Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte was in Lewistown on Wednesday to conduct a public meeting on the issue of public lands.

The event featured a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders and a period dedicated to public comment. The meeting focused on legislation Gianforte introduced in March to restore more than 690,000 acres of Montana public lands, which federal land management agencies found not suitable for wilderness designation, to the active management of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

"There are many proposals about what to do with these WSA's," said Gianforte. "One position is to release all of them, while another would make them all wilderness. The legislation that I propose doesn't represent either extreme, it goes down the middle, and I want to hear how this legislation can be improved."

At the end of the meeting, Gianfirte summed up the three most important topics discussed regarding Montana’s public lands.

"As you look at public lands there's really three things that are critical," he said. "Public lands must stay in public hands. Secondly, I've heard from Montanans that we've got to increase and maintain public access to our public lands. Then thirdly, what we're doing here today, multiple community input is paramount. We're going to trust the local communities for the direction forward."

Groups participating in the discussion included Citizens for Balanced Use, Montana Association of Counties, Montana Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Wildlife Federation, Outdoor Alliance, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and Teddy Roosevelt Conservation.

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