Tester changes forest bill

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Sen. Jon Tester announced a slew of proposed changes to his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act this afternoon in Missoula, changes he says are based on feedback he's received from thousands of Montanans since he introduced it last July.

The proposed changes 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.

Dive into the specifics with these links:

Proposed Changes to Ensure Timber Certainty
Other Proposed Changes to Forest Provisions
Proposed Changes to Strengthen Grazing Provisions
Proposed Changes to Wilderness Designations
Proposed Changes to Recreation Areas
Changes Senator Tester Considered but Cannot Make
Changes Made Before the Bill's Introduction

We found it interesting that Sen. Tester didn't address the Obama administration's concerns about the bill's mandated logging, voiced by U.S. Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Harris Sherman during a Senate subcommittee hearing in December. Sherman said the bill "includes levels of mechanical treatment that are likely unachievable and perhaps unsustainable. The levels of mechanical treatment called for in the bill far exceed historic treatment levels on these forests, and would require an enormous shift in resources from other forests in Montana and other states to accomplish the treatment levels specified in the bill."

Asked to explain, Tester said: "Harris Sherman did express that. I think there’s also people within the agency and the administration that understand that this bill is something that needs to happen, too. So I think the jury is out. We heard from Sherman. Make no mistake about it. That’s exactly what he said. He’s got some real heartburn about the mandatory cut. What I say is that, you’re looking at a multi-million-acre base…There are plenty of places to find and cut trees. From my perspective, being in agriculture, there are plenty of places where you can find [the trees], and [go through] NEPA process, and get it done right, and really have a win-win deal."

"We’ll save money down the line in forest fighting costs," Tester added, "because where those costs really add up is when you have people at risk, and houses at risk, and that’s one of the reasons why I put that [amendment in] to prioritize the WUI."

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