Montana needs Sen. Tester’s forest legislation

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

by Chris Naumann

Chris Naumann has lived, worked and hunted in and around Bozeman for 17 years.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

   — Theodore Roosevelt

Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is an innovative, collaborative piece of Montana-grown legislation that will create jobs, improve the health of our national forests, and protect our most special backcountry areas. Sen. Tester has remained steadfast in his efforts to craft a bill that would end decades of failed logging and wilderness policy and end divisive partisan gridlock over our public lands.

Tester’s legislation would retain and create jobs for the struggling timber industry while further supporting Montana’s $5 billion recreation-based economy by designating new recreation areas and protecting pockets of wilderness. Yet partisan stonewalling in Montana and Washington has prevented Tester’s bill from being adopted despite years of the   senator’s leadership, hard work and outreach. Unfortunately “politics as usual” is stifling job creation right here in Montana at a time we need it the most.

Sen. Tester has done an exemplary job of public involvement and transparency throughout the legislative process. The   senator hosted 11 public listening sessions in nine different communities across the western part of the state. Throughout the process, he and his staff have maintained a comprehensive website ( detailing the most recent legislative language and maps including all of the previous draft versions of the bill.

Montanans had considerable opportunities to participate in the process, and a variety of stakeholders have seen   their requested modifications included in the final version of the bill. McAttee Basin was removed from the proposed Lee Metcalf wilderness expansion at the request of snowmobilers. As asked for by mountain bikers, the Lost Cabin wilderness was converted into a recreation management area to allow mechanized travel. The legislative language was revised to allow access to existing water infrastructure in the proposed Snowcrest wilderness designation at the request of Montana ranchers.

In fact, the forestry components of the bill have been improved in an effort to strengthen the potential for job creation. The timeframe to complete the forestry initiatives was extended from 10 years to 15 years. Tester’s bill streamlines certain requirements necessary to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, and stipulates that the provisions of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act (HRFA) apply to all forestry work performed under this bill. Thus, saving considerable time and money in planning and implementing restoration projects.

Tester’s forest bill is the product of numerous   constructive compromises struck right here in Montana. Sen. Tester worked with stakeholders who put their differences aside, find common ground, and develop reasonable solutions. Sen. Tester should be commended for his willingness to cast aside partisan politics and polarizing rhetoric.

In order for this unique legislation to become reality, Rep. Rehberg must truly reach across the aisle, Montanan to Montanan, and lend a helping hand to pass the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Tester’s bill represents a genuine opportunity to put people back to work restoring forest health; this is an opportunity Montana cannot afford to lose.

I encourage you to contact Rep. Rehberg and ask him to join Sen. Baucus in supporting Sen. Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act to create traditional timber jobs, reclaim Montana’s western forests, and preserve our outdoor heritage. Montana needs Sen. Tester’s forest bill now.