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Legislative and Regulatory Update

• The next step towards implementing the Wildlands Project
HR488 was introduced without much fanfare by Representatives Christopher Shays of Connecticut, and Carolyn Maloney of New York, on February 6, 2001. Since the bill was introduced, 110 Representatives have climbed aboard as co-sponsors.

HR488, referred to as the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA), would place severe restrictions on over 20 million acres located in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Oregon.

The bill includes five types of land protection: (1) new protection for roaded national forest land, (2) new protection for unroaded national forest land, (3) new Wilderness Area designations, (4) new National Park Study Areas, and (5) Wildland Recovery Area.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Resources, the Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, and the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health. It was also referred to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture for comment.

Following is the Congressional Summary of NREPA.

Title I. Designation of Wilderness Areas. Designates the following lands in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming as wilderness and components of the National Wilderness Preservation System: (1) Greater Glacier-Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem; (2) Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; (3) Greater Salmon-Selway Ecosystem; (4) Greater Cabinet-Yaak-Selkirk Eco-system; (5) Islands in the Sky Wilderness; and (6) Blackfeet Wilderness.

(Sec. 109) Reserves, with respect to each wilderness area designated by this Act, a sufficient quantity of water to fulfill the area’s designated purpose.

Title II. Biological Connecting Corridors. Designates: (1) specified wildland areas as Biological Connecting Corridors to protect the life flow of the Northern Rockies Bioregion; (2) the inventoried roadless areas identified as part of the Corridors as components of the System; and (3) certain biological connecting corridors as special corridor management areas. Exempts specified roads and highways from provisions of this Act.

Title III. National Parks, Preserves, and Related Studies. Establishes the Hells Canyon/Chief Joseph National Park and Preserve as a unit of the National Park System.

(Sec. 301) Requires the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the National Park Service, to administer the Preserve.

Requires the Secretary to implement a program to close all vacant livestock allotments and to negotiate the purchase of active livestock allotment grazing allocations from the permittees. Closes all vacant and vacated allotments upon purchase.
Map of potential effects of HR488.
Sets forth provisions concerning: (1) motorized uses of the Preserve; and (2) participation of the Department of the Interior in the process by which the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reconsiders the relicensing of the Hells Canyons dams complex.

Requires the Secretary to implement a program of ecosystem restoration in the Preserve.

(Sec. 302) Requires the Secretary of the Interior, acting through the National Park Service, to study the feasibility of creating a Flathead National Park and Preserve in the area generally known as the Glacier View Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest, excepting those lands south of the Big Mountain Road.

Title IV. Wild and Scenic Rivers Designations. Amends the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to designate segments of specified rivers and creeks in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming as components of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Title V. National Wildland Restoration and Recovery System. Establishes the National Wildland Restoration and Recovery System.

(Sec. 502) Specifies component recovery areas. Requires the U.S. Forest Service, after recovery is achieved for a component area, to evaluate its suitability for inclusion in the System or for other consistent uses. Establishes the National Wildland Recovery Corps (as a special unit of the U.S. Forest Service) to carry out land recovery responsibilities. Requires the Corps to develop a wildland recovery plan for each area of the Recovery System, requiring each plan to take into account the specific conditions of the area. Authorizes appropriations.

Title VI. Implementation and Monitoring. Requires the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture to: (1) report to the Congress on implementation of this Act; (2) establish an interagency team to monitor, evaluate, and make recommendations to ensure long-term results required by this Act and to develop a geographic information system for monitoring the Northern Rockies Bioregion; and (3) establish a governmental review board to make recommendations to the Congress on legally restating and unifying the natural resource management mandates of Federal agencies.

(Sec. 605) Requires the Secretaries to assure nonexclusive access to Wilderness areas, National Park and Preserve Study areas, Wildland Recovery areas, and Biological Corridors designated by this Act by Native Americans for traditional cultural and religious purposes.

Requires the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to enter into cooperative management agreements with the appropriate Indian tribes to assure protection of religious, burial, and gathering sites, and to work cooperatively on the management of all uses in the protected areas that affect Indian lands and people.

(Sec. 606) Requires the Secretaries to give particular emphasis to the preservation and protection of cultural resources located within the areas.

Title VII. Rules of Construction. Provides that nothing in this Act may be construed as: (1) a relinquishment or reduction of any U.S.-secured water rights; (2) establishing a precedent with regard to any future designations, including wilderness designations; or (3) affecting any Indian treaty or right.

Wilderness areas would add 18,389,035 acres under NREPA. The Hells Canyon/Chief Joseph National Preserve would amount to 1,439,444 acres along the Idaho-Oregon border, and the Flathead National Park and Preserve Study Area would be 285,078 acres adjacent to Glacier National Park. Under preserve status, “no new developments which impair the areas’ native roadless qualities are allowed, but hunting, fishing, firewood gathering and some motorized use would be permitted.”

NREPA would designate 1,810 miles of waterways as Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers. Another 2,408,371 acres would be designated as “Biological Connecting Corridors,” severely restricting development.

The bill also calls for the establishment of the “National Wildland Recovery System” and “nine National Wildland Recovery Areas” totalling 995,924 acres. The bill suggests these areas be the focus of efforts to restore “native vegetation and species diversity” because “these are areas where roading, clearcutting, grazing, and mining have severely damaged vital ecosystem components.”

Additional designations would be made in the “Badger-Two Medicine” area adjacent to Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Reservation would be renamed the Blackfeet Wilderness.

It’s time for miners and prospectors to join with snowmobile enthusiasts, ranchers, harvesters and other land-use advocates, and let our elected officials know how far off course some of them have strayed.

• Former timber lobbyist named to oversee Forest Service
Washington (AP)—A former top lobbyist for the timber industry has been nominated by President Bush to an Agriculture Department post overseeing the Forest Service and land conservation programs.

Mark Rey has worked since 1995 as an adviser to Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, who fought Clinton administration efforts to restrict logging on public lands. Before that, Rey held several positions with forest industry groups, including the American Forest and Paper Assoc., where he was a vice president of forest resources.

If confirmed by the Senate, Rey would become USDA’s undersecretary for natural resources and environment.

Craig called Rey “one of the nation’s foremost experts in the protection and management of forests.'”

Marty Hayden, legislative director for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, said he expected Rey to be an advocate for logging interests.

“Attempting to ensure that timber production has a leg up in the process is something that Mark has been doing his entire career and I assume that will continue in his role as undersecretary,” Hayden said.

The agency is working on revisions to a Clinton administration ban on road construction and most logging and mining on a third of all national forest land.

James Lyons, who held the USDA job during the Clinton administration, frequently clashed with congressional Republicans. At one point last year, the House voted to kill funding for his office.
© ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal, CMJ Inc.
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