Tester, Walsh continue to push Forest Service to implement Farm Bills forest provisions
Senators back provision to create jobs, increase forest health
(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh today urged the Forest Service to approve Governor Steve Bullock’s proposal to create jobs and improve forest health by treating Forest Service lands in Montana.
Bullock recently nominated five million acres of national forest land in Montana to be considered for harvesting and treatment under a forestry provision in the new Farm Bill. Tester supported the five-year Farm Bill earlier this year, and Walsh serves on the Agriculture Committee that is implementing the bipartisan bill.
Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell recently told Tester he intends to respond to all Farm Bill forestry recommendations by the end of May.
“Responsible management of our forests is a fiscally responsible way to combat wildfires, support rural communities and create jobs,” Tester and Walsh told Tidwell. “Montana has nine large national forests struggling with insect infestation, disease and declining forest health. These timber harvest opportunities will allow for much-needed forest management.”
Under the new law, the Forest Service may expedite timber harvest in areas nominated by a state’s governor. To be considered for treatment under the Farm Bill, the designated forests must exhibit declining health, a risk of substantially increased tree mortality or an imminent risk to public infrastructure, health or safety. Many of Montana’s beetle-killed forests fit that criteria. The actual treatment must be recommended through a collaborative process made up of diverse interests.
“These timber harvest opportunities will create good-paying jobs and allow for much-needed forest management to reduce the risk of fire,” Tester and Walsh said. “We can’t afford to continue to gamble with wildfire. We need to take a proactive approach and clean up the landscape so this and future fire seasons do not devastate our forests.”
This year alone, national firefighting costs are expected to exceed the Forest Service’s and Department of Interior’s wildfire budgets by $470 million.
Tester said he’s continuing to push his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act as another way to increase forest health by mandating logging on National Forest land, while setting aside some of Montana’s most treasured lands.
The bill came about after a wide range of Montanans, including loggers, conservationists, and sportsmen and women, worked together to hammer out a compromise. Walsh is a co-sponsor.