Dear Editor,

Rep. Cheney’s Bill H.R. 6939, “Restoring Public Input and Access to Public Lands Act of 2018,” would open up thousands of acres of roadless lands on our Bighorn National Forest, Powder River Basin and Southern Bighorn Mountains of public land managed by the BLM without a public process and recognizing the true values of these lands managed as they are today. 

The public process that produced the BLM 2015 Buffalo Revised Management Plan (RMP), with the agency, stakeholders and the public all recognized the values of the Front of the Bighorns as having Lands With Wilderness Characteristics (LWC) in the Face of Bighorns. The bill would prohibit the BLM from managing the LWC as the RMP and current law directs for its special attributes.

Six years of an extensive public process led by the Bighorn National Forest, the Forest Plan Steering Committee, stakeholders and extensive public input brought forward a recommendation to Congress for the Rock Creek area in Johnson County to be included in the Cloud Peak Wilderness.

The Forest Plan also recognized more than 90,000 acres of roadless that had suitable wilderness characteristics. The Cloud Peak Wilderness as we know it today was first recognized as a unique wild area, and as wilderness among first in the nation in 1932. The Cloud Peak Wilderness has been a part of Johnson County’s heritage for generations. The Johnson County Commissioners and the area Soil and Conservation Districts in 2005 signed on to the BNF 2005 Forest Plan. With the recommendation came the understanding the inventoried areas would be managed for their wilderness characteristics until Congress took up its recommendation or in the next cycle of Forest Planning, the areas would be inventoried again as directed by law.

The Johnson County and Campbell-Johnson County Fortification Creek WPLI Committees forwarded recommendations that affirmed the Wilderness Study Areas for North Fork, Gardner Mountain and Fortification Creek had special values those lands possess while recognizing the existing uses. This is the third bill introduced by Rep. Cheney that bypasses the WPLI process and has done much to undermine this local input process.

Rob Davidson

Council for the Bighorn Range

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