Baucus Reintroduces Rocky Mountain Protections

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said Thursday he is reintroducing his measure to extend conservation protections along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Baucus first proposed the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act in 2011, but it failed to clear the last Congress. Baucus, again advancing the bill, said he tied the announcement to the 100-year anniversary of the effort to establish what became known as the Sun River Game Preserve.

The Democrat said his proposal came from locals on the Front who hashed out a compromise for their region’s land management.

“This is their bill, I’m just the hired hand moving it through Congress, and I’ll continue getting feedback from Montanans and taking my orders from them to make this bill work even better for our state,” Baucus said.

The act would cover a scenic region where the Rocky Mountains meet the Plains, stretching north of Lincoln toward Glacier National Park. It would add 67,000 acres of wilderness to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, and designate more than 200,000 acres as a conservation management area that would limit road building.

Backers say it aims to protect historic ranching and recreation opportunities. They say it does not prevent oil and gas production on state or private land.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, who’s co-sponsoring the bill, has separately tried to expand wilderness in other areas, primarily in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest while also mandating that the U.S. Forest Service log more acres each year. That bill has run into some resistance from Democrats in Washington worried about the increased logging, and from Republicans who don’t believe the logging will really occur.

Some opponents have argued more wilderness designations could hinder access, mineral exploration and ranching operations.

The state has not seen a new wilderness designation since the 1980s.

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