Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act Gets First Hearing

New West

by Courtney Lowery

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests heard from a variety of stakeholders today on Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, including from four Montanans and one Idaho County Commissioner

It was the legislation’s first hearing since Tester introduced the bill, to much controversy, in July. The hearing lasted a little more than two hours and included remarks from Tester, Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho, Harris Sherman, the USDA’s Undersecretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment and Edwin Roberson, the Assistant Director for Renewable Resources and Planning at the Bureau of Land Management

During the third panel, the committee heard from Mike McGinley, a commissioner from Beaverhead County in Montana, Ronald Hurt, a commissioner from Idaho’s Fremont County as well as Sherm Anderson from Sun Mountain Lumber, Tim Baker from the Montana Wilderness Association, Chris Wood from Trout Unlimited and Matthew Koehler, the executive director of the WildWest Institute who was testifying as a representative of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign, “a coalition of conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, forest restoration and the sound long-term management of our public lands.”

You can watch the full hearing here and go here to download all the written testimony of the panelists, but below are a few snippets from those testimonies: (You can also click on each panelist’s name to download a PDF of their full written testimonies.)

Sherm Anderson, president and owner of Sun Mountain Lumber:

“This bill attempts to resolve the gridlock by bringing together diverse groups with many different interests to resolve problems and create jobs, by managing our forest resources, performing needed restoration work, preserving our high mountain backcountry, guaranteeing recreational opportunities, protecting our water, hunting and fishing, grazing for livestock and all other uses of our precious National Forested lands.”

Matthew Koehler, executive director, WildWest Institute:

“This Committee needs to be fully aware that the Beaverhead Partnership proposal that makes up the bulk of S.1470, was not an open, inclusive or honest attempt at finding consensus. Furthermore, these self-serving,
disingenuous actions by supporters of S.1470 are having a tremendous negative impact on the future of existing and potential successful efforts to work together and find common ground solutions.”

(Several commenters have noted the exchange during the hearing between Tester and Koehler regarding whether or not Koehler himself contacted the Senator or his staff to voice concerns over the bill. If you watch the testimony here, that exchange is at about the 147 minute mark.)

Chris Wood, chief operating officer of Trout Unlimited:

“The collaborative effort undertaken by local Montana groups is on the verge of overcoming years of controversy and delay to protect and restore Montana forests in ways that benefit fish and wildlife resources and local communities. There are challenges ahead, and to be certain, there may be ways to improve the bill, but S. 1470 represents a new way of doing business for the Forest Service, and we urge Congress to pass it.”

Mike McGinley, chair of the Beaverhead County Commission (the written testimony is signed by two other commissioners as well):

“We believe the collective wisdom of this committee and its members fully recognize that the “devil is in the details” and that S. 1470 leaves much to be desired in well thought out details that will not create negative unintended consequences.  In its present form this bill creates many more contentious problems, may cause further deterioration of our public resources, presses hardships on local governments, denies education opportunities to rural children, and does not support the Findings of Congress or achieve it Purposes.”