BILLINGS — Montana U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte has drafted two bills proposing to release almost 690,000 acres (279,000 hectares) 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 (182,000 hectares) of wilderness study areas all on national forest lands.
The Billings Gazette reports that Gianforte also authored a separate act to release an additional 240,000 acres (97,000 hectares) 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.
Wilderness advocates oppose the proposals, saying the areas provide clean drinking water, wildlife habitat and sustain the state’s recreation economy.