Independent Record: Rehberg, Tester still at odds over wilderness-logging bill

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s stalled forest bill continued to cause partisan sparks this week, as his electoral opponent, U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, said he has helped block the measure because “the only thing guaranteed in that legislation is (new) wilderness.”

Tester, a Democrat, fired back Wednesday, saying Rehberg, a Republican, is not only mischaracterizing the bill, but also offering no realistic solutions to encourage logging that would create jobs.

“This is a well-thought-out, grassroots, made-in-Montana solution to issues in the forest,” Tester said in an interview. “Congressman Rehberg was offered a chance to carry this bill (in the House). He just said no.”

The bill, introduced by Tester in 2010, would create 660,000 acres of new wilderness areas in three western Montana national forests: The Kootenai, Lolo and Beaverhead-Deerlodge.

It also requires the U.S. Forest Service to offer up 100,000 acres in the same forests for logging over 15 years.

Tester’s bill has stalled in Congress — most recently, last month — and Tester said Rehberg’s opposition has been an impediment to passing it.

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