By Jack D. Jones
One of the most serious issues facing the management of our public lands in Montana are the new wilderness area proposals. We have H.R.1975 that would create 23 million acres more of wilderness in the western states of which 7 million would be in Montana. In addition we have the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Plan in the final stages for print for 573,000 acres of ‘new wilderness’ in┬ásouthwest Montana. This plan is still subject to public review and can be appealed based on legal merit. The┬áForest Service┬ácalls this a “partnership” with partners Trout Unlimited, The National Wildlife Federation, The Montana Wilderness Association and Defenders of Wildlife. The Forest Service Plan must be met with strong public opposition and must be appealed. The plan already┬áviolates the Federal Data Quality Act (FDQA) and Title 18, USC, The False Statements Act. The plan does not address the wolf issue of total protection in new wilderness areas –┬áeven after federal delisting. Montana public land users┬áthat use public lands for sport hunting and other uses will be left out in the cold. Is the┬áForest Service trying to end the multiple-use concept for managing public national forest? Multiple-use remains the best concept for managing public lands including the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
We have enough wilderness areas in Montana now, and many acres we have no access to with locked gates on roads adjacent to these areas. The Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area is clearly off limits to the general public with locked gates and red signs on roads leading there. In the 1950s, the road across the Flying D Ranch (now owned by Robert Edward “Ted” Turner)┬áwas a county-maintained road from Spanish Creek to the Madison River. Who abandoned this road, and why?
There are a┬áfew things about new wilderness not being publicized. Wolves will be totally protected –┬áforever — in all wilderness areas even after delisting by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. We have too many wolves now, and they are increasing at an alarming rate of 30 percent per┬áyear. We are seeing the results of failed policies in Washington where wolves were brought from Canada into Yellowstone National Park (YNP)┬áand expanded to Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. They were classified originally as an ‘experimental population ‘ and were supposed to stay in YNP which is a myth. They actually stated in their document “the wolves won’t leave the pantry”. We haven’t begun to see the problem with wolves the larger wolf from Canada not even native to this area. Will we continue to sacrifice hunting opportunity to feed wolves? Look what happened to the economy in Gardiner with the elk population devastated by Canadian wolves and the moose and elk population in the Gallatin. Will livestock producers continue to lose livestock to feed wolves? More wilderness means more wolves and they are out of control now.
I favor delisting, but am very skeptical of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ wolf management. Wolves will never be controlled with hunting permits on the ground not even partially controlled. Permits will only provide recreation for someone who wants to roam the hills looking for one. Very few will be shot even with 500 permits. Wolves are mostly nocturnal and will be more so when shot at. FWP seems to be adopting a wolf protection philosophy, which should be very disturbing. Obtaining federal Endangered Species Act dollars seem to have a bearing on this line of thinking.
We cannot talk about wilderness without talking about wolves and the wolf problem. Many sportsmen need to wake up to the reality that┬átheir favorite sport will be sacrificed in the future with more new wilderness and total wolf protection like a national park. Lack of access to public lands for many uses continues to plague the landscape of Montana. We can’t get to our public lands now. Do we need still┬ámore wilderness? Many of the rich and famous out-of-state landowners — who block access to existing wilderness areas and public lands — also┬áwant more wilderness and more wolves. The Forest Service plan will help them out with new wilderness┬áadjoining wilderness we can’t get to now. Representative Williams supports the new wilderness plans and doesn’t seem to understand the overall problems. We need some ‘get real’ politicians in Washington. Stopping the funding is a┬ásure way to stop the wilderness effort, which is wilderness pork.
Get a copy of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Plan and plan to appeal it based on legal merit. I plan to. We need no more wilderness in southwest Montana. New wilderness must receive strong public opposition by us all. More wilderness looks like a part of an anti-hunting agenda to me.
Posted on Snowmobile Alliance of Western States with permission from the author.