Helena Independent Record: Forest bill should be pursued in next session of Congress

Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is an opportunity for a good, homegrown, collaborative, Montana bill to create jobs and manage forests in Western Montana. Unfortunately, an unwillingness to acknowledge the collaborative approach to this bill could jeopardize any constructive movement in the local forests and could result in the loss of timber industry jobs in our communities and dollars spent on Main Street.

Western Montana needs jobs in the woods and we need to manage our forests.

Over the past several years, individuals from groups that were often seen as opposing sides of the logging vs. wilderness debate came together to look for Montana solutions. These folks recognized that continuing to fight over logging sales, wilderness areas, trout streams and recreation spots would only result in a stalemate. Mother Nature reminds us through forest fire and beetle infestation that our forests need to be managed — both for forest health and fire-wise protection. Unmanaged forests also threaten our trout streams, aquatic and wildlife habitat and wilderness areas. The collaborative approach was, therefore, mutually beneficial.

For some forests it could be too late. Those of us who live in this region know this well. We have watched landscapes that were lush and green turn bright red and now gray with bug kill. We’ve seen vibrant communities struggle. So do we admit defeat and quit? Or is this the time to get serious about managing what we have left and create sustainable jobs in the process? These individuals drafted reasonable, collaborative solutions and then asked Sen. Tester to carry legislation to resolve these issues. He listened.

We are fortunate to still have enough of our wood products industry infrastructure in the remaining mills to continue to provide that management and promote forest health where we can. However, without an adequate timber supply that comes from responsible management, we could be in danger of losing this infrastructure in the future. It is hard to believe that a state with this much timber and in such a high demand for forest restoration can’t keep our timber industry working.

Read the whole article >>