Committing to Big Ideas: The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA)

I'm Dirk Adams, a Montana rancher and Democrat running to be the next U.S. senator from Montana. Find out more about me at the Dirk Adams for Senate website. I just announced that if I'm elected to represent Montana in the U.S. Senate, I will introduce the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA).

Though Congressman Pat Williams and Senators Baucus, Melcher, Burns, and Tester have all tried to pass legislation designating new wilderness areas in Montana, it's been over 30 years since Congress has done so.

But while Congress has been debating wilderness in Montana for three decades, the Northern Rockies have not stood still. Lynx and bull trout have been listed as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and critical habitat has been designated for them. As a result, litigation over timber sales has increased.

NREPA addresses these tensions while dealing with habitat protection scientifically. NREPA isn't just about Montana. It acknowledges the ecosystem boundaries, not state lines, of the Northern Rockies, and consists of roadless areas in five states, including Montana. The NREPA does not affect private land.

NEPRA serves, of course, to protect habitat for hunting, fishing and protects the sectors of our economy that depend on the health of our natural environment. But it's bigger than that.

Native species need the connecting corridors that link smaller core ecosystems such as Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks and the wilderness areas of central Idaho to keep these species from going extinct.

NREPA will codify the Clinton roadless rule and help slow climate change by protecting forests that absorb and store carbon. NREPA will put people to work restoring old clearcuts and cleaning up silt filled streams. NREPA will protect the clean water and will move Montana forward from the endless debate about where we can log and where we cannot as passing NREPA also will give loggers certainty about where logging is admissible, thus enabling them to plan.

The United States became the world's leader in conservation management when we designated Yellowstone National Park as the world's first national park in 1872. Now over 100 countries around the world have national parks.

Our record of conservation leadership continued when President Theodore Roosevelt protected wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and 18 National Monuments, including the Grand Canyon. This was a leader who dared to do big things. Americans responded to his vision by putting him on Mt. Rushmore.

Montana is a big state. We need to lead our nation in doing big things. Protecting the Northern Rockies ecosystem is a big thing that we can be proud of as Montanans and Americans as we re-emerge as leaders in conservation.