U.S. Sen. Steve Daines has introduced legislation with the euphemistic name of "Protect Public Use of Public Lands Act.” The bill would eliminate wilderness study area status for five WSAs in Montana.

These lands were first protected by U.S. Sen. Lee Metcalf in 1977 as part of the Montana Wilderness Study Act. To suggest they are not providing for public use is absurd. Anyone with a pair of sneakers can “use” these lands.

Daines' legislation would eliminate WSA protection for five areas: Blue Joint in the Bitterroot Mountains, Middle Fork of the Judith in Big Belts, West Pioneers, Big Snowies and Sapphire Mountains.

Nearly all of these WSAs have been proposed for wilderness designation in previous wilderness bills that passed Congress.

For instance, the 1988 Montana Wilderness Bill that passed both houses of Congress included wilderness protection for Blue Joint, Sapphires, West Pioneers and Big Snowies. The only reason these are not now protected is that Ronald Reagan vetoed the bill, which had support among Montana’s congressional delegation and many state residents.

Given the growing importance of outdoor recreation in Montana, as well as the attractiveness of unexploited landscapes for footloose entrepreneurs, Daines’ bill is clearly anti-jobs and counter to the future of Montana.

George Wuerthner