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Rehberg and others say Congress has wilderness authority, not Salazar

(WA, D.C.)- Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg is joining other members of the Congressional Western Caucus in telling Interior Secretary Ken Salazar that Congress has “sole authority” to create new wilderness areas.

The new letter sent this week comes in response to continued requests from Salazar asking Congress to help “identify BLM-managed public lands where there is a strong support in the local community and among elected officials for permanent protection.”

Rehberg has been upset with Salazar ever since a memo was leaked last winter suggesting millions of acres in Montana should be considered for protection as new national monuments.

Rehberg and the other members of the Western Caucus are reminding Salazar that the 1964 Wilderness Act gives Congress sole authority to declare new wilderness.

“In Western states like Montana, our land plays a huge role in our economy,” said Rehberg.  “Secretary Salazar was just in Montana, so he saw first-hand that we need the federal government to become a willing partner in job creation.  Whether it’s resource development for energy and timber or public access for fishing, hunting and hiking, there’s no one who knows how to manage Montana’s lands better than the people who live, work and play here.  It’s time to put partisanship aside and find a way to cooperate in order to move our state forward.”

The issue of authority to create new wilderness has been an on-going debate in Washington since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, and was revived when President Clinton moved to set aside lands in national monuments before he left office.

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