HELENA — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dirk Adams said this week he supports a regional wilderness bill that would designate an additional 6.4 million acres of wilderness in Montana.
Adams, a rancher from Wilsall, said if he’s elected, he’d introduce the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, which is supported by many wilderness advocates and conservationists. It would protect 24 million acres of wilderness on roadless forest land in five states.
“(The bill) recognizes that the Northern Rockies ecosystem doesn’t stop at state lines,” he said in a news release. “(It) acts to protect an entire ecosystem which extends into portions of five states, including Montana.”
Adams also is the only U.S. Senate candidate in Montana to oppose construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Canada through Montana to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico.
Adams is one of three Democrats running for the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Max Baucus, who resigned in February to become U.S. ambassador to China.
U.S. Sen. John Walsh, who was appointed by Gov. Steve Bullock to fill the seat through the end of the year and is running for the seat, does not support the Northern Rockies wilderness bill, a campaign spokeswoman said Thursday.
“(The bill) is a top-down, one-size-fits-all bill that Montanans know isn’t workable for our state, said Lauren Passalacqua.
Walsh supports other wilderness bills developed through a collaborative process in Montana, such as the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., his campaign said.
The other Democrat in the race, former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, said Thursday the Northern Rockies bill is “a good place to start the conversation” about wilderness protection, but that he wants to preserve forest management that allows timber harvesting and projects forest-related jobs.
“I think this (proposal) has some merit, and I applaud Dirk Adams for introducing the subject,” he said. “Let’s keep the discussion going.”