Working locally, working together


by Roy Jacbos, Karl Rappold, co-signers

Although the conservation challenges facing others across Montana vary, the fact remains that grassroots efforts have sprung up where folks have chosen to set aside their differences and work together. They say all politics is local and that's certainly the level where the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act originated. The compromises and agreements forged by the many folks involved were done so in an open fashion, through years of hard work, lengthy debate, and input from many different types of people.

We know how hard that work is. As a group of small-business owners, hunters, ranchers and outfitters who depend on the land to make our living, we've also hammered out a local solution that would protect the Rocky Mountain Front and fight off noxious weeds. Now that the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act has left the local communities where it was created and moved out to Washington, D.C., we hope it will prevail under Sen. Jon Tester's leadership.

As we've seen during the past few weeks, the rules of engagement in D.C. are different than they are at the kitchen tables in places like Ovando, Dupuyer, Choteau, Deer Lodge and the Yaak. But Montanans should be proud that Jon Tester is willing to honor the hard work of local folks who have spent years hammering out made-in-Montana solutions.

By championing the Forest Jobs and Restoration Act, Tester has taken the bull by the horns and is addressing the challenge of keeping jobs in the mills and creating jobs on the land restoring streams and protecting communities from wildfire. The forest bill also protects some our most special areas in the state and safeguards elk security habitat, improves our fisheries, and designates over 600,000 acres of wilderness.

Our country faces plenty of challenges and our delegation has a lot on their plates as they weigh topics such as energy and taxes; but here at home it's very clear that Montanans must continue to work together to push our issues to the forefront. That's what we've done on the Rocky Mountain Front where we've forged the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, a legislative proposal intended to protect vital wildlife habitat, elevate noxious weed efforts, while respecting the area's working landscape.

Working together is the only way we will end the stalemate over natural resource management while achieving lasting protection of our most treasured Montana landscapes. That's why we support the efforts of those involved in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, the Yaak, and the Blackfoot-Clearwater. By championing the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, and bringing together collaborative conservation efforts across the state, Tester has entered into the rare world occupied by leaders.

It's been 22 years since we've been at this point in the discussion of forging innovative land management solutions and designating new wilderness. Now it is up to Montanans to get back to work and go through the bill, send in their suggestions, and work with the Senator in a meaningful way in order to achieve success, both in restoring jobs, and restoring wildlands. Tester, when he introduced this bill last July, made it clear that introduction was just the starting point of the discussion. We believe he's lived up to that statement.

Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It behooves every man to remember that the work of the critic is of altogether secondary importance, and that, in the end, progress is accomplished by the man who does things." We couldn't agree more.

Roy Jacobs is a taxidermist in Pendroy; Karl Rappold is a rancher in Dupuyer with Teri Rappold. This opinion was also signed by Choteau outfitters Bill and Polly Cunningham, Conrad farmer Joe Perry, Choteau attorney Stoney Burk, Augusta ranchers Jim and Shirley Brogger, and Tony and Deb Porcarelli of Fairfield.