FJRA a good bill worthy of passage

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act was a good bill when it was first introduced in 2009, and it’s still a good bill today. A new Congress has breathed new life into this measure and maybe this time it has a chance.

Tester’s bill is the product of negotiations among representatives of the forest products industry, wilderness advocacy groups and other outdoor recreationists. The bill designates tens of thousands of acres of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and Kootenai National Forest for mandated timber harvest over 15 years. It also preserves other substantial areas as wilderness and sets aside still other areas for motorized or other mechanized recreation.

The timber harvest and recreation provisions in the bill have the potential to create thousands of jobs in the forest products and tourism industries. And just as importantly, it resolves a decades-old stalemate over the management of these public lands.

The bill has garnered widespread support from the business community and many industry and recreation groups. According to one poll, 72 percent of Montanans favor the idea. But extremists on both ends of the spectrum have consistently opposed the measure. And the billed stalled in the House of Representatives when then-Montana Rep. Dennis Rehberg opposed the bill.

First-term Rep. Steve Daines, the state’s only delegate to the House, is strongly urged to support the measure in this new Congress. With his backing, the bill could become law.

Deadlocks over the disposition of Montana’s public lands have prevented any significant action for decades. The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act deals with just two national forests. But as a product of compromise, the bill could serve as a template for the resolution of land management disputes throughout the state.

Ideologues on both sides of this issue need to realize that arguments aren’t won on the ends. They are won in the middle ground where compromise takes shape among independent-thinking voters. And that segment of the electorate is becoming increasingly disgusted with obstructionists.

We elect our leaders do accomplish things, not prevent things from getting done. And the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is something worth doing.