It’s been a full 11 months since Sen. Tester introduced the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and it seems as if the discussion has hardly died down for even a moment. That’s a good sign. It’s an even better sign that this dialogue has not been for nothing.
The latest version of Tester’s bill includes several of the changes that were originally proposed by Tester back in February, including weighted preference for local contractors on timber projects. It also includes changes proposed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including the removal of language that would have required NEPA processes to finish on a tight timeline. That is proof—unequivocal—that Tester is listening to all parties.
What is even more impressive is that he’s made these changes without abandoning the principles that informed the partnership of timber mills and wilderness groups that inspired the original proposal. The same exact number of acres of wilderness will be designated and the same number of acres of timberland will be treated, albeit with a longer timeframe. As someone who loves the outdoor opportunities we have in Montana, that many others don’t, I thank Sen. Tester for his work. This bill still deserves enthusiastic support from Montana.