The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act is a 23 million acre juggernaut of a wilderness bill. This legislation has been introduced by Representative Maloney (D-NY), and it will designate millions of acres of wilderness and over 1800 miles of wild and scenic rivers in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. As is often the case with radical wilderness bills such as this one, the special interest groups that conjured up this proposal had to find a member of Congress from New York to introduce the bill because they would never get the support they need in the impacted states to get the bill introduced.
It is almost impossible to fathom what 23 million acres of wilderness would impact, but it is worth remembering that wilderness designations are the most restrictive designations. The following uses would not be allowed if we allow members of Congress from the East Coast to completely lock up land in these five western states:
- No motorized or mechanized use – This means roads will be closed. No motorized recreation will be allowed. Dispersed camping in motorhomes, RVs, vans, and overloading vehicles would be prohibited. Snowmobiling would be banned. Mechanized use also means mountain biking according to current interpretations of the wilderness restrictions.
- Wilderness increases fire risk – No mechanized use means no chainsaws – let alone any of the other vehicles that are necessary to perform the vegetation treatments that are desperately needed to reduce fuel loads, protect habitat for wildlife, and prevent catastrophic fires.
- Wilderness will lead to reduced recreation – We are seeing wilderness areas move towards reservation-based systems for the limited recreation access that is still allowed. More often than not, these reservation systems are leading to dramatic reductions of use for guided tour operators and for the general public who simply wants to access these areas for low impact recreation.
- Wild and Scenic River Designations will restrict river access – We will likely see reductions in motorized watercraft use in these areas. human powered watercraft will likely be strictly managed through reservations and permit system.
- Wilderness is discriminatory – The heavy prejudice against motorized use leads to dramatic loss of access for those with mobility impairment disability. Reservation systems also tend to privilege wealthier public land visitors at the expense of lower -income users.
- Wilderness is unnecessary – Numerous statutes are already in place to protect the resources of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem.
These 23 million acres don’t need more “protection.” They do need more management. But wilderness prevents active management of the forests. This massive wilderness bill is being sold as part of the 30×30 marketing campaign the is being pushed to lock Americans out of their public land. This bill will be heard before the House Natural Resources Committee on February 15, and it is important for everyone to add their voice to our action alert opposing this bill: