Let’s focus on what matters in Tester’s bill

The Billings GazettenThe Helena Independent Record

by Mike Clark

Let’s put behind us the recent unseemly and inaccurate charges that Sen. Jon Tester’s bill on timber jobs and wilderness was crafted in secrecy. It’s time to focus on what the bill will accomplish rather than try to paint some vague conspiracy that belongs in a pulp fiction novel.

Sen. Tester is to be commended for taking on timber jobs and wilderness designation in one bill after these issues have been stalemated in Montana’s political wars for 25 years.

Every bill starts out in the minds of a few select people. They try to find a sponsor to put their ideas into reality. Such a process happened with Sen. Tester’s draft legislation. He listened to people. He asked for our ideas, accepting some and rejecting others. That’s what happens when Americans craft legislation.

As it reads now, we don’t think the bill is perfect and we are working for changes. But we strongly support Sen. Tester’s efforts to free our forests from political gridlock.

When finished, this bill hopefully will provide certainty for Montana’s hard-hit forest industry, protect some of our most beloved wild lands, improve our fisheries, and demonstrate that we can find creative ways to build stronger communities.

Let’s focus on what the bill says it will do rather than fight about cobwebs of deceit and conspiracy. This process has been open, transparent and collaborative. It’s time to get the job done.

Mike Clark, executive director, Greater Yellowstone Coalition