Outdoor Life: Senator Jon Tester: Politician with a Hunter's Heart

For more than 25 years, some 600,000 acres of Montana backcountry have been lost in bureaucratic limbo, legal leftovers from pitched battles between wilderness zealots and timber barons. Described on maps as “wilderness study areas,” these alpine peaks, timbered slopes and foothills grasslands have been off-limits to logging and mining, but have also been a sort of no-man’s land for hunters, anglers and landscape preservationists.

Are “study areas” open to resource development, or are they locked up in wilderness? Every Montana politician for a generation has tried to untangle the land-use stalemate before being cowed by one interest group or another. Now, thanks to a U.S. senator with a flat-top haircut and a butcher’s build, hunters will be able to access these lands, watersheds will be preserved and unemployed loggers and mill workers will go back to work. Jon Tester crafted his landmark “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act” to preserve the majority of land as wilderness, but require sustainable timber harvest on much of the rest.

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