Tester pushes forest stewardship contracting as priority for national forests

Forest chief thanks Senator for legislation, leadership on forest issues

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today told the nation’s top forest manager that “stewardship contracting” provisions in his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act are necessary tools to more effectively create jobs and improve the health of national forests across the country.

Tester questioned U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today during a Senate hearing on how the Forest Service is addressing the goals of expanded stewardship contracting nationwide.

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is the first legislation to mandate stewardship contracting on Forest Service land.

Stewardship contracting requires workers to assess the needs of a given acre of a national forest, from harvesting trees to watershed restoration work such as repairing culverts and roads.  Stewardship contracting lowers the risk of wildfire, restores watersheds and guarantees jobs and supply for timber companies.

Stewardship contracts also ensure that money from timber sales goes back to those same local communities through restoration projects, which in turn create more jobs.

“In Montana just a few days ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talked about how The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act provides the tools the Forest Service needs to achieve the goal of better forest management,” Tester told Tidwell today.  “He and I both believe that timber production and restoration are tools to create and save jobs in rural communities and ultimately save those rural communities.  What is the agency doing about addressing the goals of increased stewardship contracting?”

Tidwell—formerly the Regional Forester based in Missoula—agreed and responded by saying that the Forest Service is changing several practices to strengthen and expand stewardship contracting opportunities.

“I want to thank you for your leadership,” Tidwell added.  “And your support for us to be able to do more restoration work on the landscape and provide more jobs.”

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack—whose jurisdiction includes the Forest Service—voiced support for the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act on a tour through Montana with Tester earlier this month.

Video of the exchange between Tester and Tidwell is available online HERE.