Update on HR 980: Rahall may send bill to Mark Up soon
Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA)
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
November 24, 2009
Wyoming Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis has sent out word that House Resource Subcommittee Chairman Rahall may be planning to have Mark Up on HR 980 (the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act), possibly as soon as in December. The effort at this time by the proponents of this legislation are being directed in correcting inaccuracies in their maps.
Under this proposed House bill, wilderness proponents are hoping to get 24-million additional acres of public land in five states in the northern Rockies under federal wilderness protection. States impacted are Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The proposal includes vastly increasing existing wilderness acreage in Sublette County, Wyoming, resulting in a significant reduction of areas open to outdoor recreation activities such as snowmobiling, boating, ATV vehicle use, and mountain biking.
Subcommittee hearings were held earlier this year in April. Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman went to Washington D.C. to testify in front of the committee. No action was taken at that time. The bill now has 102 cosponsors, up from 69 sponsors when the hearings were held last spring.
This legislation has been a dream of wilderness proponents for over 15 years. First introduced in 1992, the House Natural Resources Committee held hearings in 1994, but no other actions were taken for over ten years. There have been repeated attempts to revive legislation by a host of co-sponsors with the support of a number of environmental groups, however it has never been passed.
The intent of the 2009 bill, H.R. 980, is: "To designate certain National Forest System lands and public lands under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of the Interior in the States of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, wildland recovery areas, and biological connecting corridors, and for other purposes."
The bill greatly expands the amount of federal land that has tight restrictions on allowed human activities, limits access, prohibits new development, and closes land to motorized and off-road vehicle use, mineral exploration, logging, road construction, and timber harvesting. If passed, Sublette County would see its existing wilderness areas expanded to include Bridger-Teton National Forest land surrounding Fremont Lake, Half Moon Lake, Willow Lake, New Fork Lake, Green River Lakes and large portions of the Wyoming Range. In addition, new areas that would come under wilderness management include Big Sandy Opening, Hoback Canyon, and land managed by the Bureau of Land Management in Scab Creek.
H.R. 980 is opposed by the Sublette County Commissioners, the Wyoming Association of County Commissioners, and the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee. The Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Audubon Wyoming also wrote letters saying they do not support or endorse NREPA legislation. The Wilderness Society also contacted Pinedale Online last April to say they are not lobbying on behalf of H.R. 980.
Click here for a printable PDF of the written testimony statement Sublette County Commissioner Joel Bousman made to the committee on Tuesday, May 5th. (10 pages, 130K PDF)
Click here for a copy of the resolution passed by The Wyoming Association of County Commissioners opposing H.R. 980. (3-page, 25.6K PDF)
Click here for a copy of the resolution passed by the Wyoming Republican Party Central Committee opposing the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (H.R. 980). (2 page, 24.1K PDF)