A fresh move is afoot in Congress to open up unprotected roadless areas in public lands for mining and drilling. In April Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) introduced a bill to release for mining and drilling all inventoried roadless areas on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the US Forest Service. That would include areas of Allegheny NF contained in the Citizens Wilderness Proposal.
The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (HR. 1581) introduced by Rep. McCarthy has 29 co-sponsors, including Rep. Glenn Thompson of Bellefonte. The current borders of the Fifth Congressional District place most of the Allegheny NF in Rep. Thompson’s district; not a good sign for local wilderness supporters. At the end of May McCarthy’s move was given a boost when Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a companion bill in the Senate (S. 1087).
At present there are 9,000 acres, or less than two percent of the 513,000-acre Allegheny National Forest that are designated as formal Wilderness areas. The proposed areas in the Citizens’ Wilderness Proposal would be put in jeopardy by passage of HR 1581 and S. 1087.
In contrast to the McCarthy-Barrasso move, on June 10 Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked members of Congress to help him prepare a package of BLM areas for wilderness protection for presentation to Congress. October 15.