History lesson

Posted Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 4:00 AM

In 1963, I came to Missoula from an area in west central Wisconsin that once had one of the country’s largest white pine forests that was cut with abandon. The thinking was the supply was inexhaustible. Today the only knowledge I have of Wisconsin’s timber industry is from history books.

After attending the University of Montana and studying forestry practices, I became a timber cruiser at the Kootenai National Forest Sylvanite Ranger Station in the Yaak. The 13-mile trek in was a one-lane gravel road with turnouts. The Yaak had trees bigger in diameter and taller than I had ever seen with seven or eight 16-foot logs. Roads were scarce. With permission from the Canadian government to cut out the old logging road into Fernie, Canada, we would drive 10 miles east in Canada and then walk back across the border to get to the area we were preparing for a timber sale.

Look at it now, roaded and clear cut. Just like Wisconsin, this beautiful forested area has been decimated. This is the reason we need Sen. Jon Tester’s forest bill to pass now. It reaches a compromise that protects the different interests in Montana and will preserve our forests for future generations. The time for passage of this bill is now.

Larry Roberts


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The other day NewWest.net's "Wild" Bill Schneider had an interesting article looking at the chances of a public lands omnibus bill coming out of the 111th Congress, and more specifically, an update of where Senator Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act fits into that equation (See: http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/anoth…)

Schneider writes:

"It could be different this time around, but right now, it looks like another loss for Montana.

It all depends on Senator Jon Tester's willingness to change course on his beleaguered Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, S. 1470. Tester's bill has had a hearing before the same subcommittee, back on December 17, but the bill has yet to be reported out of committee because of major disagreement among subcommittee members on parts of the bill. The subcommittee won't report it out onto the floor in its present form, so it can't get in an omnibus bill, which means it has no chance of becoming law.

It's complicated, but in short, other subcommittee members and the U.S. Forest Service don't like Tester's mandated logging provisions, nor his special intrusions on the Wilderness Act of 1964 by allowing ATVs and helicopters in certain designated Wilderness areas. The committee suggested removing these provisions from S. 1470, but Tester refused."

It sure looks like Senator Tester and the collaborators should have taken more seriously the substantive concerns expressed for over a year now from many public lands conservation organizations in Montana and around the country, as well as from the Forest Service, Obama Administration, ENR Committee and a host of retired Forest Service chiefs and officials.

Instead, we've been treated to a dumbing down of the Wilderness and forest management debate, while we all watched the collaborators spend hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on polling, messaging and the type of advertising campaign we normal only see during election cycles.

However, none of those slick ads or feel-good, flowery rhetoric could gloss over the very real substantive concerns with key provisions within the FJRA.

If this bill doesn't pass, Montanans should not forget that it was the unwillingness of Senator Tester and the Collaborators (including Gabe Furshong's Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, RY Timber and Sun Mountain Mountain Lumber) to compromise a little bit. Over the past year they've done a fine job selling and promoting their proposal as the best thing since sliced bread through one-sided meetings and panels, but Senator Tester and the Collaborators weren't so great at working together with those who had concerns with the substantive parts of the FJRA, including the Senate's ENR Committee, the U.S. Forest Service, the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign, Beaverhead County and a host of other citizens, who are equal owners of these public lands.

On the other hand, if the bill does pass, it will only be because the concerns brought up for over a year now by the likes of the U.S. Forest Service, the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign, Sierra Club, NRDC and others have finally been addressed. As I've been saying all along, the ENR Committee will not let Tester's bill move forward with the mandated logging, profoundly negative budgetary implications and motors and military helicopter landings in Wilderness, among other issues.

Finally, I should point out that, in addition to protecting over 660,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness, the ENR Committee draft also establishes a "National Forest Jobs and Restoration Initiative" that would "preserve and create local jobs in rural communities...to sustain the local logging and restoration infrastructure and community capacity...to promote cooperation and collaboration...to restore or improve the ecological function of priority watersheds...to carry out collaborative projects to restore watersheds and reduce the risk of wildfires to communities." Much of this work would be carried out through stewardship contracting. The ENR Draft also adds language requiring that any project carried out under the bill must fully maintain old growth forests and retain large trees, while focus any hazardous fuel reduction efforts on small diameter trees.

That ENR Committee draft doesn't sound half-bad, eh? Too bad Senator Tester's declared it "dead on arrival." And too bad a group like Furshong's MWA is hamstrung by their precious collaboration with the politician Sen. Tester and a few timber mill owners that they can't even toss their support to the ENR Committee's draft, which by any objective measure is a superior piece of legislation when it comes to preserving Wilderness and our national forest legacy.

Posted by Matthew Koehler on 07/30/2010 at 12:03 PM

Bahahahha gabreil you smamry little pet you.

Actaully current roadless areas in the Yaak are in the yellow or "open to timber harvest category". Care to elborate gabriel?

BTW gabe my boots ARE CURRENTLY ON THE GROUND in the woods.

How about the West Big Hole IRA gabe?

How is that not affected by tester's fjra?

Posted by Omegaman83 on 07/30/2010 at 11:53 AM

FJRA doesn't call for cutting roadless lands anywhere in Montana and Larry appears to understand that. But it does provide protection to almost a million acres of public land through Wilderness designation and recreation management areas. That's almost a million acres that will never be drilled, mined, or sold.

Nice to hear more support for Tester from a guy who's had his boots on the ground for a long, long time.

Posted by gfurshong on 07/30/2010 at 9:32 AM

Ahh hate to burst your bubble Larry but Tester's FJRA calls for the cutting of old growth roadless lands in the Yaak as well as the three other forests.

Posted by Omegaman83 on 07/29/2010 at 11:14 AM
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