Although Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., has never slipped a Montana wilderness bill past an unfriendly Senate, the White House has given him a temporary victory.
Williams announced Aug. 23 that an
administrative order from Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman will
stop development on 1.7 million acres of roadless national forest
The order establishes a temporary
moratorium on logging, mining and oil and gas leasing while
directing the U.S. Forest Service to review its plans for the
lands, which are all in the congressman's 1994 wilderness bill. The
goal is to keep the lands intact, saving them for possible
wilderness designation in the future. "This preserves the options,"
says John Gatchell of the Montana Wilderness Association.
Not all environmentalists agree. Hannah Stebbins
of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies says the plan protects only a
small portion of Montana's timber base - less than two-tenths of 1
percent by Williams' own estimation - and leaves 3.5 million acres
of roadless forest areas not covered by the order open for salvage
Nevertheless, the timber industry
registered its disappointment with the decision. According to Carey
Hegreberg of the Montana Wood Products Association, the federal
order constitutes "an end-run attempt to circumvent public input."