Wilderness Give and Take

For the first time in over 30 years, legislation has been passed designating new Wilderness in Montana. The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (RMFHA)—a bill passed on the federal level as an add-on to the yearly National Defense Authorization Act— allocates 275,000 acres of public land on the Rocky Mountain Front as Wilderness. According to the Montana Wilderness Association, the new bill will expand the Bob Marshall and the Scapegoat Wilderness areas by an additional 67,112 acres. In addition to these acreage gains, the act sets aside 208,160 acres of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land as a Conservation Management Area. Not all Montanans are happy about the RMFHA, however, believing it comes at a considerable cost. The bill releases two Wilderness Study Areas (WSA)—Zook Creek and Buffalo Creek—in eastern Montana from interim protection, and calls for oil and gas assessments in the Bridge Coulee and Musselshell Breaks WSAs within five years of the enactment of the bill.