Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act introduced for the first time in Senate

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA), a bill that would give permanent Wilderness protection to 23-million acres of roadless lands in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington has just been introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and 7 other senators, including Harry Reid of Nevada and Barbara Boxer of California. The House version of NREPA was introduced last year and currently has 37 co-sponsors. 

What follows is an article about today’s NREPA introduction in the Senate from Friends of the Wild Clearwater. – mk

Kelly Creek NREPA
Washington D.C.- U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA) in the Senate yesterday. The bill, S 3022, would give permanent wilderness protection to 23-million acres of America’s premier roadless lands in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and Washington, as well as designate about 1,800-miles of rivers and streams as Wild and Scenic. Fellow co-sponsors included: Sen. Boxer (D-CA), Sen. Durbin (D-IL), Sen. Markey (D-MA), Sen. Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Reid (D-NV) Sen. Schumer (D-NY), and Sen. Shaheen (D-NH).

“We all depend on our forests and rivers for our health and wellbeing,” said Senator Whitehouse. “This legislation would preserve an important and productive wilderness for future generations, secure important habitat for wildlife, and help to reduce climate change in the process.”

Brett Haverstick, Education & Outreach Director for Friends of the Clearwater welcomed news of the legislation being introduced in the Senate. “Some of the most biologically diverse and important roadless wildlands and rivers in the Lower 48 are located in the Clearwater Basin of north-central Idaho. Future generations will look back one day and thank our elected leaders for permanently protecting some of the best wild country left in America.”

Singer-songwriter Carole King added that many Americans don’t know their taxpayer dollars are being used to destroy the last of these incredibly beautiful and important wild places that are owned by all Americans. “One result of not having NREPA has been a tremendous loss of populations among species such as wolverine, lynx, grizzly bear, fluvial Arctic grayling and bull trout. Plus protecting the Northern Rockies Greater Ecosystems will attract tourists from around the world, and, unlike logging, tourism is a sustainable economy that will benefit local communities for generations to come.”

Congresswoman Maloney said, “I’m pleased Sen. Whitehouse has brought NREPA to the attention of the Senate. This region’s native plants and animals are worthy of our country’s highest protective status for wild lands as permanent wilderness. NREPA will protect natural biological corridors, connect whole ecosystems, and restore more than 1-million acres of damaged habitat and watersheds.”

Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies thanked Senator Whitehouse and all of the cosponsors for introducing NREPA in the Senate. “The Northern Rockies are headwaters to three of our country’s major waterways that provide water to tens of millions of Americans — the mighty Columbia, Colorado and Missouri Rivers,” Mike Garrity explained. “The drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has reminded us just how essential clean water is to human health. These headwaters, which provide some of the cleanest water on the planet, deserve to be designated as permanent wilderness.”

Garrity also emphasized that the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act will save taxpayers millions of dollars annually by eliminating wasteful subsidies to the logging industry while protecting the vast forests that are some of our nation’s best and most effective tools to fight global warming. ”National Forests absorb an astounding 10% of the carbon that America creates and unlogged and old growth forests absorb the most carbon,” Garrity explained. “It makes no sense for Congress to continue to subsidize logging the nation’s few remaining roadless areas that President Clinton worked to protect with his Roadless Rule.”

Read the news release of NREPA being introduced in the House.

See a map of NREPA.

Learn more about NREPA.

13 thoughts on “Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act introduced for the first time in Senate”

    • Yes, the politics and politicians in states like Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Eastern Washington and eastern Oregon can leave a lot to be desired, in the views of many Americans.

      Some might say that the management of America’s federal public lands – especially some of the wildest, most intact ecosystems on a warming planet facing an extinction crisis and climate change – affects all Americans.

      Also, seems like plenty of people in the NREPA states support Wilderness in general, and likely support NREPA when given the specifics.

      Economic studies show that Wilderness (and other types of wildlands protection like Wild & Scenic Rivers) can be a boon for local economies, workers and small business owners.

      • This is the Senate we are talking about, so it’s inappropriate to blame the lack of co-sponsors on the less populous eastern halves of Oregon and Washington.

  1. Eye-rollers:

    “Singer-songwriter Carole King added that many Americans don’t know their taxpayer dollars are being used to destroy the last of these incredibly beautiful and important wild places…”

    “subsidize logging the nation’s few remaining roadless areas…”

  2. I guess Matt you haven’t been to some of the towns in the rural West, that use to produce wood products to see how well the economic benefits of our current forest plans, (which make 90% of our forest “wilderness areas” anyway), are working? “Boon for local economies”, what a joke. Maybe if you have a ski area near by.
    I would say most Americans (including members of Congress) do not have any idea what is going on in our National Forests and on our public lands.

  3. Thank you for sharing this Matthew. NREPA is more important now then it was 25 years ago, when it was originally proposed. There is less than 5% of designated Wilderness in the entire country, including Alaska. And there are enough roads on the National Forests to drive to the moon and back, or whatever the crazy scenario is. Let’s buffer the national parks and wilderness areas in the bioregion with more protected areas, establish protected biological corridors to connect those core areas, preserve the headwaters and drinking water for tens of millions of people, and decommission and restore hundreds of miles of unnecessary and damaging roads on the forests. The time to be bold is now.

  4. Interesting … all the legislators sponsoring this bill all have “D” behind their names but none are from the affected states and have no skin (i.e., voters) in the game. (Note: I do not have an “R” behind my name.) Maybe these folks should consider returning Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, and New Hampshire farmlands and cities to wilderness. Surely there are many species of flora and fauna that had been removed from those lands and I’m sure the sponsors of this legislation would sponsor this legislation for their states, too.

    It is interesting that Sen. Whitehouse would say, “We all depend on our forests and rivers for our health and wellbeing.” He neglected to say that we all depend on our forests and rivers for our economic wellbeing as well.

    Sorry for the sarcasm here but, are burger-flipping and motel maid jobs really equal to timber industry jobs? I know a lot of mill workers and loggers who make very good livings at their jobs and my hunch is that teen-aged burger-flippers and maids make minimum wage. Further, if we keep heading down the preservation path, it seems very likely that all our federal lands will eventually be “preserved”; will all those minimum wage burger-flippers and maids have the wealth to visit all those preserved lands and, in turn, support other teen-aged burger-flippers and motel maids? After federal lands have been preserved, will private lands be targeted next?

    Yesterday, I heard an interesting public radio program about Oregon’s Josephine County. It is largely a federally “managed” forest and once sustained a number of mills. The last few years, it has had just one. This lone mill shut down for a time (a lack of logs), reopened after retooling to process small logs, but (if it hasn’t already) will be shutting down permanently in the near future. Josephine County is 35% larger than the entire state of Rhode Island and has a county sheriff staff of two; yes, that is two people for an area 35% larger than all of Rhode Island!

    The story told of a fellow in Josephine County who was being robbed; he called 911. The 911 response was to call back in the morning! After making thirteen 911 calls and pleading for help, he was finally advised to make the drive into town; he was arrested for making inappropriate use of 911!

    It was also interesting that this public radio station actually said this downward spiral was all since Clinton’s NW Forest Plan was implemented in the 1990s. Maybe singer/songwriters ought to consider moving into depressed areas, built nice homes, and bring in tourists to gawk at their homes and sustain a local tourist-based economy.

    Why stop at 5%, why not have 10% or even 20% designated as wilderness? Once those sponsors have converted their state’s farmlands and cities to back wilderness and preserved those lands, will the tourists dollars be there to support the local folks or will their counties become another Josephine County?

    • ” Maybe these folks should consider returning Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, and New Hampshire farmlands and cities to wilderness. “
      Speaking only for New York, our state already has the largest publicly protected wilderness area in the lower 48. State land, not federal. But we can always do better. We continue to deal with the legacy of 200 years of over logging, mining, and industrial pollution from the industrial revolution that created the wealth to make your state’s and others possible. After over a century of conservation, our forests are finally growing back. Our superfund sites will be around a lot longer. Try not to be so defensive and let your state learn something from our mistakes.

  5. Wow! I just looked at a map of NREPA and, if I lived in Idaho, I’d be really, really concerned. If this became law, it, along with all the other public lands already set aside, it would leave very little land available to support Idaho’s communities (federal lands already encompass most of the state’s forest land, leaving very little privately held land to support local communities). Unless, of course, all those new tourists will support Idaho’s minimum wage burger-flippers, motel maids, and souvenir shops. What would especially concern me is that history would repeat itself and there would then be a push to set aside those remaining lands.

    I traveled through eastern Tennessee some years ago, about the time “Dollywood” was just getting well established and well known. Dolly Parton’s idea was to employ people. Several years ago I happened to travel through there again and that region was vastly changed! If the strip malls, local “attractions”, souvenir shops, motels, etc. strewn along the roadsides are what she had in mind, she was very successful. On the other hand, I saw a lot of farmland, habitat, and other resource land converted into eyesores. I’d hope NREPA doesn’t have the same effect with all the tourists it will bring to Idaho and adjacent states.

    On the NREPA website, Rep. Carolyn Maloney seems to have the erroneous notion that this region has the last of N. America’s elk herds. Folks hereabouts find our elk herds to be a real pest as they can be a real impediment to our reforestation efforts. To be sure, our local elk are Roosevelt and the Rocky Mtn. elk may be a whole different critter. If that is the case, it would be nice to not make such a broad generalization.


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