After 40 years in limbo, Montana Wilderness Study Areas are finally addressed in Sen. Steve Daines’ Bill S.2206, Protect Public Use of Public Lands.
Why should we support S.2206? First, many of the WSAs were designated based on the political maneuvering of preservationist groups, rather than wilderness character. Consider the Ten Lakes WSA near Eureka. Does the Ten Lakes WSA have some wilderness character? Probably. Does the Ten Lakes WSA meet the criteria for wilderness as defined in the wilderness act? Absolutely not.
Second, if the bill passes, forest management in WSAs won't change much. These areas are not going to be clear-cut, mined or overrun by ATVs. The WSA debate is about recreation access. The people in favor of S.2206 would like to see multiple use recreation continue in WSAs. The preservationists who oppose S2206 want to exclude all other recreation groups. Personally, it doesn't bother me if other people want to mountain bike or snowmobile in places I like to hike. Unfortunately, my live and let live attitude is not shared by the preservationists.
Whether or not to support S.2206 is simple. If you are someone who values your freedom to access Montana’s public lands, but also respects the rights of others to enjoy those same public lands however they choose, then support it. If you are the type who can’t stand the thought of somebody snowmobiling through a meadow you like to hike to in the summer, oppose it.