Tester stops by Missoula US Forest Service office


by Jacqueline Quynh

MISSOULA – Wildfire season was on the mind of Senator John Tester when he stopped off in Missoula on Friday.

The Democrat toured the Missoula Technology and Development Center to see what crews might need as their busy season approaches.

The facility is only one of two in the country – where gear like fire shelters are designed. It’s also where flame retardant is studied. And that’s why staffers at the center had Tester light up a treated, and non treated patch of grass to see how retardant slows down burning.

“They continue to do impressive work, continue to do great research, research that is applicable in the field,” said Tester.

The senator’s visit comes as he and other lawmakers begin to work on next year’s budget – which could affect the USFS and how the agency fights wildfires.

“They get a sum of money that’s meant for forest management, unfortunately over the last many years half of it has been spent on fighting forest fires.”

Not only has the firefighting been tough, but the agency was hit with budget cuts last year.

Tester says his US Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, could help with mitigation work. The proposal would allow over 100,000 acres in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest to be logged, in order to reduce fuel.

“Being able to see a facility like this gives me the opportunity to give some on the ground examples back to Washington DC on what our money is being spent on.”

The senator says money is hard to come by in Washington, but he vows to keep up a healthy debate to make sure the forest service gets the tools it needs to be prepared.

President Obama will be releasing his proposed budget on March 4.