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Rehberg hears comments on wilderness bill

CHOTEAU (AP) — U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg held a listening session concerning proposed legislation that aims to preserve existing uses such as grazing on land along the Rocky Mountain Front while also adding other land to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wilderness areas.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that Rehberg, a Republican, told participants at the session on Saturday that he suspects support for the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act may not be as widespread as backer's claim.

"This is your chance to tell me what you think about the bill," Rehberg told those who gathered at the Choteau High School auditorium.

Proponents say the act is a compromise among varied groups aimed at keeping development and road access on the front at its current levels. Opponents say more wilderness designations could hinder access, mineral exploration and ranching operations.

About 60 people spoke during the meeting, both for and against the plan cobbled together by wilderness advocates, farmers, ranchers and others living in the region.

"What attracted me to this was the collaborative effort," said Derek Brown, the lone Republican county commissioner in Lewis & Clark County.

He said he supports the bill because he liked the work put in by the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front to find compromise on the measure.

The act would add 67,000 acres of wilderness to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It would designate more than 200,000 acres as a conservation management area that would limit road building.

Supporters said the aim is to essentially freeze use at current levels, while assuring grazing leases, motorized access and other activities can continue as they do now.

Pondera County Commissioner Cynthia Johnson said she doubted the plan would result in better noxious weed control.

"Yeah sure, we'd all love more federal money for weed control," she said.


Information from: Great Falls Tribune,


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