This last Saturday, January 16th, Congressman Denny Rehberg held a “listening session” to hear public comments on Senator Tester’s “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act” which would establish over 670,000 acres of Wilderness in Montana. Over 200 people showed up at the Libby High School, and the Congressmen head from both impassioned supporters of the bill as well as from those who are ardently opposed to Wilderness as well as anything to do with the federal government.
The Congressman, according to a video of the event posted on You Tube including a short parking lot interview, is withholding his own evaluation of the legislation until he has finished hearing from constituents and reviewing transcripts of this and the other listening sessions he has conducted in the last two weeks.
However, Congressman Rehberg has provided some insights as to some of the thoughts upon which he will base his eventual position and actions. In a guest column appearing on January 14th in the New West, Congressman Rehberg writes: “the majority of Montanans agree that there are places in the state that ought to be protected as wilderness and areas that should be managed for healthier forests.”
On Saturday, as well as in the last two weeks, the Congressman has also expressed the need for a “balance” in land management which includes Wilderness and has stated that “doing nothing” is not a good option. These are some remarkable developments in the Congressman’s approach to the general subject of Wilderness.
While the Scotchman Peaks are not included in the “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act” (FJRA), the passage of this bill has the potential to be a very positive step forward to future Wilderness efforts. The evolution of Congressman Rehberg’s position in Wilderness will be significant to both FJRA’s future as well as the Scotchmans. Of particular interest to the Scotchmans and other future Wilderness efforts in Montana is Congressman Rehberg’s support for finding a “consensus” (rather than “collaboration”) on land management issues.
So, while we might hope for the “crystal ball” to see into the future, for now we will watch very closely as both Senator Tester and Congressman Rehberg have expresses a desire to “compare notes” on the public input they have received and both have expresses a desire to “improve” the current version of the bill. Let’s hope they are able to come together and truly do that!