AWR Blog

Committee on Natural Resources, U.S. House of Representatives
1324 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
April 16, 2009

Dear Representative Rahall and Representative Grijalva:

H.R. 980, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Act (NREPA) was originally introduced in September, 1992 by Rep. Peter Kostmayer (D-PA). After all these years, H.R. 980 remains the first, and only, ecosystem-protection bill ever considered by Congress.

Early on, critics of ecosystem-based legislation focused not on the substantive merits of the bill, but rather, the fact that NREPA’s primary sponsors were not from the five-state Northern Rockies region, suggesting that know-nothing “Easterners” were trying to hijack Westerners’ forests. This political tactic is still used to divert attention away from the truth of the matter.

Wildlife scientists and local conservationists intimately familiar with the regional economy and ecology incorporated biological knowledge about ecosystem integrity and current economic data to help draft comprehensive language that formed the NREPA.

In the early 1990’s a lively debate emerged between congressmen from Montana and Idaho, who were at the time carrying statewide-omnibus wilderness bills, and local grassroots advocates for a multi-state, ecosystem approach. A statewide Montana poll taken at the height of the debate indicated a 2-1 preference for the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act over any of the bills written by local congressional representatives. No statewide bill protected more than 20% of the 6.4 million acres of Montana’s remaining roadless land. NREPA designates wilderness for all 6.4 million acres.

NREPA is, and always has been a grassroots bill with strong local and regional support in all five of the affected states – Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

We hope this letter in support will, once and for all, lay to rest the persistent myths that H.R. 980 is a “top-down, Eastern elitists’, land-grab” that “locks out most human activity” from our national forests. All Americans have a stake in the outcome.

We, the undersigned residents of the Northern Rockies region, assisted in the creation of the ecosystem concept, helped draft the bill’s original or amended text, provided local roadless area maps or other site-specific information, or, have in some significant way contributed to the introduction and passage of the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Act. Please include this letter of support in the official hearing record.

Very Sincerely,

Stewart Brandborg, Hamilton, MT
Denise Boggs, Lewistown, MT
Larry Campbell, Darby, MT
Carl D. Esbjornson, Bozeman, MT
Rick Meis, Bozeman, MT
Gonnie Siebel, Bozeman, MT
Arlene Montgomery, Friends of the Wild Swan, Swan Lake, MT
George Wuerthner, Livingston, MT
Dr. Lee Metzgar, Ph.D., Wildlife Biology Dept., Missoula, MT
Thomas M. Power, Missoula, MT
Tom Woodberry, Western Watersheds, Missoula, MT
Paul Richards, Boulder, MT
Howie Wolke, Emigrant, MT
Marilyn Olsen, Emigrant, MT
Cass Chinske, Missoula, MT
Steve Kelly, Bozeman, MT
Liz Sedler, Selkirk Conservation Alliance, Sandpoint, ID
Lance Olsen, Missoula, MT
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater, Moscow, ID
Don Sullivan, Polebridge, MT
Keith Hammer, Swan View Coalition, Kalispell, MT
Timothy M. Bechtold, Missoula, MT
Phil Knight, Bozeman, MT
Dan Funsch, Missoula, MT
Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Helena, MT
Stuart Lewin, Great Falls, MT
Steve Gilbert, Helena, MT

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