Independent Record:Tester and Daines both present bills addressing Montana wilderness areas

Both senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines have wilderness-related bills up for hearing on Feb. 7, but their proposals move in opposite directions.

Democrat Tester will present his Blackfoot Clearwater Stewardship Act (S.507), which would add 79,000 acres to the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat and Mission Mountains wilderness areas.

Republican Daines’ Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act (S.2206) would release about half a million acres in the Blue Joint, Sapphire, West Pioneer, Big Snowies and Middle Fork Judith wilderness study areas back to general national forest status.

Both bills appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee’s public lands subcommittee at 8 a.m. Mountain Standard Time. Both claim extensive local support.

Daines built his proposal out of a joint resolution passed by the Montana Legislature last year calling for an even larger number of wilderness study areas to be opened for multiple-use access.

Tester carved the Blackfoot-Clearwater wilderness recommendations out of a larger bill he proposed in 2009, which had support from timber companies, environmentalists, snowmobilers and outfitters in the Blackfoot and Seeley-Swan areas.