BRC praises legislators for opposing 'de facto' wilderness regulation

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The BlueRibbon Coalition is praising 18 lawmakers who sent a letter to U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell challenging the agency's ability to manage lands as "de-facto" Wilderness.

The Coalition and riders across Montana and Northern Idaho have been opposing efforts by the U.S. Forest Service Region 1 to manage all Recommended Wilderness Areas (RWAs) in a de-facto Wilderness state, which bans all motorized recreation and mountain bike use.

"Only Congress can designate Wilderness, which makes sense because Wilderness is the most restrictive land management designation on the planet,” says BRC executive director Greg Mumm. “It is not wise, nor legal, for any federal land management agency to establish de-facto Wilderness areas. We are pleased to see members of Congress remind the U.S. Forest Service of this important fact."

The letter was spearheaded by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Doc Hastings (Washington) and Rob Bishop (Utah), National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee ranking member.

"It is a baseless, twisted reading of the law to suggest that Congress intended to allow an agency to administratively declare an area as recommended for wilderness designation and then to manage that area exactly as if Congress had taken action to make such a designation," the letter states.

The letter was at least partly in response to an earlier letter sent to Tidwell in support of the Region 1 Policy. That letter was organized by Representative Raul Grijalva (Arizona), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Grijalva and 72 Representatives requested Tidwell expand its Region 1 guidance across all USFS managed lands.

Mumm says the policy Grijalva suggests would create a situation where currently authorized motorized and mechanized recreation does not preclude lands becoming RWA's - but then mandates those uses be all but eliminated.

"Since the existing uses do not stop the lands from being recommended as Wilderness, then certainly those historic activities should be allowed to continue until Congress acts," Mumm says.

Posted by Holly Wagner