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Sen. Jon Tester today announced that he hopes to make revisions to his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, legislation that has drawn widespread support, criticism and suggestions from Montanans -- some of which Tester said he'd insert into the legislation. The Senator, speaking at a small press conference in Missoula, said the proposed 21 changes—some involving simple word clarifications and others more meaty—were brought to his attention by a wide variety of individuals and organizations, from the Montana Wood Products Association and the University of Montana School of Forestry to environmental groups and the Montana AFL-CIO.

Tester Makes Some Changes to Wilderness Bill, Refuses Others

Sen. Jon Tester today announced that he hopes to make revisions to his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, legislation that has drawn widespread support, criticism and suggestions from Montanans — some of which Tester said he’d insert into the legislation.

The Senator, speaking at a small press conference in Missoula, said the proposed 21 changes—some involving simple word clarifications and others more meaty—were brought to his attention by a wide variety of individuals and organizations, from the Montana Wood Products Association and the University of Montana School of Forestry to environmental groups and the Montana AFL-CIO.

The revisions would help prevent legal logjams, give more support to the timber industry, and require earlier monitoring of forest health, Tester said. Some of the changes, for example, would extend the mandated time period for the “timber and restoration” portion of the bill, which calls for 10,000 acres of timber to be cut annually. The current legislation (S. 1470) allows the timber directives to last 15 years or until 100,000 acres are affected, whichever comes later. Tester’s revision calls for the timber directives to continue for the life of the bill, with monitoring at regular intervals.

The revisions would also:

— Require disputes to go through mediation instead of going directly to court, potentially saving time, money and timber jobs.

— Require judges to consider the “balance of harm” when deciding whether to issue a legal injunction to stop forest projects. With this language inserted, judges would have to weigh both the potential short-term harm of a project and the potential long-term harm of a shut-down’s economic impacts. (Tester said he’s also considering adding a provision that would limit the length of legal injunctions, “so that they don’t go on until the timber in question isn’t valuable any more.”)

— Reduce from 5 years to 3 years the amount of time before Congress receives a monitoring report that assesses how the bill has affected timber management, fire risk reduction and restoration.

— Mandate that restoration work be monitored and a report issued every three years.

— Require that local workers and businesses get preferred status for jobs and contracts.

— Include grazing in the ‘findings’ section of the bill, which currently focuses “too much” on timber, recreation and wilderness, Tester said. “Grazing is always going to be allowed in wilderness,” he added.

The Democratic Senator said he hoped to get the new provisions into the markup of the bill, introduced in July and currently in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

Some changes, Tester said, were suggested, considered — and firmly rejected. These included ideas offered by Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), who has proposed a “phase-in” or “trigger” for the bill’s wilderness designations, so that they wouldn’t all happen simultaneously, but could take effect after a timber harvest.

Tester today said a phase-in would make the bill dead on arrival — an opinion he said was seconded by Bingaman. “The chairman told me if the phase-in language is in the bill, the bill would die,” Tester said. “The trigger language is really a poison pill.” Arguments that wilderness should only be designated after timber is harvested “are arguments from the past,” Tester added. “We’ve got to put the past behind us.”

To read the proposed changes to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in their entirety, click here. For extensive coverage from NewWest, click here.

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11 comments

  1. Lipstick on a pig.

  2. tester, it’s time to come to terms with the fact that your bill’s f’d. the f.s., the obama administration and everyone from beaverhead county commissioners to the senate energy and resources committee have already told you that. stop wasting our money on this d.o.a. pony show and get back to work.

  3. $5 says we’ll see in the next few days another editorial in the missoulian supporting the tester bill now that he’s “proposed changes”

  4. This is classic bait and switch. Trading designated Wilderness for the mere potential of forest management that doesn’t follow NEPA rules. Yep, judges cannot take away Wilderness but can surely take away “illegal logging”, in the opinion of many eco-groups that consistently sue for profits. Any project that doesn’t follow NEPA is wide open to litigation from groups “fundamentally-opposed” to any logging at all. Tester’s bill preys upon a desperate timber industry, a gullible public and conflicting rules, laws and policies.

  5. The one thing this convalescence doesn’t need is some agencies propping up the timber industries.

  6. The biggest black eye of this bill in my opinion is the lack of real recreation access. This article says, “(the bill) currently focuses “too much” on timber, recreation and wilderness, Tester said”

    It should read, it focuses too much on timber and wilderness. Recreation is the big loser in this bill. 150 miles of trials would be closed under this bill, from what I’ve read. If it’s a recreation bill then trails miles should be increased. There should be new trails, new loops, and increased access.

    The wilderness is guaranteed, the logging will be shut down in the courts and the recreation community just loses more access.

    This is really just a wilderness bill, where only the wilderness advocates win. The rest of us lose in this bill.

    Drop the bill Tester.

    It’s already dead.

  7. No problem! Extend timber subsidies, raise taxes, and issue more treasury bonds if tax revenues won’t fully cover the handouts. Raise the debt limit. Who will be shocked when this neoliberal model quits producing welfare-state benefits? Jon, Max, Conrad, Denny, they’re all peas in a pod. Where’s the CBO score on this oven-ready turkey?

  8. still the fundamental flaw of “requireng” a certain amount of logging. Let’s put goods into a market place that does not /need want them and drive the price down further. That will help lots of jobs. The wood products industry is tanking not because there is too much wilderness, but becasue the housing bubble burst. Thre is just not the current demand for lumber to blindly create an even greater surplus. Let the market ajdust and then go back and log areas that can actually economically work.

  9. From my view, in the building industry, the local Montana lumber market’s primary problem is cheap wood from Canada. Though access to federal timber and the constant court battles by the enviros are certainly not helping, they are hardly the absolute cause. And the bubble burst is only recent.

    The local mill closures have been happening in Montana ever since NAFTA took effect, and brought cheap subsidized lumber to compete in our markets. The vast majority of the wood I have nailed up to buildings is from Canada. And even my logging and carpenter buddies in Georgia, another big US lumber producing state, say they see mostly Canadian lumber.

    so lets go after the real cause of all this and put a tariff on Canadian wood products once and for all. Let’s get Montanans back to work, not Canadians!!!!

  10. Skinner,

    If there is anything “REAL” about making a sustainable profit from logging in Montana it’s federal subsidies.

    This was demonstrated in the 1980’s Plans by Forest Service FORPLAN computer analysis of (PNV) present net values on every national forest in Montana. In each and every instance, the alternative that logged the fewest federal acres, and recommended the most roadless acres for wilderness designation, produced the highest long-term economic (PNV) values.

    I welcome a side-by-side CBO analysis comparing NREPA (HR 980) to Tester’s “jobs” bill. Ain’t gonna’ happen because we both know how bad it will look for industry and its shills.

  11. I am dissapointed in Tester’s revision to include and extend logging mandates. The logging mandates will be for the entire life of the bill. WHAT? We are warned these mandates are an economic pitfall. When there is no demand for building materials, but the logging continues the prices bottom out.
    Tester should remove the mandates like he was advised by Washington and local economists.