Marilyn’s Olsen’s letter on Sen. Jon Tester’s forest bill (see “Tester taken to task,” Feb. 11, 2010) got one thing right: More people need to read Tester’s bill.
The levels of timber treatment called for in the bill are sustainable precisely because the mandates include a range of activities, not just commercial logging. Mechanical treatment can include pruning the understory of overgrown stands, hauling forest materials that are building up on the ground, doing selective thinning in the wildland-urban interface, among many other activities. What’s more, the bill only mandates a level of acres to be treated, not an amount of board feet to be cut. And the 21 amendments that Tester has proposed make sure that restoration work is done within a set amount of time, that only local mills will get the contracts, and that treatment projects are prioritized in the wildland-urban interface.
The mandates in the bill can be met using a very broad range of treatments, but the critics of Tester’s bill love to talk about commercial logging because that’s the bogeyman that frightens other environmentalists. Thankfully, most Montanans are getting beyond scare tactics and following Tester’s lead. Tester is talking about much more than commercial logging. He’s talking about getting more work done in lands that are already roaded and suffering from extensive beetle kill. He’s trying to forge a future for our timber mills that focuses on restoration instead of just “getting the cut out.” He’s trying to work alongside timber industry leaders to preserve our options for the local management of our forests.
And, he’s trying to make sure that we protect the headwaters of Rock Creek, Monture Creek, the North Fork of the Blackfoot and the Clearwater River. These are Montana rivers and last time I checked there isn’t even one other bill that stands half a chance of protecting them.
Tester just introduced 21 proposed changes to a bill that was already quite good. For some people, it will never be enough. For Tester and for most Montanans, though, enough is enough. We aren’t going to get a bill that is perfect for everyone, that’s why we compromise and work together on these things, something you know if you’ve spent much time at all in the West. We need to designate these 670,000 acres of new wilderness and get more work done in the woods. Here’s to Tester and to Sen. Max Baucus for backing a fine bill.