It’s been about 30 years since Montana has had any new federally designated wilderness. In my view that is not necessarily bad. Wilderness has its place, but so do forest management activities and the production of wood products.
From my experience, though, if there is any place in our state that seems appropriate for wilderness it is the Rocky Mountain Front. Words can’t describe its spectacular grandeur.
Sen. Max Baucus recently introduced the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which would preserve about 67,000 acres of wilderness along the Rocky Mountain Front in an area that has been wilderness since the beginning of time.
What the bill proposes is the creation of a 207,000-acre Conservation Management Area bordering the wilderness. This truly new legal designation resulted from meetings over several years among landowners and other interested parties in and around the affected area.
All traditional uses would be protected within the boundaries of the management area including grazing of livestock, motorized recreation on established trails, chainsaw use and wood gathering, some sustainable forestry, and hunting and fishing. Firefighting, combating pine beetles and other forest insects, and a coordinated program of weed eradication are also provided for in the management area.
The Heritage Act would establish a firm legal framework for keeping existing uses as they have always been, while keeping one of the world’s most majestic panoramas as awe-inspiring as it has always been.
The ground-up approach that resulted in the CMA concept is how government should function. If government concentrated on working directly with real people where applicable in the lawmaking process, the resulting laws would be better accepted and make more sense.
Maybe the made-in-Montana Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act will become the national model for local involvement in the management of public lands.
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