Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Tester hopeful his stalled forest bill will soon pass Congress

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s long-stalled forest bill, which would newly designate acreage for both wilderness and logging in three Montana forests, could be finding some new momentum, the senator and bill supporters say. “I feel better now about its position than I ever have in the past, and significantly better,” Tester, a Democrat, said in an interview late last week. He said there’s a growing understanding in Congress not only about his bill, but also that something needs to be done to improve forest management in the West. Tester and the bill’s supporters, which include timber-mill owners, wilderness advocates and scores of recreation businesses, also are hoping a new player in the political mix – Republican Congressman Steve Daines – might provide a bipartisan push that’s been missing. In past weeks, Daines’ staff has met with both supporters and opponents of the Tester bill, and Daines himself has been talking often with Tester about the measure. Yet while Daines said he and Tester appear to share a common goal of “finding ways to unlock the gridlock we have today on increasing timber harvests in our national forest,” Daines has yet to sign on to the bill. “We’re working well together and we share some common goals,” he said in an interview. “I think there are ways to take what Jon has and make some improvements on it, to make it more beneficial for Montana and the timber industry and jobs.” Daines also is co-sponsoring a House bill that mandates far more logging, on all forests nationwide, and makes it harder to legally challenge a timber sale – a measure strongly opposed by conservationists and most Democrats...more

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