This West Is OUR West

Tester's new wilderness bill draws critics, supporters (S. 507)

 

ROB CHANEY rchaney@missoulian.com

Mar 5, 2017

MISSOULA — A week after Sen. Jon Tester released his Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act, some wilderness advocates question what it might really do.

Now designated as S. 507, the bill resurrects a portion of Tester’s 8-year-old Forest Jobs and Recreation Act affecting the southwest corner of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. That bill ran into opposition from some environmentalists and U.S. Forest Service officials who objected to the way it mandated commercial work in the forests.

The new bill has raised eyebrows for the compromises it’s made with mountain biking groups.

“We’ve gone backwards from FJRA,” said Jake Kreilick of the Wild West Institute. “That kind of activity (mountain biking) raises threats to grizzly bears and human tragedies. And it’s another step toward privatization and Balkanization of our national forests.”

Kreilick’s organization was part of the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force, which also includes the Montana Sierra Club, Wilderness Watch and Swan View Coalition. Members of those groups also opposed the earlier Tester bill.

The new legislation has added advocates as well. In addition to beefing up its list of snowmobile clubs, the bill won support from mountain bike groups who successfully lobbied for a new bike-riding area in the Monture Creek drainage north of Ovando.

“We see that as a very positive development,” said Jordan Reeves of the Wilderness Society, one of the original backers of FJRA. “There are some very divisive, top-down efforts out there by extreme fringe mountain bike groups that threaten conservation efforts. This is a real example of the right way to do things. Where we respect multiple values you can find common ground to move forward on.”

The proposed Spread Mountain Recreation Area for mountain biking takes about 3,800 acres out of a larger inventoried roadless area that FJRA had slated for full wilderness protection. It’s adjacent to a 2,200-acre proposed Otatsy Recreation Management Area that’s intended for snowmobile trail development (which was in the original FJRA).

“It’s amazing to see the mountain bike and wilderness communities come together and emphatically support the same proposal,” said Ben Horan, executive director of International Mountain Bike Association chapter Mountain Bike Missoula. “The collaborative process that resulted in this legislation has clearly demonstrated that the recreational trails and traditional conservation communities have more in common than we sometimes realize.”

Mike Bader wrote a review of Tester’s new bill for the Flathead-Lolo Bitterroot Citizen Task Force. In it, he argued the two recreation areas bring new human activity to a place heavily used by grizzly bears and wintering elk herds.

“If the Forest Service had proposed such dramatic changes, it would have had to do environmental impact statements and NEPA analyses,” Bader said, referring to the National Environmental Policy Act review of forest activity. “This is right next to the (state) Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area, and Montana sportsmen have invested a lot of money into that elk herd. This just rewards illegal snowmobile and bicycle use. Instead of shutting that down, Tester is giving it to them.”

Those two recreation areas front a proposed 27,392-acre addition to the Scapegoat Wilderness. That’s next to a proposed 39,422-acre addition to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in the headwaters of Monture Creek. Farther north, the bill adds 7,784 acres to the Grizzly Basin and front of the Swan Range east of Seeley Lake, and 4,462 acres to the West Fork Clearwater addition on the east side of the Mission Mountain Wilderness.

Tester’s Blackfoot Clearwater proposal is occurring, coincidentally, at the same time that other Northwest members of Congress are reviving wilderness proposals in their states. The Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act are being pushed by Washington's Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Derek Kilmer, both Democrats. In Idaho, Republican Sen. Jim Risch is planning to reintroduce the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness Act. And the Southwestern Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act is being authored by several members of the Oregon congressional delegation.

The Wild Olympics bill would give wilderness designation to 126,554 acres and Wild and Scenic River protection to 464 miles of 19 rivers on the Olympic Peninsula. The Scotchman Peaks bill would protect 13,900 acres of the Idaho portion of a remote mountain area on the Montana border, where another 47,800 acres have not yet made it into legislation. The Oregon bill doesn’t have any wilderness or Wild and Scenic designations, but would preserve several rivers and tributaries from mining activity in southwestern Oregon.

The bill also effectively extends the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative’s timber management activities for another 10 years. The collaborative brings together Seeley Lake’s Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co. and numerous local organizations to help the Forest Service design logging and forest restoration projects. Congress has allocated forest management money targeted at collaborative networks, and Crown of the Continent Collaborative was one of the first to participate.

Sierra Club representative Claudia Narcisco said that creates an incentive for supporters of logging to keep getting paid for their participation. It also appears to trade wilderness increases for industrial access.

“The collaborative has become a business,” Narcisco said. “How do you balance the national interest when you’re elevating the concerns of local people over the people of the United States?”

Reeves of the Wilderness Society noted that Pyramid had benefited from federal stewardship contracting that came about as Tester was working on the original FJRA 10 years ago. The company has continued its support for wilderness designations in the new bill.

“In efforts like this, nobody gets 100 percent of what they want,” Reeves said. “There’s always critics of collaborations – folks on the margins that are not going to be satisfied with a collaborative proposal. We feel the proposal stands on its own.”

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115th CONGRESS
1st Session

S. 507

 

To sustain economic development and recreational use of National Forest System land in the State of Montana, to add certain land to the National Wilderness Preservation System, to designate new areas for recreation, and for other purposes.


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

March 2, 2017

Mr. Tester introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources


A BILL

To sustain economic development and recreational use of National Forest System land in the State of Montana, to add certain land to the National Wilderness Preservation System, to designate new areas for recreation, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title; table of contents.

(a) Short title.—This Act may be cited as the “Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act of 2017”.

(b) Table of contents.—The table of contents for this Act is as follows:


Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec. 2. Definitions.

TITLE I—FOREST RESTORATION

 


Sec. 101. Landscape assessment.
Sec. 102. Environmental review of collaboratively developed restoration projects.

TITLE II—RECREATION

 


Sec. 201. Otatsy Recreation Management Area.
Sec. 202. Spread Mountain Recreation Area.
Sec. 203. Trail-based recreation.

TITLE III—CONSERVATION

 


Sec. 301. Designation of wilderness areas.
Sec. 302. Administration of wilderness areas.
Sec. 303. Maps and legal descriptions.

SEC. 2. Definitions.

In this Act:

(1) DISTRICT.—The term “District” means the Seeley Lake Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest.

(2) MAP.—The term “Map” means the map entitled “Bob Marshall, Mission Mountains, Spread Mountain, and Scapegoat Wilderness Additions and Otatsy Recreation Management Area” and dated February 22, 2017.

(3) SECRETARY.—The term “Secretary” means the Secretary of Agriculture.

(4) STATE.—The term “State” means the State of Montana.

TITLE I—Forest restoration

SEC. 101. Landscape assessment.

(a) Landscape assessment.—Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary, in collaboration with interested parties, shall complete a landscape assessment of the District.

(b) Required components.—The landscape assessment under subsection (a) shall—

(1) assess the ecological condition of forests and watersheds within the District; and

(2) identify restoration actions needed to facilitate ecosystem sustainability, resilience, and health by assisting in the recovery of forest ecosystems within the District.

(c) Use of existing assessments.—The Secretary may fulfill the requirement under subsection (a) through the use of any landscape assessment being carried out as of the date of enactment of this Act that contains the components required under subsection (b).

(d) Restoration schedule.—As soon as practicable after the completion of the landscape assessment under subsection (a), the Secretary, in collaboration with interested parties, shall develop for the District a 10-year schedule of restoration projects.

SEC. 102. Environmental review of collaboratively developed restoration projects.

(a) Definition of collaboratively developed restoration project.—In this section, the term “collaboratively developed restoration project” means an activity or set of activities that fulfills the eligibility requirements of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program under section 4003(b) of Public Law 111–11 (16 U.S.C. 7303(b)).

(b) Environmental review.—A collaboratively developed restoration project within the District may be carried out in accordance with the provisions applicable to hazardous fuel reduction projects under sections 104, 105, and 106 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6514–6516).

(c) Objector meeting.—In accordance with section 218.11 of title 36, Code of Federal Regulations (as in effect on the date of enactment of this Act), the Secretary may request a meeting with an objector to any collaboratively developed restoration project within the District.

TITLE II—Recreation

SEC. 201. Otatsy Recreation Management Area.

(a) Establishment.—Subject to valid existing rights, certain Federal land in the Lolo National Forest comprising approximately 2,013 acres, as generally depicted on the Map, is designated as the “Otatsy Recreation Management Area” (referred to in this section as the “recreation management area”).

(b) Management.—The Secretary shall manage the recreation management area in accordance with—

(1) this section, to conserve, protect, and enhance the scenic, fish and wildlife, recreational, backcountry heritage, and other natural resource values of the recreation management area; and

(2) any laws (including regulations) relating to the National Forest System.

(c) Prohibitions.—Except as provided in subsections (d) and (e), the following shall be prohibited on Federal land within the recreation management area:

(1) Permanent roads.

(2) Timber harvest.

(3) Except as necessary to provide for snowmobile use, to meet the minimum requirements for the administration of the recreation management area, and to protect public health and safety—

(A) the use of motorized and mechanized vehicles; and

(B) the establishment of temporary roads.

(d) Use of snowmobiles.—The use of snowmobiles shall be allowed within the recreation management area—

(1) between December 1 and April 1;

(2) during periods of adequate snow cover, as determined by the Secretary; and

(3) subject to such terms and conditions as the Secretary determines to be necessary.

(e) Wildfire, insect, and disease management.—In accordance with this section, the Secretary may carry out any measures in the recreation management area that the Secretary determines to be necessary to control fire, insects, and diseases, including, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate, the coordination of those activities with a State or local agency.

(f) Withdrawal.—Subject to valid existing rights, the recreation management area (including any Federal land acquired after the date of enactment of this Act for inclusion in the recreation management area) is withdrawn from all forms of—

(1) entry, appropriation, or disposal under the public land laws;

(2) location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and

(3) disposition under all laws pertaining to mineral and geothermal leasing or mineral materials.

SEC. 202. Spread Mountain Recreation Area.

(a) Establishment.—Subject to valid existing rights, certain Federal land in the Lolo National Forest, comprising approximately 3,835 acres, as generally depicted on the Map, is designated as the “Spread Mountain Recreation Area” (referred to in this section as the “recreation area”).

(b) Management.—The Secretary shall manage the recreation area in accordance with—

(1) this section, to conserve, protect, and enhance the scenic, fish and wildlife, recreational, backcountry heritage, and other natural resource values of the recreation area; and

(2) any laws (including regulations) relating to the National Forest System.

(c) Prohibitions.—Except as provided in subsection (e), the following shall be prohibited on the Federal land within the recreation area:

(1) Permanent roads.

(2) Timber harvest.

(3) Except as necessary to meet the minimum requirements for the administration of the recreation area and to protect public health and safety—

(A) the use of motorized vehicles; and

(B) the establishment of temporary roads.

(d) Mechanized vehicles, pedestrians, and horse travel.—Nothing in this section prohibits—

(1) the use of mechanized vehicles, access by pedestrians, or horse travel within the recreation area; or

(2) the construction of trails for use by mechanized vehicles, pedestrians, and horse travel within the recreation area.

(e) Wildfire, insect, and disease management.—In accordance with this section, the Secretary may take any measures in the recreation area that the Secretary determines to be necessary to control fire, insects, and diseases, including, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate, the coordination of those activities with a State or local agency.

(f) Withdrawal.—Subject to valid existing rights, the recreation area (including any Federal land acquired after the date of enactment of this Act for inclusion in the recreation area) is withdrawn from all forms of—

(1) entry, appropriation, or disposal under the public land laws;

(2) location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and

(3) disposition under all laws pertaining to mineral and geothermal leasing or mineral materials.

SEC. 203. Trail-based recreation.

(a) Definition of collaboratively developed.—In this section, the term “collaboratively developed” means a proposal that is developed and implemented through a collaborative process that—

(1) includes multiple interested persons representing diverse interests; and

(2) is transparent and nonexclusive.

(b) Expanded trail recreation opportunities.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—If a local collaborative group submits to the Secretary, by not later than 5 years after the date of enactment of this Act, a collaboratively developed proposal to improve motorized and nonmotorized recreational trail opportunities within the District, the Secretary—

(A) shall analyze the proposal in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.); and

(B) subject to appropriations, and in accordance with subsection (d), may provide for the construction of any of the routes included in the proposal.

(2) PRIORITY.—In completing the analysis required by paragraph (1)(A), in accordance with subsection (d), the Secretary shall give priority to expanding motorized and nonmotorized recreational trail opportunities within the District that are in the public interest.

(3) DEADLINE.—The Secretary shall complete the analysis required by paragraph (1)(A) by not later than 3 years after the date on which the Secretary receives the applicable collaboratively developed proposal.

(c) Use of volunteer services and contributions.—The Secretary may accept volunteer services and contributions from non-Federal sources to construct and maintain recreational trails under this section.

(d) Compliance.—In carrying out this section, the Secretary shall comply with—

(1) each provision of law (including regulations) that is generally applicable to the National Forest System; and

(2) this Act.

(e) Effect of section.—Nothing in this section affects the ownership or management of, or any other right relating to, any non-Federal land (including any interest in non-Federal land).

TITLE III—Conservation

SEC. 301. Designation of wilderness areas.

In furtherance of the purposes of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), and subject to valid existing rights, the following areas in the State are designated as wilderness areas and as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System:

(1) BOB MARSHALL WILDERNESS ADDITIONS.—Certain land in the Lolo National Forest, comprising approximately 39,422 acres generally depicted as the “North Fork Blackfoot-Monture Creek Addition (Bob Marshall Addition)” and approximately 7,784 acres generally depicted as the “Grizzly Basin of the Swan Range Addition” on the Map, is incorporated in, and shall be considered to be a part of, the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

(2) MISSION MOUNTAINS WILDERNESS ADDITION.—Certain land in the Lolo National Forest, comprising approximately 4,462 acres generally depicted as the “West Fork Clearwater Addition” on the Map, is incorporated in, and shall be considered to be a part of, the Mission Mountains Wilderness designated by Public Law 93–632 (88 Stat. 2153).

(3) SCAPEGOAT WILDERNESS ADDITIONS.—Certain land in the Lolo National Forest, comprising approximately 27,392 acres generally depicted as the “North Fork Blackfoot-Monture Creek Addition (Scapegoat Addition)” on the Map, is incorporated in, and shall be considered to be a part of, the Scapegoat Wilderness designated by Public Law 92–395 (86 Stat. 578).

SEC. 302. Administration of wilderness areas.

(a) Management.—Subject to valid existing rights, each wilderness addition designated by section 301 shall be administered by the Secretary in accordance with the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), except that any reference in that Act to the effective date of the Act shall be considered to be a reference to the date of enactment of this Act.

(b) Incorporation of acquired land and interests.—Any land within the boundary of a wilderness area designated by section 301 that is acquired by the United States shall—

(1) become part of the wilderness area in which the land is located;

(2) be withdrawn in accordance with subsection (c); and

(3) be managed in accordance with this section, the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1131 et seq.), and any other applicable law.

(c) Withdrawal.—Subject to valid existing rights, the Federal land designated as wilderness by section 301 is withdrawn from all forms of—

(1) entry, appropriation, or disposal under the public land laws;

(2) location, entry, and patent under the mining laws; and

(3) disposition under all laws pertaining to mineral and geothermal leasing or mineral materials.

(d) Wildfire, insect, and disease management.—In accordance with section 4(d)(1) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(1)), the Secretary may carry out any measures in the wilderness additions designated by section 301 that the Secretary determines to be necessary to control fire, insects, and diseases, including, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate, the coordination of those activities with a State or local agency.

(e) Access to private land.—In accordance with section 5(a) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1134(a)), the Secretary shall provide to any owner of private land within the boundary of a wilderness addition designated by section 301 access to the private land.

(f) Fish and wildlife.—Nothing in this title affects the jurisdiction or responsibilities of the State with respect to fish and wildlife, including the regulation of hunting, fishing, and trapping.

(g) Snow sensors and stream gauges.—Nothing in this title prevents the installation or maintenance of hydrological, meteorological, or climatological instrumentation in a wilderness addition designated by section 301, if the Secretary determines that the installation or maintenance of the instrumentation is necessary to advance the scientific, educational, or conservation purposes of the wilderness area.

(h) Livestock.—The grazing of livestock in the wilderness additions established by section 301, if established before the date of enactment of this Act, shall be allowed to continue, subject to such reasonable regulations, policies, and practices as the Secretary determines to be necessary, in accordance with—

(1) section 4(d)(4) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(4)); and

(2) the guidelines described in House Report 96–617 to accompany H.R. 5487 of the 96th Congress.

(i) Outfitting and guide activities.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—In accordance with section 4(d)(5) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(5)), commercial services (including authorized outfitting and guide activities) within the wilderness additions designated by section 301 may be authorized to the extent necessary for activities that fulfill the recreational or other wilderness purposes of the wilderness areas, in accordance with section 1503(b)(6) of Public Law 111–11 (123 Stat. 1035).

(2) EFFECT.—Nothing in this title requires the Secretary to modify any permit in effect as of the date of enactment of this Act to provide outfitting and guide services within the wilderness additions designated by section 301 on a determination by the Secretary that the activities are in compliance with section 4(d)(5) of the Wilderness Act (16 U.S.C. 1133(d)(5)).

(j) Adjacent management.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—The designation of a wilderness addition by section 301 shall not create any protective perimeter or buffer zone around the wilderness area.

(2) NONWILDERNESS ACTIVITIES.—The fact that a nonwilderness activity or use can be seen or heard from an area within a wilderness addition designated by section 301 shall not preclude the conduct of the activity or use outside the boundary of the wilderness area.

SEC. 303. Maps and legal descriptions.

(a) In general.—As soon as practicable after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall file a map and a legal description of—

(1) the Otatsy Recreation Management Area established by section 201(a);

(2) the Spread Mountain Recreation Area established by section 202(a); and

(3) each wilderness addition designated by section 301.

(b) Submission.—The Secretary shall submit the maps and legal descriptions prepared under subsection (a) to—

(1) the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources of the Senate; and

(2) the Committee on Natural Resources of the House of Representatives.

(c) Force of law.—The maps and legal descriptions filed under subsection (b) shall have the same force and effect as if included in this title, except that the Secretary may correct any typographical errors in the maps or legal descriptions.

(d) Public availability.—Each map and legal description filed under subsection (b) shall be on file and available for public inspection in the appropriate offices of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.