Tester’s bill will devastate a precious ecosystem

2014-01-08T00:00:00Z Tester’s bill will devastate a precious ecosystemBy Steve Kelly Helena Independent Record
January 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Wilderness activists remain strongly divided over Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. For a long four years, Sens. Tester and Max Baucus have dodged genuine public debate on the bill’s methodology and retrograde policy implications. Political framing has been meticulous and constant from the get-go. Huge sums of political cash have been spent by big-name, “non-profit” environmental groups (timber partners) to promote the bill and lubricate Sen. Tester’s political machine.

Widespread objection to the bill’s unsustainable, 100,000-acre logging mandate remains. Bulldozers could lay waste to roughly 1 million acres of inventoried roadless areas by overturning hard-fought regulatory protection afforded by the “Clinton Roadless Rule.”

Fish and wildlife habitat losses will be staggering. Clearcutting will seriously impact water quality. Recreational opportunities for quiet hikes and cross-country skiing will be eliminated and replaced with a vast network of logging roads.

The public forests in the Northern Rockies are the most ecologically sensitive ecosystems in the Lower 48 states. When critics have tried to point out that total costs far outweigh the benefits, Sen. Tester smears opposing voices. “Extremists!”

Montana journalists don’t ask tough questions of Sen. Tester. The media could hardly be more accommodating to his authoritarian style and methods.

An alternative bill in the U.S. House protects intact ecosystems with no logging mandates, and no additional timber subsidies. Based upon peer-reviewed science and sustainable economics, HR 1187, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, protects all roadless areas in the five-state, Wild Rockies bioregion.

Protecting wilderness and wildlife habitat is a sound long-term, generational strategy for Montana that clearly outweighs any short-term political advantage that may favor Sen. Tester in his next campaign. Montanans are faced with important choices between politics and science, sustainable economics and crony corporatism. Let the people decide their grandchildren’s future.

Steve Kelly is with the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council in Bozeman.

Copyright 2015 Helena Independent Record. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. kbellmontana
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    kbellmontana - March 29, 2014 4:01 pm
    A mandate to increase logging on virgin forests is appalling. I recently looked at the proposed map, and it is very alarming. Areas in yellow will be open to logging. 5000 acres a year over 15 years, would destroy much of the habitats in these areas. the devastation would be long term, the material profits would be short term. In my mind the choice is a no brainer. what can be done to stop this bill?

  2. Gary H
    Report Abuse
    Gary H - January 10, 2014 1:16 pm
    Currently, only 2.6% of land in the lower 48 states is designated as "wildnerness". There is no shortage of land available for timber harvesting, road building, mining and energy devlopement. There is a shortage of grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, Canada lynx, fisher, wolves and all of the other native species that roam within the Northern Rockies.

    Wilderness areas will never produce timber, mining and energy development jobs and many of us will never step foot inside them. What they provide is a landscape where native animals may roam and native plants may thrive.

    We Americans have placed a value in the belief that all species have a right to exist. The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act protects some of the most spectacular mountains, streams, rivers, forests, meadows and other wildlands in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. These lands could forever be lost to their wildness if they are not protected now.

    There is no political agenda in protecting these lands. We Americans have placed a value in a belief that all species have a right to exist. By protecting these lands from human development, we are placing a value on the importance of wildlands.
  3. Matthew Koehler
    Report Abuse
    Matthew Koehler - January 09, 2014 8:00 am
    Since Tester’s bill would mandate large increases in logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai National Forests you can expect that the Forest Service would need to use more short-cuts than normal during the NEPA process to keep up with the annual mandated logging requirements in Tester’s bill.

    Here are some specifics to consider in regards to the mandate in Tester’s FJRA that the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest MUST log a MINIMUM of 5,000 acres per year for 15 years total.

    The average acres logged per year for the Beaverhead and Deerlodge forests combined from 1954 to 1996 was 3,213 acres/year. Even during the logging haydays of the Reagan Administration during the 1980s the average acres logged per year on Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was 4,613 acres/year. Again, Tester’s bill mandates a MINIMUM of 5,000 acres a year.

    The most acreage ever logged in a single year on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was in 1971, when 7,013 acres were logged. The next highest total was in 1966 at 5,813 acres. These years were also prior to our nation having environmental laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act.

    Remember, Sen Tester’s bill would Congressionally mandate a MINIMUM of 5,000 acres of logging per year for 15 years on the BHDL NF. Also keep in mind, that even if Tester’s mandated logging bill passes, the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest would still be logging even more acres out of it’s normal timber sale program, so the amount of logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest would very likely be higher than at any point in history.

    How the Forest Service pays for all this extra mandated logging that MUST be completed if Tester’s bill passes is a real mystery and a real concern that we’ve spoken out about for 5 years. Tester’s bill doesn’t provide the Beaverhead Deerlodge or Kootenai National Forest with any extra money in their budget to do all this extra logging so again, one very real possibility is that we’ll end up with the Forest Service cutting more corners and putting out crappy timber sales.

    Sure, I can see why some political supports of Tester, or the Dem Party, don’t concern themselves with such specifics, but those of us who work on public lands policy and management issues every day certainly do. And thank goodness for that.

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