Regional wilderness bill gets a hearing

 

Advocates of a wilderness bill covering 20 million acres in five states finally got a chance to make their case before a congressional subcommittee.

The contentious dialogue April 12 at the first public hearing of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) pitted Western lawmakers against the bill's sponsor, New York Rep. Carolyn Mulroney, D.

NREPA, which would establish wilderness in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington, currently has 58 sponsors, but none hail from the affected states.

Rep. Pat Williams, D-Mont., repeatedly told Mulroney to keep her hands off the wilderness issue in his state, reports the Billings Gazette. "Take care of the Adirondacks," he told the freshman lawmaker, referring to the mountain range in New York. "They're a damn mess."

Coming to Mulroney's aid was Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who chairs the Natural Resources Committee. Miller said representatives have an obligation to bring up issues from other parts of the country when they are in the national interest.

Williams was especially angered by a full-page advertisement plugging NREPA that ran in the New York Times a day earlier. The ad, paid for by several members of the Sierra Club, blasted Williams' wilderness bill.

"Your tax dollars pay $1 million/week to cut down your public forests in Montana," the ad read. "The so-called "Montana Wilderness Bill," introduced by Rep. Pat Williams, continues the waste. In fact our yearly losses will climb to over $60 million per year if the Williams bill passes."

The Williams bill, which would protect just over 2 million acres as wilderness, is slated for a vote before the House of Representatives some time in May. The conventional wisdom among many environmentalists and politicians is that NREPA is a political longshot while the Williams bill has a chance of gaining congressional approval.

Despite the critical language in the newspaper ad, the Sierra Club endorses both NREPA and the Williams bill, a position adopted by the group's board of directors following an internal rift (HCN, 11/27/93). Debbie Sease, the club's legislative director, testified at the NREPA hearing, touting the virtues of both bills.

Mike Bader, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, which drafted NREPA, says "It must be a strain to do two things at once that are mutually exclusive. I wouldn't want to be in their (Sierra Club's) shoes."

Sease admits supporting both bills is not easy. "We're all still walking under the same banner, but is it tense? Is it tenuous? Well, yes."

The "release" language in the Williams bill remains the major bone of contention. Sease says the language currently in the bill is "innocuous' and would not change the federal government's current management of the state's undesignated roadless areas or prevent environmentalists from asking Congress to designate more wilderness in the future. But, she says, "Our hope is that we can strip the language from the bill on the House floor. There's no need for it."

That would please activists like Bader, who fear that Montana Sens. Conrad Burns, R, and Max Baucus, D, might insert release language in the Williams bill that would turn over the state's remaining roadless areas to the timber industry.

As for NREPA, Bader says the hearing was a successful first step for the legislation, if for no other reason than it flustered Williams, who has long reigned over the state's wilderness debate. "He was losing control," says Bader. "We accomplished what we wanted to."

High Country News Classifieds
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a friendly, detail-oriented, and self-motivated Development Coordinator to provide administrative support to the Development department. This position will report to...
  • FIELD ORGANIZER, MONTANA
    Help Northern Plains Resource Council protect Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life. Work hard, meet good people, make the...
  • FOR SALE
    Successful llama trekking business with Yellowstone National Park concession for sale! A fun and enriching business opportunity of a lifetime! Call 406-580-5954
  • ALBUQUERQUE VACATION HOME
    Centrally located. One bed, one bath, lovely outdoor patio, well-stocked kitchen.
  • NEW AGRARIAN PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Quivira (www.quiviracoaltion.org), a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that aims to shift current practices of agriculture and land stewardship to those that produce good food, support meaningful...
  • SPECTACULAR SCENIC MOUNTAIN VIEW HOME BUILDING SITE
    Located on top of Sugarloaf Mtn. 5 mi W of downtown Colorado Springs, CO. $80,000.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    opportunity in Eugene, Oregon! To learn more and to apply, visit our website at www.bufordpark.org.
  • FUNDRAISING & OUTREACH COORDINATOR
    Does the prospect of working to protect one of the Southwest's last remaining flowing rivers get you excited? Join the team at Friends of the...
  • DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT SPECIALIST
    Position Summary Western Resource Advocates (WRA) seeks a dynamic, organized, and creative Digital Engagement Specialist to be an essential part of our growing Communications Team....
  • NORTH IDAHO FIELD REPRESENTATIVE
    Founded by sportsmen and women 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to conserving and enhancing Idaho's natural resources, wildlife, habitat,...
  • SMALL HISTORICAL FARM FOR SALE - NEW MEXICO
    23-acres, adobe home, shop, barn, gardens, pasture, orchard. https://www.zillow.com/homes/222-Calle-Del-Norte,-Monticello,-Nm_rb/ or call 575-743-0135.
  • NEW MEXICO GILA NATIONAL FOREST HORSE RANCH
    43 acres in the Gila National Forest. Horse facility, custom home. Year round outdoor living. REDUCED to: $1.17 MM 575-536-3109
  • GRANTS MANAGER AND EDITOR
    Are you a strong communicator who excels at building relationships, writing winning grant proposals, and staying organized? You sound like a good fit for our...
  • REPORTER
    The Wallowa County Chieftain, has an opening for a reporter. Experience with and understanding of editorial photography also required. Journalism degree or equivalent, an understanding...
  • 2017 JOHN DEERE LAWN MOWER Z930R
    15 hours on it, 3 years warranty, 22,5 HP, $1600 Sale price. Contact: [email protected]
  • OWN YOUR OWN CANYON - 1400 SF STRAW-BALE ECO-HOME ON 80 ACRES - 3 HOURS FROM L.A.
    1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • HEAD BREAD/PASTRY BAKER AND ASSISTANT POSITIONS
    Hiring Part/Full time for Summer Season - entry level & experienced positions. Year round employment for optimal candidates. Pay DOE.
  • EVERLAND MOUNTAIN RETREAT
    Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • COUNTRY ESTATE NEAR KINGS CANYON AND SEQUOIA PARKS
    Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST NEW MEXICO
    Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921