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News Release 5/5/09

***PRESS RELEASE MAY 5, 2009***

U.S. House of Representatives Holds Hearing

on the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, H.R. 980

Washington, D.C. – Today the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, H.R. 980. The bill is sponsored by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and has national bi-partisan support. The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) will designate the remaining inventoried roadless lands of the Northern Rockies bioregion as Wilderness, secure protection for hundreds of miles of scenic waterways, and create approximately 2,000 regional jobs by restoring damaged wildlands through its National Wildland Recovery Corps pilot program. NREPA is a long-term bioregional approach to protecting native biodiversity and sustaining the high quality of life enjoyed by numerous mountain communities throughout the Northern Rockies.

“NREPA is a common sense bill that will save taxpayer dollars, create thousands of good jobs, and protect vast expanses of treasured public land – land that belongs to the American people,” said Rep. Maloney.

NREPA would designate 24 million acres of public lands as Wilderness and place them into the National Wilderness Preservation System. Designation consists of approximately 9.5 million acres in Idaho, 7.75 million acres in Montana, 5.5 million acres in Wyoming, 750,000 acres in eastern Oregon, and 500,000 acres in eastern Washington. Wilderness designation would be extended to the entire roadless base in Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park, all currently lacking designated Wilderness.

I love Idaho. It provides me with good hunting, fishing, and plenty of backcountry experiences. We need wild areas big enough to sustain critical species like the woodland caribou, grizzlies, and lynx. NREPA is a chance to preserve what we still have left. It would be nice if people in the future could still experience the same wildness we have today”, said Cas Davis of Moscow, Idaho.

The Northern Rockies bioregion still contains all of the species that were present at the time of the Lewis & Clark expedition over 200 years ago. Some of today’s leading conservation biologists attribute this biodiversity to the vast amount of unspoiled public lands found in the area. These public lands are owned by all Americans, and through Wilderness designation would receive the strongest possible protection the federal government can afford.

“With the accelerating effects of climate change and the ensuing habitat changes, the ecosystem-based approach of NREPA with wildlife corridors between large blocks of wildlands is extremely important for the migration of wildlife to new habitats for survival,” said Al Poplawski of the Palouse chapter of the Sierra Club.

NREPA would designate over 1,700 miles of waterways Wild, Scenic, or Recreational as specified under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Crucial watersheds and fishery habitat in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming would be protected from future road building and logging.

“Decades of road building and logging has contributed to the destruction of numerous watersheds in the Northern Rockies. Slope destabilization, soil loss, and stream siltation have all contributed to loss of fish habitat and poor water quality. NREPA aims to reverse that trend by restoring watershed processes and securing clean water for down-stream rural and urban communities”, said Brett Haverstick of the University of Idaho.

NREPA would save taxpayers $245 million over a 10 year period by managing the land as Wilderness opposed to further subsidized road building and logging. More than 2,300 local jobs would be created through the restoration component of the bill.

“The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act will create high paying jobs by recovering old roads and clear-cuts, save taxpayers money and protect the environment all at once,” said Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

The population centers of the Inland Northwest and the Northern Rockies have grown over the years and will continue to do so. Much of this can be attributed to the amenities which Wilderness provides, including healthy lives and spiritual renewal.

“By passing HR 980 Congress has the opportunity to acknowledge mankind’s limitations and his dependence on the rest of Creation for solitude, spiritual renewal, and challenge,” said Will Boyd, carpenter, Moscow, Idaho.

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act:

Connects natural, biological corridors, ensuring the continued existence of native plants and animals and mitigating the effects of global warming;

Restores habitat that has been severely damaged from roads that were built, creating more than 2,000 jobs and leading to a more sustainable economic base in the region;

Keeps water available for ranchers and farmers downstream until it is most needed; and

Eliminates subsidized development in remote roadless areas, saving taxpayers $245 million over a 10-year period.