George Cobb's opinion column — stating that increased roadless area development would improve hunting — deserves a response.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is able to provide the nation's longest general elk rifle season largely because of our 6.4 million acres of national forest roadless areas. Places like the Elkhorns and Gravelly Range offer world-class hunting because of the 2001 roadless rule.
Despite claims made by Cobb and some purported sportsmen's groups, the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act would undermine responsible land management practices Montana sportsmen have worked toward for decades. It would overturn the 2001 rule and eliminate any management approach besides local forest plans, where industry has the greatest influence. The result would be the loss of our best public lands, finest fish and wildlife habitat and most accessible walk-in areas — one industrial development at a time.
The roadless rule hasn't closed one mile of existing roads or motorized trails. It allows game carts, chainsaws and ATVs on designated trails and projects to benefit wildlife. It is a multiple-use plan that was developed through stakeholder involvement, was upheld by courts and conserves high-quality lands.
Roadless areas are central to hunting opportunities enjoyed by sportsmen across Montana. Montana FWP affirms this: "Cumulative effects of cover reduction and/or increased roads and trails would make it unlikely that FWP could maintain a five-week general bull elk hunting season." Yet this is precisely the scenario that could result if the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act becomes law.