Forest Jobs and Recreation Act a responsible plan

The Montana Standard

by Jon Tester

As required by my provision in a recent federal law, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week removed Montana's wolves from the Endangered Species List and returned their management to state biologists.

It is a bipartisan victory that recognizes Montana's wolf recovery as a success. As your senator, it's my job to find solutions that are right for Montana, no matter how controversial or tough the issue is.

Montana needs responsible wildlife management. We need smart natural resource development. And for future generations, we need to protect the land, clean water and fresh air we're blessed with.

I have a responsibility to do all those things with policies that foster job creation in Montana. And that's why, earlier this year, I reintroduced a landmark jobs bill-the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

I will continue to push for this bill because it's a popular plan that enjoys broad support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents. It's right for Montana.
That's because it was made by Montanans. As I have said many times before, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act doesn't just belong to me. It was created over the course of several years by a broad coalition of people.

Anyone willing to compromise had a seat at the table. And so, setting aside their differences, loggers, millworkers, sportsmen, conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts worked together to find common ground. I know the value of consensus-building. That's why I turned their ideas into legislation.

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is the right solution for a unique set of challenges. Congress often tells the Forest Service what it can't do. My bill would be the first time Congress tells the Forest Service what it will do.

It will put folks back to work in our forests by directing the Forest Service to take on large restoration projects-thinning timber on 100,000 acres over 15 years and improving habitat. The bill permanently sets aside motorized recreation areas for trail-riding and snowmobiling, a first in Montana. And, for the first time in 28 years, it sets aside wilderness in some of Montana's wildest backcountry.

Some people would rather not solve problems. They're good at making excuses, laying blame, and saying "no" because it's easier and serves their own interests. But working together is the responsible thing to do. Working hard and finding common ground are Montana values. That's why most Montanans support this bill.

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act has been the subject of healthy, public debate for nearly two years. Since the day of its introduction, each version of my bill has been available online for anyone to read and scrutinize.

I've taken feedback from hundreds of Montanans and I've held numerous public input sessions. I revised the bill several times based on that input.

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act was built with the transparency I brought to the Senate. Some will continue to claim otherwise. But those claims are politically motivated. Montanans-and the forests we rely on-deserve better. They deserve a responsible plan to create jobs. They deserve a bipartisan plan to manage our forests and bring them back to health. They deserve the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is a third-generation farmer from Big Sandy.