Politicians flung accusations of partisan politics as President Reagan refused to sign a bill that would have designated 1.43 million acres of Forest Service land in Montana as protected wilderness.
"This bill was vetoed for petty politics, and that's all," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Wednesday night, shortly after the White House announced Reagan's pocket veto.Reagan said in a statement that enactment of the wilderness measure "would injure the economy of Montana. It could cost jobs and eliminate vast mineral development opportunities. It also would reduce the flexibility the federal government needs in managing the nation's natural heritage."
By exercising the pocket veto - refusing to sign the bill after Congress had adjourned for the year - Reagan ensured that lawmakers could not override his actions.
The measure designated about 1.43 million acres of Forest Service land as wilderness; 360,400 acres as special management areas, meaning recreation; and 320,700 acres as federal study areas. It also released for non-wilderness uses - such as timber harvesting and mineral exploration - another 4 million acres in Montana's 10 national forests.