Tester: Forest Jobs bill ‘needed now more than ever’

As fires rage in Montana, Forest Service hails Senator’s ‘breakthrough’ legislation

(U.S. SENATE) – With wildfires lighting up Montana’s ‘Big Sky,’ Senator Jon Tester today called on Congress to pass his breakthrough Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

Tester’s bill will end the gridlock that has crippled forest management in Montana for decades. At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing today, Tester pointed to 2012’s record-setting wildfires to call for passage of his bill that will put Montanans to work mitigating fire risk and improving forest health.

“In Montana alone we had more than a million acres burned,” said Tester, referring to last year’s outbreak. “By mandating the responsible logging of 100,000 acres, we’ll reduce the amount of hazardous fuels that fires feed on. We can all agree that something needs to be done to break through the gridlock and responsibly manage our forests so the West isn’t up in smoke again.”

Introduced in 2009, Tester’s bill mandates logging on National Forest land while also setting aside some of Montana’s most treasured lands. It came about after a wide-range of Montanans, including loggers, conservationists, and sportsmen and women, worked together to hammer out a compromise.

“This is a breakthrough,” Tester told the subcommittee. “Many of the stakeholders that helped write this bill used to only meet in courtrooms. They put aside their differences to support Montana’s timber economy, to restore fish and wildlife habitat, and to protect some of our most breathtaking landscapes.”

Tester’s bill is also supported by the U.S. Forest Service. At today’s hearing, the agency’s Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon told the subcommittee that collaborative effort’s like Tester’s “increase public support for needed forest management” and that Tester’s bill “would provide significant benefits for the people, economy, and forests of Montana and the nation.”

In addition to creating jobs and reducing the risk of fire, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act will also support Montana’s $6 billion outdoor economy. Earlier this month, more than 60 Montana small businesses sent a letter to Montana’s Congressional delegation urging it to support the bill.

Senator Max Baucus, whose Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act also won praise at today’s hearing, is a supporter of Tester’s bill.

Since introducing the bill, Tester has continued to travel around Montana and meet with local stakeholders to strengthen his bill. He noted at today’s hearing that he modified the bill after hearing from ranchers and outdoorsmen and women.

Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act testimony can be viewed online HERE. Tester expects his bill to be voted on by the full Energy and Natural Resources Committee soon.