Commissioner says citizen panel welcome to review Wilderness Stu - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Commissioner says citizen panel welcome to review Wilderness Study Areas bill

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HAMILTON - Ravalli County Commissioner Jeff Burrows says a citizens panel is welcome to conduct an independent review of the Wilderness Study Areas issue, even if it comes to a different conclusion than the commissioners. 

Commissioners were bombarded with opposition on Wednesday over a letter in support of a bill sponsored by Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), seeking to release five different places from Wilderness Study Area designation.

The board agrees with Daines' idea that 40 years is long enough for the areas, including the Blue Joint and Sapphire on the Bitterroot National Forest, to be returned to normal forest status. 

Commissioners say they'll let their supportive letter stand, but will continue to accept input and monitor the bill's status. 

Burrows told MTN News commissioners didn't bypass the citizen-based Collaborative Panel on Public Lands, which he says is free to review the issue and even come to a different conclusion.

"That was another, a little misunderstood about the whole Collaborative process, that when we set that up, that commissioners were going to remain autonomous from that Collaborative and vice versa," Burrows explained. "So that Collaborative could technically go out and have an opinion that didn't necessarily agree with what the commissioners thought," he added.

Some speakers at the hearing did encourage commissioners to support the Daines bill, saying it will open the door to further review before the WSA boundaries are dropped. 

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