BOZEMAN (December 12, 2014) – In response to landmark protections of the Rocky Mountain Front and the North Fork of the Flathead River in Montana enacted by today’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act, WCS’s North America Program Executive Director Dr. Jodi Hilty stated:
“The WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) applauds the passage of two provisions to the bill, which will help safeguard two critically important wild lands in Montana and the iconic wildlife that lives within them— the Rocky Mountain Front and the North Fork of the Flathead River.
“WCS is pleased to have supplied critical scientific information about these areas that provided support for these conservation actions, and to have worked with its partners to support increased protection.
“There are approximately 275,000 acres of public, roadless lands along the Rocky Mountain Front from Rogers Pass north to Birch Creek (the southern boundary of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation).
”In 2011, Dr. John Weaver published a WCS report - Conservation Value of Roadless Areas for Vulnerable Fish and Wildlife Species in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, Montana – which included the Rocky Mountain Front area. Based upon mapping of key areas for 6 vulnerable species of fish and wildlife, including two native species of trout, grizzly bear, wolverine, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, he recommended that about 70 percent be protected as Wilderness and 30 percent in a ‘Conservation’ designation.
“Under the new Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, about 25 percent of the lands would be protected as Wilderness and 75 percent with a ‘Conservation Management’ designation. Despite the smaller area for Wilderness, the combined designations should protect important wildlife habitat and security along the Rocky Mountain Front.
“The North Fork Protection Act will prohibit industrial development (oil and gas extraction and coal mining) on 430,000 acres on the Flathead National Forest across from Glacier National Park.
“Dr. Weaver published reports on the trans-border North Fork Flathead River area in 2001 and in 2013 that detailed and mapped the critical importance of this area for vulnerable fish and wildlife and regional connectivity.
“For the entire Flathead National Forest, Dr. Weaver published a detailed conservation assessment in a 2014 WCS report: Conservation Legacy on a Flagship Forest: Wildlife and Wildlands on the Flathead National Forest, Montana.
“The draft of the revised Forest Plan for the Flathead National Forest will be released in early 2015. It will contain recommendations for Wilderness and other land designations for the entire Flathead National Forest. WCS will provide critical review and comment on the draft Plan.”
Scott Smith, 718-220-3698; firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Sautner, 718-220-3682; email@example.com
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