Sen. Max Baucus announced Feb. 19 that he plans to bring back the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act which failed to pass in Congress after he first introduced it in 2011.
“The Front is our heritage and our future,” Baucus said. “The point of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act is to keep that heritage the way it is. No more and no less.”
Baucus emphasizes that the act is a “made in Montana” bill drafted by locals who live along the Rocky Front and worked on the plan since 2007.
“No one sat down in Washington and started drawing lines on the map,” he said. “Gathered around kitchen tables in small towns like Choteau, Augusta and Fairfield, Montanans from diverse backgrounds came up with a balanced bill that I’m proud to carry in their honor.”
Sen. Jon Tester will co-sponsor the bill, but he’s also involved in expanding wilderness elsewhere in Montana, notably the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Tester’s bill has run into resistance from fellow Democrats concerned that more logging will take place and by Republicans who believe the logging will never take place.
The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act calls for creating a 208,000 Conservation Management Area that would limit road building but protect current motorized recreation uses and public access for hunting, biking, forest thinning and grazing.
The act would also add 50,401 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and 16,711 acres to the Scapegoat Wilderness. It would also prioritize noxious weed eradication while protecting responsible grazing traditions and oil and gas production on private and state lands.
According to the act, “The purposes of the Conservation Management Area are to conserve, protect and enhance for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations the recreational, scenic, historical, cultural, fish, wildlife, roadless and ecological values of the Conservation Management Area.”
In addition, “The fact that nonwilderness activities or uses can be seen or heard from areas within a wilderness addition designated by this section shall not preclude the conduct of those activities or uses outside the boundary of the wilderness.”
That includes overflights, “including low-level overflights, including military, commercial and general aviation overflights that can be seen or heard within wilderness or the Conservation Management Area.”
The Lewis and Clark National Forest, in consultation with other parties, would be directed within two years of enactment to conduct a study to improve nonmotorized recreation trail opportunities in the non-wilderness areas, including mountain biking.