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Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would protect 600,000 acres of Montana wilderness, but it would also mandate the logging of 10,000 acres per year in Montana’s national forests. Several mainstream environmental organizations, such as Trout Unlimited, the Montana Wilderness Association, and the National Wildlife Federation, have joined with recreation interests and local logging companies in support of the bill. Meanwhile, other environmental organizations, such as Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Wild West Institute, find themselves agreeing with many motorized access advocates that this bill is a bad idea. I recently sat down with Tom Reed, the Montana/Wyoming backcountry organizer for Trout Unlimited, to get his response to some of the main objections raised by the bill’s critics.

Tester’s Wilderness Bill: Q & A With Trout Unlimited’s Tom Reed

Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would protect 600,000 acres of Montana wilderness, but it would also mandate the logging of 10,000 acres per year in Montana’s national forests. (For more details about the bill’s requirements, start with Bill Schneider’s column, What Tester’s Forest Bill Really Does.) Several mainstream environmental organizations, such as Trout Unlimited, the Montana Wilderness Association, and the National Wildlife Federation, have joined with recreation interests and local logging companies in support of the bill. Meanwhile, other environmental organizations, such as Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Wild West Institute, find themselves agreeing with many motorized access advocates that this bill is a bad idea.

I recently sat down with Tom Reed, the Montana/Wyoming backcountry organizer for Trout Unlimited, to get his response to some of the main objections raised by the bill’s critics.

Q: Tom, do you regret anything about the process that led to the current bill? There’s criticism out there that the process was secretive and excluded some stakeholders. Do you wish there had been anything different about the process that might have precluded those criticisms?

A: Honestly, from the very start—the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge Partnership—people immediately started throwing rocks at it and turning up their nose at the fact that conservationists were actually sitting down with timber companies. We certainly would have welcomed their input if they wanted to come to the table with reasonable solutions, but when they come to the table with solutions that have nothing to do with reality, like NREPA [the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act]—which is not a home-based initiative like this one—it makes it a little difficult. We did invite some people to the table who flat refused to even talk to us, just because we wanted to involve the timber industry.

We held hundreds of meetings on this thing. I could show you clippings on this thing from the Montana papers thicker than the Denver phone book. To me, that shows that we didn’t do this in the dark. We did this in the open, and some of these processes have been going on in some of the affected areas for anywhere from half a decade to a decade. It’s not like people didn’t know it was going on.

But if you go into an argument knowing ahead of time that you’re not willing to give an inch, then, yes, of course you will be excluded. If you absolutely hate wilderness, you’re going to hate this bill. If you absolutely do not want to see one more tree cut in the state of Montana, you’re not going to like this bill. If you can live with a little wilderness, and if you can live with a little logging—that’s why seven out of ten Montanans in this survey that we did liked the bill.

Q: One of the criticisms of Sen. Tester’s bill is that the areas being protected are “just rocks and ice.” In other words, the claim is that the act mainly protects areas that industry wouldn’t be trying to develop anyway, and that don’t have strong wilderness qualities.

A: I disagree with that. Many of the areas that would be protected under the act are areas where I elk hunt and have tremendous security cover. In the Pintler Wilderness, for example, the act protects tons of timber and what I call “black holes” for elk, where they can hide out when they are getting a lot of hunting pressure … The Lima Peaks country [would also] be protected … That’s 35,000 acres. There has been some desire to do some natural gas and oil leasing in there. From a Trout Unlimited perspective, that’s an area that we feel shouldn’t be drilled. We’re not against all oil and gas drilling, but we feel there are some areas that are too special to drill. In this case, where there’s pure Westslope cutthroat trout and brook trout, we feel that’s an inappropriate place to drill, so we’re fully supportive of making that a wilderness area.

Q: Another criticism is that the act—which establishes a process in which multiple sections of timber cutting would be proposed and approved at once—wouldn’t require the same scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) as before. [Tester’s bill describes “landscape-scale” planning units of 50,000 acres, for which an overarching plan would be established for both timber cuts (on a tiny fraction of those 50,000 acres) and restoration work.] The concern is that this process will allow some logging projects that might have failed review before.

A: Well, there’s nothing in the bill that allows anyone to avoid following NEPA. And the advantage to doing it this way is that we can look at a large piece of countryside all at one time and come up with a long-range plan that makes sense: remove some trees here, select cut there, we can go over here and rip out some old roads that are degrading wildlife and fisheries resources, and use income from those timber projects to pay for that restoration work. And every component of the proposed plans has to go through NEPA review.

Q: Michael Garrity, of Alliance for the Wild Rockies, is skeptical that those timber projects will produce enough income to pay for the restoration work you’re describing. In fact, he says that the Forest Service typically loses money on timber sales in the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest.

A: I’m not an economist, so I can’t speak to that. I can tell you that the way this is designed is for the money from those timber sales to be put right back into the resource it came out of.

Q: Another criticism I’ve heard is that the act’s mandated amounts of timber harvests—7,000 acres per year in the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest and 3,000 acres per year in the Kootenai National Forest—represents quite a bit more than has traditionally occurred in those areas. If those levels of timber harvesting make sense and are sustainable, why isn’t it happening already? Doesn’t this act potentially force the Forest Service to allow more logging than it might think is a good idea?

A: I think the reason there hasn’t been that much timber harvested on the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge, for example, is because [the Forest Service] has been tied up by frivolous lawsuits for years and it’s basically hamstrung the agency. [In the Beaverhead Deer Lodge], the Forest Service has identified 1.9 million acres as suitable for harvest. This act mandates cutting only a total of 70,000 acres of that suitable area [over ten years]. That’s a very small percentage. And remember, the priorities for harvesting will be beetle-killed trees, urban-wildland interface [for better fire management], and previously logged areas. Our understanding is that the timber base is there, and the reason it hasn’t been cut is because the agency and the timber companies have been sued repeatedly with frivolous lawsuits, and we want to see that come to an end.

Q: Some critics say that logging at the rate that the act requires will hurt elk hunting and fishing in those areas. {add explanation of stewardship funds to the question in some fashion so that when he mentions them we’ll know what he’s talking about}

A: I absolutely disagree with that. The way that this act is designed will very much enhance elk hunting and fishing. I’m an elk hunter. Any elk hunter who gets out and walks the country knows that the more roads you have in a piece of country, the less elk you see. Studies have identified 1.5 miles of road per square mile of land as the limit over which elk just quit the country and leave. So, even though this bill mandates some logging, this bill also prescribes using some of the resulting income as stewardship funds for reducing some of those high road densities.

For example, out on the east side of Deer Lodge, we’re talking about taking road densities from 6 miles per section to one and a half. And the fishing—there’s about 150 culverts on Forest Service land that have been identified as blocking fish migration, so fish can’t swim upstream to spawn or get downstream to the rivers. If you take these culverts out, which would be part of the stewardship restoration under this act, you’re actually going to allow for fish passage. If you allow for fish passage, you allow for juveniles to grow and return to rivers, and you allow adults to go upriver to spawn. So this act would actually increase the number of fish in the system.

Q: Of course, many of the most vocal critics of this act are big supporters of NREPA. In an ideal world, would you like to see a bill like NREPA passed?

A: Well, I’m kind of a romantic person myself. It would be nice to live in 1840, but we don’t. The fact of the matter is, we live in an area where there are more demands on the land, there’s more people recreating on the lands in strange and different ways, and [the Tester act] is a solution that responds to those needs in a way that is built from the ground up…. NREPA’s just never going to fly because it doesn’t get people on the ground involved.

Q: There is a map associated with the Tester act [titled: “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act: Proposed Land Designations,” dated July 16, 2009] that outlines all of the areas that fall under the bill, color-coded into three categories: “proposed wilderness,” “proposed recreation, management, and protection areas,” and “timber suitable or open to harvest.” The thing that bothers some critics about this map is that the largest portion of these areas is color-coded as “timber suitable or open to harvest.” You can’t blame people for looking at this map and worrying that it is only preserving tiny little areas in exchange for allowing massive sections to be clearcut, including some currently roadless areas.

A: I can see why it looks like that way, but I think people’s concerns are misplaced. These areas that the map identifies as “suitable for timber harvest” are carried directly over from the Forest Service’s own forest plans already in place before the bill was written. Now, what the bill does, it says that we agree with the Forest Service that, if harvest is to occur, these are the areas where it should occur. However, the Forest Service is still constrained by things like the Clinton roadless rule, which precludes cutting in any designated roadless areas. That’s an executive order that says they can’t cut in there, and they can’t defy that. So they would have to look outside any roadless areas for timber to cut.

And again, the priorities [for timber sales] are going to be areas with beetle kill, areas where there are cabins or other human infrastructure already in the forest [for wildfire management], and previously logged areas that could be logged again or that might be ripe for a stewardship restoration project. The Forest Service is still in charge of these forests, still required to protect them under existing federal rules. All this bill does is help them get up off the mat from these lawsuits and sell some timber more consistently than they’ve been able to do in the past.

Q: What kind of feedback are you getting from Trout Unlimited members on your organization’s support of this bill?

A: The feedback is very positive. Our members in Montana are just regular folks. They work in the mills, maybe they have a business on Main Street. They’ve seen how people have just gotten nothing done in Montana [in terms of wilderness protection] for decades. They’ve seen the timber on the hills above them dying. They’ve seen these catastrophic fires. They’ve seen their favorite elk hunting areas getting encroached upon by motorized vehicles. And they’re tired of it. They want to see something done. Most people seem to be pretty happy with this bill. We all kind of gave a little and got a little and tried to figure out something that had a chance of actually passing. We’re not 100 percenters. We want to have something that actually works.

Want more Notebook? Read the rest here. I’m also on Twitter and Facebook, and I write a blog.

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  1. The origins of the Beaverhead Partnership and their proposal were the self-selective, secret, exclusive meetings held between MWA, MT TU, National Wildlife Federal and the timber industry during the winter and early spring of 2006.

    When the Beaverhead Partners released their plan in April 2006 (with a carefully scripted press conference at a timber mill in Deer Lodge), Montana and national environmental groups were taken totally by surprise. In fact, it’s been well documented that board members of Montana Wilderness Association didn’t even know about any of this until the press conference and apparently Montana Trout Unlimited didn’t even let national TU know about any of these secret, exclusive meetings until the last minute.

    Mr. Reed is being dishonest and using revisionist history if he is now claiming that the process was open and inclusive from the start. That’s totally not true, even if it is par for the course as the Beaverhead Partnership is concerned.

    True, since the Beaverhead Partnerships’ closed-door, exclusive meetings they have engaged in an all out PR campaign to drum up support for their proposal. But these “hundreds of meetings on this thing” were more for show than any serious attempt to include all national forest stakeholders in the process.

    Mr. Reed is also shamefully incorrect in his characterization of NREPA as “not a home-based initiative.”

    Mr. Reed either doesn’t know the history of NREPA or he is purposefully trumpeting incorrect notions about NREPA. Fact is, after consulting with numerous Montana conservation organizations and wildlife biologists, Montana resident Paul Richards wrote the first draft of what-was-to-become the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act in 1986. After involving about a dozen more regional conservation groups, Richards wrote the text of the second draft of what-was-to-become NREPA in 1987.

    It’s also interesting how Mr. Reed completely ignores the reporter’s question posed regarding how these “stewardship contracting” timber projects will produce all the restoration work that’s being touted.

    As I’ve written in other places, that is one of the major concerns with this bill. But again, Mr. Reed just flat out refused to address this concern.

    The fact of the matter is that this “stewardship contracting” strategy (which is being so lauded by the Beaverhead Partners and Sen Tester’s office) has largely failed to pay for much restoration work in the northern Rockies over the past decade. And this was even when lumber demand and prices were high. The fact that the Forest Service in MT and ID has over $100 million in “shovel ready” restoration work just waiting for funding proves this point. Much of this restoration work was actually part of these former “stewardship logging” contracts.

    What happened? Well, the logging got finished years ago, but there was no money generated from these timber sales to do much of the restoration work. And remember, that was when lumber demand and prices were at near record highs. Now that there’s no demand for lumber and lumber prices are low and we’re in the the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression this “stewardship contracting” strategy is even more bankrupt.

    For example, the Beaverhead Partners have already proposed a test pilot project called the East Deerlodge Valley Project. The Forest Service analyzed the project area and found 3000 acres suitable for logging. Apparently, in a private meeting with the Forest Service MT TU’s Bruce Farling and Sun Mountain Lumber’s Steve Flynn objected to “only” 3000 acres of logging and instead have proposed 10,000 acres for logging. I have the actual maps the Forest Service produced. Ironically, the maps are called the Sun Mountain Lumber Additions.

    Funny thing, for every acre of more logging above 3000 acres, the project actually loses more and more money. How such an approach pays for all that restoration work these “partners” keep touting is a real mystery, especially when you factor in that the BHDL forest is among the least productive forests in Montana.

    This is yet another real world example of how “stewardship contracting” might sounds really good (especially in soundbites from politicians and timber mill owners) but as they say…the devil is in the details. If we are dealing with public policy concerning public lands, shouldn’t we at least be given all the facts, instead of just focus-group-developed sound bites?

    Mr. Reed is also incorrect in his characterization of the Roadless Rule, which he claims “precludes cutting in any designated roadless areas.” Again, that’s totally not true. The Roadless Rule has broad exceptions that allow logging, and even building of “temporary” roads for a host of reasons. True, the BHDL forest plan does include almost a million acres of Inventoried Roadless lands into a category of “timber suitable or open to harvest,” but the diffence is that Mr. Reed and his “Partnership” would now (through Sen Tester’s bill) Congressionally mandate logging on the forest. That’s an important difference.

    Also, if all this bill does is help the Forest Service so much, then why doesn’t the leadership of the BHDL National Forest support Sen. Tester’s bill and the Beaverhead Partnership approach? Again, as I’ve written before, an interesting exercise for the media would be to talk with the Forest Service employees in leadership positions on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. See what they think about Senator Tester’s bill…or the process used by the Beaverhead Partnership players in projects like the East Deerlodge Valley one referenced above…or how the Beaverhead Partners prefer to have the NEPA process out-sourced to private consulting firms, even if it costs the US taxpayers more money. We have been contacted by people who work for the Forest Service and, suffice to say, if the general public could hear some of these concerns from BHDL NF employees I think people would have a better understanding of what’s going.

    More on this topic can be found in this interesting exchange between Jack de Golia, the recently retired public affairs officer for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and Ray Ring of High Country News at

    And what does Mr. Reed think about the concerns with all the sloppy, vague language in the bill? The leading national experts on the Wilderness Act are very concerned with some of the provisions in Sen Tester’s bill. For example, see Should we just ignore these concerns or should the public expect that people like Mr. Reed address them?

    Finally, if Sen. Tester’s bill and this approach is so great, then why does the bill have exactly zero co-sponsors in the US Senate? And why do you think that the vast majority of forest protection and wilderness groups in Montana and around the country don’t support Sen Tester’s bill? This lack of support from others in Congress and from the forest/wilderness movement as a whole speaks volumes…or at least it should. Thanks.

  2. Wow!

    After reading this piece and the previous piece, I read through the comments.

    It seems to me that if the fringe lefties and righties disagree about this bill then the vast majority of Montanans feel it is the best way to go. I’m all for it!

  3. Good interview. Keep up the good work, Tom.

  4. Best piece I’ve seen yet on this subject – thanks to both Sutton and Tom!

  5. Treehuggin' Cowgirl

    Logger – Bravo! You’ve said everything I’ve wanted to say to Matt far better than I could.

    Collaboration is hard, messy, time-consuming, frequently doesn’t yield anything or frequently yields something that someone else overturns. It’s hard to figure out why anyone would participate in such an exhausting and potentially unrewarding process, but we hope that sometimes it will work. We hope that sometimes we can break the confrontational paradigm, cut through the stereotypical division, find common ground, incorporate everyone’s knowledge and come up with some good solutions to break the gridlock.

    Collaboration has to be inclusive, and a continual challenge is balancing inclusivity with the ability to make a decision. One of the most important criterion for a participant is a “good faith negotiator.” That means you’re actually going to try to negotiate and don’t have preconceived desired outcomes. Of course everyone comes to the table with their values, but the idea is to let those values define the solutions – not to dig your heels in the sand over one particular outcome. Matt, you and Citizens for Balanced Use are not good faith negotiators, and you know it. You would only come to the table, so that you could announce that there was no consensus. You and others keep complaining about the process, because you know that’s the only leg you have to stand on. Please let’s focus on the bill.

    Stewardship Contracting is essentially the exchange of good for services. The Forest Service or BLM can use timber receipts to pay for stewardship work. This is still a fairly new tool, and not all of the Forests are very good at using it yet. The beauty of the idea is that instead of sending the funds for the timber directly to Washington, the Forest Service can either move those funds into their project accounts or build a contract where a company bids on both timber and service work simultaneously. A couple years after the Stewardship Authority was made national, the timber industry started to decline. Matt’s right. The Forest Service wasn’t able to get as much service work done as they hoped. The timber based stewardship contracts have both optional and mandatory service projects, and the timber receipts just couldn’t pay for the optional one. However, the Forest Service also does service based stewardship contracts, where the services are the priority and the logging receipts are used to decrease the costs of the service work and allow the Forest Service to restore more acreage with less funds. Stewardship contracting is not a panacea, but it is a useful tool to help the agencies with their management. For anyone who would like to see it in action, I would recommend visiting the Seeley Lake Ranger District. They’ve been national leaders for effective use of both collaboration and stewardship contracting.

    As for why some current or former Forest Service employees don’t support the bill, there’s a lot of organizational resistance to change. Matt, you should know that very well. This bill represents a new way of doing business, and they’re afraid of that. As for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge saying they can’t handle 7,000 acres a year, they don’t mean the land can’t ecologically sustain that. They mean they can’t get it through NEPA. The poor Forest Service is hamstrung between a rock and a hard place. Their funding decreases, they get yelled at for being “do-nothings,” they get sued everytime they try to do anything and their only protection against lawsuits is more and more paperwork. We have to break that paradigm and help the Forest Service become a functioning agency again. That doesn’t mean returning to the practices that rightly led to the timber wars. It means moving forward to a point where we can both simultaneously use and sustain our National Forests.

  6. Thanks for the interviews, Sutton, but it’s the same old hooey. Remember, TU is a big recipient of Pew Trust money, and Pew is the big bucks behind the “Roadless Initiative.” Reed’s line about not opposing oil and gas leasing rings hollow in the context of TU’s fiscal sponsorship of the “Theodore Rooooooooosevelt Conservation Alliance nee Partnership.” With Pew Grants. And what does TRCP do most? Oppose petro. Everywhere.
    That said, I agree that in the context of the landscape, 1.9 million acres of timber base would be peachy with a million acres of wilderness, if the wilderness is original-intent, original RARE, original USFS or BLM-staff recommended, and not the political add-ons from the Clif Merritt alumni crowd.
    Even nasty old multiple-use people deserve nice places to visit. And the fact remains that multiple use MANAGEMENT doesn’t always mean elimination, although you’d never hear that from certain parties.
    I support completely the forestry side of this, even a little road elimination. But the acreage totals are too small, too short-term in duration. The road removals cannot make it impossible to log later, plus the eliminations must be limited to the truly superfluous and hydrologically-problematic segments. Nor must the road removal be so costly as to require yet more hapless taxpayer money for an unworkable solution.
    The bottom line of FJRA is that it has dang little in terms of jobs and recreation for the lay public, and a whacking lot of wilderness, and absolutely no legal reform — the most important factor, which, as logger points out, the public is catching on to.
    No fair-minded person could ever support this travesty.

  7. Well said, Cowgirl.

  8. Treehuggin' Cowgirl


    This bill is a lot like this year’s wolf hunt. We have to do it to prove that us westerners aren’t “rapers and pillagers of the land.” Just like the success (or more importantly lack thereof) of the wolf hunts are demonstrating that western wildlife biologists aren’t part of a vast conspirancy to eliminate the species, FJRA has the opportunity to show all those conservationist/environmentalist fence sitters that foresters aren’t spouting off about restoration, wildlife habitat and stand structure diversity just to pull the wool over their eyes while they deforest the west.

    The national public lost a lot of trust in our federal land management agencies, and now we’re stuck with the difficult task of restoring that trust. The current “analysis paralysis” and “process predicament” are both direct results of legislation and litigation stemming from a lack of public trust. It’s going to be an infuriating process, and we’re going to have spend a lot of time explaining to folks that wood grows on trees and that trees grow back. This bill is a step in the right direction. Regardless of who’s sending them money, the Wilderness Society and Montana Wilderness Association are actively supporting logging on federal lands. Talk about a break through! Next stop, Sierra Club!

    I too support more large scale organizational change. I would particularly like to see a higher bar for litigation for collaboratively reached decisions and a more adaptive management approach to forest planning instead of the forest plan boogie monster rearing its head every 10 years. But there are two questions to answer: What do you want the process to look like? and How do we get there? If you can’t get a solution through congress, it’s not much of a solution.

  9. THG,
    The entire litigation environment must have accountability. The problem is, Congress is full of people who aren’t as smart as the judges who “interpret” the law. A dumb law (or a bunch of contradictory statutes) and a smart judge is a toxic combination.
    I should remark that the reason “mainstream” enviro groups “support” the tiny bit of “forestry” in S-1470 is because they are on the brink of an environmental disaster that will strip them of their social license in the larger society and in Congress.
    Never mind that that social license is built on false premises. If all someone sees is a “clearcut” that is actually a reservoir bottom (Sierra Klub), well, that’s not real honest, is it? That’s the kind of thing that the public’s trust is based upon, and that’s wrong.
    I’ll concede that past practices were less than optimum, but that was dealt with. Now the pendulum is so far over in the other insane zone, bolting it down just a little bit back toward sanity is not something I can support.

  10. If Montanan’s dont realize it already this bill could spell the end for their “last best place”

    “last best place to log old growth and destroy roadless areas” or “Last best place”

    be careful this bs bill will be the death of MT roadless areas

    This bill bears a striking resemblance to Mike Simpson’s “wilderness bill” in Idaho.

    It was shot down because it’s BS and so will Tester’s

    dont listen to skinhead and the blue ribbon coalition

    this bill is not catering to the middle it’s catering to the same interestes that have caused the problems we are now dealing with.

  11. I have been to my last Trout Unlimited banquet…….

  12. For those readers interested in a detailed analysis of Sen. Tester’s bill from one of the nation’s leading experts on natural resource policy and law, I’d highly recommend they check out Dr. Martin Nie’s piece at Headwaters News titled, “Questions, opportunities presented by Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.”

    It’s available at:

    It would certainly be nice if Sen. Tester and supporters of his bill would address these important questions, which have actually been asked (yet ignored) for months.

    As Dr. Nie says in his conclusion, “The above questions are not driven by politics. Nor are they asked with the purpose of trying to defeat the Senator’s bill or to criticize his courageous entry into Montana wilderness politics. They are meant instead to get the public thinking about the big picture and how the parts are going to fit or not fit together. The stakes are high. If the FJRA becomes law, place-based proposals throughout the West will take a big step forward. The FJRA would be the first one out of the gate, setting precedent for others, and this is reason enough why it must be scrutinized so carefully.”


  13. Thanks Matthew on a well written summary of some of disgusting secretive dealings involved with this Bill. Ron Marlenee could not have done a better job in selling out future generations as Tester and these groups have done with this corporate welfare bill – the Tester Logging Bill.

  14. Anti wilderness, pro loggin democrat

    This bill sucks…7,000 acres a year is a slap in the face to Montana’s logging heritage. How about log unlimited beetle kill before it burns… Hey far lefty’s, go to Hylite and visit the awful clearcuts. They came back nicely. The day i was booted out of a wilderness area for having a “baby Jogger” stroller i became anti-“future wilderness” The greenies will never be happy until Montana burns to the ground and no one recreates in the woods anymore. No climbing, paragliding, snowmobiling, motorcycles, Mountain biking, baby joggers and if they had their way, horses…Tester is letting out of staters dictate our forest management. He’s sold out to the east coast enviros and they still arent happy…Imagine that.. Tester will not get my vote for re-elect and my guess is this could cost him the election because no one will be happy with his efforts.

  15. people like matthew koehler are nothing but losers, they don’t want any body doing anything in the woods, they want it all for themselves.Is jon testers forest jobs bill a good one Hell NO its not a level playng field. If there is to be 600,000 acers of wilderness then there should be 600,000 acers for timber cutting to and for motorized recreation.If I was a business owner in those commmunities I would put up three business signs that would read , NO TREE HUGGERS ALLOWED, NO STUPID DEMOCRATES ALLOWED, AND NO COUNTY COMMMISONERS ALLOWED. The county commisioners have a lot of power in this say so thing but they must be stupid democrates.Look at the amount of snowmobiling that they have locked up, those people put a lot of money into communities.I s Jon testers bill a good one No it isn’t .