April 11, 2008

Congresswoman blasts conservation measure

By Noah Brenner
Jackson Hole Daily

U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin, R-Wyo., criticized a bill that would formally recognize and protect wilderness study areas and historic and scenic trails on BLM lands in Wyoming.

The National Landscape Conservation System Act would make permanent the National Landscape Conservation System, which officially recognizes national monuments, conservation areas, wilderness areas, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, and national scenic and historic trails. The National Landscape Conservation System is in the Bureau of Land Management.

House Resolution 2016 would solidify the National Landscape Conservation System, which was established administratively in 2000 “in order to conserve, protect and restore nationally significant landscapes that have outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific values for the benefit of current and future generations.”

The U.S. House passed the bill Wednesday night. The Senate still must consider the measure.

In Wyoming, the system includes 42 wilderness study areas and five historic or scenic trails, including the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which runs along the Wind River and Absaroka ranges near Jackson Hole and into Yellowstone National Park. In addition, the Snake Headwaters Legacy Act under consideration in the U.S. Senate would protect about 400 miles of the Snake River and its tributaries under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Cubin took issue with what she perceived as vague language in the bill because it does not specify exactly what “values” the government is trying to protect, according to Cubin spokeswoman Rachael Seidenschnur.

“Unfortunately, this bill contains no clear definition as to what those values are,” Cubin said in a news release. “This stark omission allows federal land managers to interpret current law rather than basing decisions on sound science. It also gives an additional tool to any environmental trial lawyers unhappy with current land-management decisions in the West.”

BLM spokeswoman Cindy Wertz said her organization has already formulated and implemented management plans for NLCS areas in Wyoming and the legislation would not change those management plans.