In his recent column (March 4) supporting U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ wilderness study areas release (WSAs) bill, Russ Ehnes misconstrues history, claiming President Reagan “vetoed” a 1988 wilderness bill “because he recognized the imbalance of additional wilderness.”
Reagan did not “veto” the bill; he pocket vetoed it. Vetoing a bill would have enabled Congress to override the veto. Pocket vetoing means he took no action on the bill before adjournment, ensuring Congress couldn’t override the veto, despite overwhelming support. Reagan did this to help Conrad Burns unseat incumbent John Melcher.
Ehnes adds another layer to the baloney Daines and allies are piling on top of his WSA bill, introduced without one public meeting, unlike the ’88 bill. That bill went through a transparent process taking 10 years. It would have resolved all five of the WSAs in Daines’ current bill by designating 1.4 million acres as wilderness and releasing 4 million acres.
Daines pretends the 1988 bill never occurred and that Congress has never taken action on WSAs. It has — nine times since 1984, the last time in 2013 with the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Daines made sure that bill failed, making him partially responsible for the unresolved status of our WSAs.