|Today's Great Falls Tribune contains an article , which makes it clear that Senator Tester and the Montana timber industry won't support any Wilderness bill that doesn't include logging mandates.
The article also indicates that Senator Tester has not decided to release the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's new draft re-write to the public, only to the timber industry and political insiders. Why? And how does this action jive with Senator Tester's pledge to support transparency in government?
However, what about the Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation - the conservation groups that have been among the loudest cheerleaders in support of Senator Tester's current, original bill?
Are these conservation groups seriously not in support of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee's draft re-write?
After all, the ENR Committee's draft still would protect over 600,000 acres in Montana as Wilderness. Isn't that one of the big goals these groups touted over the past few years? We have to break the Montana Wilderness drought?
The ENR Committee's draft would also establish a "National Forest Jobs and Restoration Initiative" that would still "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."
Again, aren't these the types of goals and restoration and fuel reduction projects to create local jobs that these groups touted over the past few years?
The ENR Committee's draft also eliminates many of the most controversial (and anti-environmental) aspects of Tester's current bill, which you can bet was done at the behest of the US Forest Service, Obama Administration and the Committee Chairman. So much for all those talking-points inspired letters to the editor and blog comments we've all seen over the past six months telling us that the Obama Administration, Secretary Vilsack and the US Forest Service now support or are "warming up" to Sen Tester's bill, eh?
As I mentioned previously, the Committee draft drops the mandated logging, drops the arbitrary 12-month NEPA timeline, drops military helicopters landing in Wilderness, drops motorized sheep herding in Wilderness, removes the budgetary problems currently in Tester's bill and adds some language about maintaining old-growth and retaining large trees.
Shouldn't these changes in the Committee's draft be viewed as positive steps in the right direction by the Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation? If not, why?
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't clearly point out that many in the conservation community - including members of our Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign - have been calling on just these types of changes to be made in the bill for almost a year now. The response from many of the most die-hard supporters of Tester's bill has been, at best, to ignore these concerns, or, at worst, to even go so far as to say that we were lying and making stuff up. The NewWest site is full of commentaries and comments along these lines that anyone can review for themselves. Well, apparently, if the ENR Committee's draft drops many of these concerning provisions we must have been justified and correct to bring these concerns to the public's attention, right?
If you'd like to get some answers, and if you think you should have a stake in the future of public lands management and should be able to see the ENR Committee's draft re-write of Senator Tester's bill so you can review it and provide input, please contact Senator Tester's office directly.
Send your emails at: http://tester.senate.gov/Contact/index.cfm
Or contact Senator Tester at his DC or Missoula office.
724 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2604
Phone: (202) 224-2644
Fax: (202) 224-8594
130 W Front Street
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193
You may also wish to share your views and get your questions answered by contacting these organizations:
Montana Wilderness Association: 406-443-7350 http://wildmontana.org
Montana Trout Unlimited: 406-543-0054 http://www.montanatu.org
National Wildlife Federation: 406-721-6705 http://www.nwf.org/northernroc...