Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tester's transparency

Posted on Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Last Thursday, members of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign called on Sen. Jon Tester to make public a new draft revision of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA), which was put together by the U.S. Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee and given to Sen. Tester last month.

Since the committee's draft includes significant new language, we believe it's in the best interest of all Montanans for Sen. Tester to make the draft available for public review and input. This step will ensure transparency and give all members of the public an equal opportunity to review the new draft.

Unfortunately, as I write, Sen. Tester has refused to share the new draft with the general public or the Montana media. Instead, Sen. Tester's office has opted to only share the draft with the timber industry and political insiders.

Perhaps Sen. Tester's refusal to be open and transparent with this new draft has something to do with its contents. For example, the committee's new draft drops the unsustainable mandated logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai National Forests and drops Sen. Tester's arbitrary 12-month timeline for environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The committee's new draft also adds language requiring that any project must maintain old growth forests and retain large trees, while focus hazardous fuel reduction efforts on small diameter trees.

Dropped in the draft are also several of the controversial anti-wilderness provisions, including Sen. Tester's proposal to allow ATV herding of livestock in wilderness, as well as wilderness landings for military helicopters.

Recent articles make it clear that Sen. Tester and the timber industry won't support any bill that drops mandated logging and NEPA timelines. However, what about the Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation—the groups that have been the loudest supporters of the original bill? Are these groups seriously not going to support the committee's draft revision, which by any objective measure should be viewed as a positive step in the right direction?

If you'd like to get some answers, and if you think you have a right to a stake in the future of public lands management in Montana, please contact Sen. Tester's office directly. Demand that Sen. Tester share a copy of all drafts of his FJRA, so all members of the public can review it and provide input. Anything less just won't provide transparency and serve the public process, nor would it bode well for the future of public lands management.

Matthew Koehler

Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign

Missoula

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