Tester’s bill would help Forest Service do its job

The Billings Gazette

by Jack Mahon

Reference Jennifer McKee’s Feb. 21 report concerning the current public perspective on U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S1470):

McKee’s report indicated that some Montanans believe we do not need the Tester bill. These folks believe that the Forest Service 2008 revision of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan adequately deals with forest health, wildlife needs, water, soil and water quality needs, wildfire fuels reduction needs, and the economic and sociological needs of the natural-resource-dependent communities as required by the 1976 National Forest Management Act.

But the 2008 revised plan does not adequately deal with these requirements. The forest resource is in terrible health. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been burned by wildfire or killed by bark beetles. It is the opinion of outside scientists (foresters, entomologists, wildlife and fish biologists, soil, water and air quality specialists, and fire behavior specialists) that at least 20 percent of the timber that grows on that forest each year should be harvested to meet the requirements of NFMA.

There is strong statewide public support for timber harvest as the only effective and economical management tool to restore healthy forests, wildlife habitats, soil and water quality and deal with wildfire-fuel overloads. And the communities in and around the forests need the direct and indirect jobs which timber harvest and forest (ecosystem) restoration projects would create.

Passage of Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is the only hope for restoring the credibility of the Forest Service.