Tester proposes changes to Forest Jobs and Recreation Act

Senator’s proposed changes based on feedback from Montanans

(MISSOULA, Mont.) – Senator Jon Tester today announced several proposed changes to his landmark Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

The changes are based on feedback Tester received from thousands of Montanans since the jobs bill was introduced last July and referred to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Tester’s proposed changes to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act include:

  • Adding language to use mediated appeals, which often resolve problems without having disputes over timber projects go to litigation.
  • Extending the timber and restoration portion of the bill, so if it is successful, the bill’s lifetime can be extended.  Tester is proposing a provision that would require an independent committee to make recommendations to Congress on reauthorizing the forest components of the bill.
  • Using a designation other than wilderness for the Highlands area near Butte, to allow its continued use for occasional military training in the area.  As written, the bill would make an exception to the Highlands wilderness designation for military training, but many Montanans objected to the idea.
  • Strengthening pilot language to emphasize that the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is a pilot effort that, if successful, can be applied to other national forests.
  • Making the restoration components of the bill stronger by adding time limits on when restoration projects need to be completed.

A detailed list of Tester’s numerous proposed changes is available online HERE.

Tester today also explained changes he and others considered but cannot make, such as adding trigger or “phase in” language that would designate wilderness only on certain conditions.  Tester said he brought the idea to the chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, but was told such language would kill the bill.  Tester also noted that such language would have unintended consequences, such as possible lawsuits to prevent wilderness designation.

“I’ve heard from anyone willing to share their ideas and now I’m using those ideas to make this bill even better,” said Tester, who held public listening sessions and received thousands of online comments on the bill since July.  “It’s important to move forward because jobs are being lost, mills are closing their doors, and our forests are not healthy.  We need a new way of managing our forests.  Doing nothing is not an option.”

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act had its first Committee hearing in December.  The Committee will amend the bill before it can be considered by the full Senate.