Support for forest bill overwhelming

The Helena Independent Record

by Susie Browning

As a Montanan and as a Granite County commissioner, I'm grateful for Sen. Jon Tester's willingness to carry the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in Congress.

The courageous new bill represents hope and new opportunity for our state, because it aims to break the decades-long logjam on forest policy. It will cut down the risk of wildfire. It will create and save jobs.

Any plan as bold and courageous as this is of course going to see its share of criticism. But the facts of the legislation are indisputable. And based on the facts, the Forest jobs and Recreation Act enjoys overwhelming support.

On Oct. 5, the Independent Record published an editorial about the results of its own unscientific poll on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. The question: "Do you Support the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act?"

The results were skewed. According to the paper, opponents of the bill got the word out, sending e-mails to their friends and members asking them to answer "no" to the poll. There was even the possibility that these opponents paid people to answer "no."

That kind of methodology isn't just unscientific. It's grossly inaccurate. And it does not belong in a news forum.

So where do Montanans really stand? The partnerships that helped create the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act want to know, too. It is, after all, in their best interest to get an accurate reading. So, they shared with me results of their own scientific poll.

According to the scientific poll from Harstad Research, more than seven in ten Montana voters – a whopping 73 percent – support the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. This is based off a sample of 503 randomly selected Montana voters in late July – all of whom were given the plain facts about the bill.

It's clear this legislation enjoys wide support from folks who were presented with the facts – without spin from people on the far right and the far left who oppose the bill.

When given the facts, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act also enjoys overwhelming support from Montanans who hunt (69 percent), who fish (72 percent) and who use all-terrain vehicles (69 percent).

That all makes sense to me, because the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act isn't a partisan bill. It isn't solely about loggers or environmentalists or trail riders. It's the result of people from different walks of life working together on a plan to fix Montana's forest policy so that it works for our forests – and the people who rely on them.

When that happens, everyone wins.

Susie Browning is the chairperson of the Granite County Commission. She is a Montana native, residing in Granite County for most of her life. Contact her at P.O. Box 131, Drummond, MT 59832.