Daines introduces bill to remove protected status for 3 WSAs covering almost 104,000 acres

Billings Gazette

Almost 104,000 acres spread across three designated wilderness study areas would be removed from protected status under a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on Thursday by Montana Sen. Steve Daines.

Of the three wilderness study areas the largest is the 82,127-acre Middle Fork Judith in the Little Belt Mountains, managed by the Helena Lewis and Clark National Forest.

In its 2021 Forest Plan, the Forest Service decided not to recommend the Middle Fork Judith for wilderness due to “existing uses occurring adjacent” to the area that “impact solitude,” according to the agency’s Decision Notice. However, the decision notice also stated the WSA meets “the intent of the 1977 Wilderness Study Act,” and as such “would remain eligible for inclusion in the wilderness system.”

The other two WSAs are the 11,380-acre Hoodoo Mountain and the 11,580-acre Wales Creek WSAs. Both are located in Powell County, north of Drummond, in the Garnet Mountains and are managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

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In 2020 the BLM released a proposed Resource Management Plan that encompassed the two areas, identifying them as not having wilderness characteristics because they did not

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