Tester’s forest bill, transparency & the legislative process

June 5, 2010

By John S. Adams, Great Falls Tribune Capitol Bureau Chief

Coalition Calls on Senator Tester to Release New Draft of FJRA for Public Review and Input

June 5, 2010

Missoula, MT (June 3, 2010) – Today, members of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign called on Senator Tester to make public a new “Discussion Draft” version of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA) that was put together by the US Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee and given to Senator Tester last month.

“Our coalition calls on Senator Tester to share with all Montanans the Committee’s draft rewrite of his bill,” stated Matthew Koehler of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign. “Since the Committee’s draft includes significant new language, we believe it’s in the best interest of all Montanans and Americans for Senator Tester to make a copy of the Committee’s 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 language.”

The Committee’s new draft drops the controversial mandated logging levels on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai National Forests and drops Senator Tester’s 12-month timeline for environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, which the head of the Forest Service called “flawed and are legally vulnerable” during last December’s Senate hearing.

The Committee’s new draft also adds language requiring that any project carried out under the bill must fully maintain old growth forests and retain large trees, while focus any hazardous fuel reduction efforts on small diameter trees.

The Committee’s draft drops several of the controversial Wilderness provisions, including those allowing helicopter landings for military training exercises and herding livestock with ATVs in Wilderness, but other provisions that compromise the integrity of the proposed Wildernesses remain in the new draft.


Forest Jobs and Recreation Act Info

March 11, 2010

Action alert on the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, S. 1470
Learn about the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and take action by making your voice heard.

Guest Column: Tester Bill Threatens Wild Northern Rockies
By Stewart Brandborg

Stewart Brandborg, a fourth-generation Montanan, is a founding member of the Last Best Place Wildland Campaign. “Brandy” grew up in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, where his father served as the Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest from 1935 to 1955.  Brandy spent over a decade researching wildlife in the Bob Marshall, Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness areas and he was later
employed as a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service and state wildlife agencies in Montana and Idaho. From 1964 to 1976, Brandborg served as executive director of The Wilderness Society.   Brandborg played an instrumental roll in the passage of America’s Wilderness Act in 1964 and other landmark public land legislation, including groundwork for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Guest Column: Gutting the US Forest Service is Not the Solution

By Bill Worf
Bill Worf was born in 1926 on a homestead in Eastern Montana and grew up on a ranch through the Great Depression. When World War II came along, Worf left high school to join the Marines. He fought in the battle of Iwo Jima.
Worf joined the Forest Service in 1950, becoming Supervisor of the Bridger National Forest in Wyoming. When the Wilderness Act passed in 1964, Worf was hand-picked to head the Forest Service’s national development of Regulations and Policy for implementation of the Wilderness Act. In 1969, he was assigned to the Regional Office in Missoula as Director for Wilderness, Recreation and Lands, a position he retired from in 1981. He lives in Missoula and is a founding member of the LBPWC.

Guest Column: Tester’s forest bill would damage wild places
By Howie Wolke

Howie Wolke owns and operates Big Wild Adventures with his wife Marilyn Olsen.   Howie is the most experienced backpacking guide in the Western U.S., leading over 500 multi-day treks since the 1970s. Howie is a well-known advocate for protecting wilderness and he has written two books on wildland conservation, including the Big Outside (co-authored with Dave Foreman), a historic inventory of America’s remaining big wilds. Howie has been a part-time instructor of Environmental Studies at Montana State University-Billings, where he designed the course “The American Wilderness.” He is also a former President of the national conservation group Wilderness Watch and now serves on the board of directors.

Comments from Coalition Members

January 19, 2010

This pdf document contains comments submitted to the US Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests regarding the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, by members of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign. These comments were officially entered into the record for the Subcommittee’s Dec 17, 2009 hearing.

White House voices concerns over Tester’s bill

December 29, 2009

Top Ag Dept official says logging levels ‘not reasonable’
By Associated Press | December 18, 2009

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration said Thursday it has several concerns about Sen. Jon Tester’s plan to create more wilderness and mandate more logging in Montana’s national forests. Speaking at a Senate hearing, a top Agriculture Department official said Tester’s bill would require logging levels in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest that are “not reasonable.”

Agriculture Undersecretary Harris Sherman, who oversees the Forest Service, said he was concerned that the bill’s cost and mandates could create a harmful precedent for other national forests. Sherman urged Tester, a first-term Democrat, to “alter or remove highly site-specific requirements” for logging and other forest-thinning projects that are “likely unachievable and perhaps unsustainable.” [Click here for Sherman’s testimony]

The bill would require logging of about 7,000 acres a year in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge forest – seven times the current annual average.

“The levels of mechanical treatment called for in the bill far exceed historic treatment levels on these forests, and would require an enormous shift in resources (away) from other forests in Montana and other states to accomplish,” Sherman testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Click here to view an archieved webcast of the hearing.  To read testimony submitted on behalf of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign, click here.

Detailed Analysis of S. 1470

December 8, 2009

Analysis of S. 1470 (pdf – 35 pages)
Executive Summary – S. 1470 Analysis (pdf – 3 pages)

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA) [bill textmap] was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) and assigned bill number S. 1470.  A line-by-line analysis of S.1470 has been commissioned by the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign – a coalition of conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, Wilderness preservation, and the sound long-term management of our federal public lands legacy.

NOTE: In this analysis, actual language from S. 1470 is in Times font. Analysis and recommendations are indented and in Helvetica font.

Keeping it Wild! In Defense of America’s Public Wildlands

December 8, 2009

Note: This document will be entered into the official record for the US Senate’s hearing on S.1470. Individual citizen supporters are encouraged to sign this version of the sign-on letter and also submit their own testimony to the Senate by December 31, 2009.

United by our common understanding that Montana’s wild country is its greatest treasure;

And, that once degraded or impaired, this wild country can never be restored or replaced;

And, cognizant of Thoreau’s belief that “In wildness is the preservation of the world;”

And, schooled by Aldo Leopold who long ago warned that wilderness can only shrink and not grow;

And, keenly aware of the definition of wilderness in the Wilderness Act of 1964 as being “untrammeled by man,” where “man himself is a visitor who does not remain;”

And, fully recognizing that the Northern Rockies ecosystem is the only functioning ecosystem in the lower 48 states where all native species still reside;

And, being of one mind in our desire and determination to protect and preserve what remains of our public wildlands to the greatest extent possible;

We hereby state our intention to work together to achieve the most inclusive and comprehensive protection under the law for all remaining publicly-owned de facto wilderness in Montana.

In full affirmation of the above and, after having been unsuccessful in our earnest efforts to improve Sen. Tester’s so-called “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act,” or “S. 1470,” we must now unanimously oppose this bill.

The bases for our opposition are exhaustively catalogued in separate analyses and papers, but we submit this foundational document to concisely articulate our chief objections.  They are as follows:

1.  The Tester bill specifically eliminates from mandated protection large portions of the late Senator Lee Metcalf’s wildlands legacy, Congressionally designated as Wilderness Study Areas in 1977 by his farsighted bill,  S. 393.  By eliminating this protection, the Tester bill opens these priceless public wildlands for road building, logging, and other development.

2.   The Tester bill undermines the overwhelmingly popular Clinton Roadless Rule and Obama Roadless Initiative.  Over one million acres of federally-inventoried roadless wildlands protected under the Roadless Rule and the Roadless Initiative would be classified as “Timber Suitable or Open to Harvest.” (see map)

3.  The Tester Bill surrenders decisions about our national forests to a handful of local bureaucrats and extraction-oriented corporations, thereby promoting fragmentation of America’s national public lands legacy into locally controlled fiefdoms.

4.  The Tester bill undermines the National Environmental Policy Act by imposing unrealistic and arbitrary requirements that preclude the Forest Service from accurately assessing environmental impacts of road building, logging, habitat loss, water degradation, weed infestation, and other costs of developing public wildlands.

5.  The Tester bill mandates unsustainable logging quotas regardless of environmental costs, thereby jeopardizing safeguards provided public lands by the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, Wilderness Act, and Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

6.  In its effort to isolate decisions to log wildlands from national attention, the Tester bill disenfranchises public lands stakeholders, by overriding legitimate science-based forest planning that involves full public information and participation.  It deprives the public of our rights to be included in irreversible decisions concerning our own land.

7.  The Tester bill mandates cutting at least 100,000 acres over 10 years.  It dictates at least 7,000 acres be logged per year for 10 years in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.  In recent years, the Forest Service has set its sustainable cut level for the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest at 500 acres per year.  In past years, when the Forest Service was dedicated to “getting the cut out,” an average of 3,213 acres per year was logged, from 1954 to 1996, in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. On the Three Rivers Ranger District of the Kootenai National Forest, Tester’s bill mandates logging of 3,000 acres per year for 10 years in fragile Yaak grizzly bear habitat, already severely damaged by decades of overcutting.  While logging at least 100,000 acres would be compulsory, the Tester bill contains no accompanying mandates for restoration, leaving all post-logging reclamation and forest restoration optional.

8.  The Tester bill fails to address at least $100 million in costs to U.S. taxpayers that would be incurred by the Forest Service for subsidizing “below-cost” timber sales and power plants for the few specially-privileged timber corporations involved.  The bill interferes with free enterprise by mandating that five favored private mills be subsidized with perpetual supplies of national forest trees, at huge economic costs to taxpayers.  The bill ignores the financial realities that the United States currently face:  Economic crises and a lumber “depression,” with new home construction down 70 percent and demands for lumber down 55 percent.

9.  By forcing unsustainable industrial-scale logging upon our public lands, the Tester bill would irrevocably harm essential habitat of species that characterize the wild nature of the northern Rockies, such as the gray wolf, bull trout, cutthroat trout (Montana’s official state fish), otter, mountain goat, mountain sheep, elk, arctic grayling, northern goshawk, boreal owl, pileated woodpecker, ferruginous hawk, Montana vole, sage thrasher, wild bison, peregrine falcon, bald eagle, pine marten, fisher, lynx, wolverine, and grizzly bear (Montana’s official state animal).

10.  The “wilderness” areas in the Tester bill are fragmented and unconnected islands of largely “rocks and ice,” with limited biological integrity and no potential for sustaining biodiversity.  The minimal “wilderness” designated in the bill fails to protect different elevation habitats and their dependent species with core areas, buffer zones, and connecting biological corridors.  The bill promotes numerous abuses that are clearly in violation of the 1964 Wilderness Act, including motorized access into and through “wilderness,” military aircraft landings in “wilderness,” possible “wilderness” logging, and other intrusions that violate the principles of Wilderness.

Due to these severe deficiencies, we intend to see that the Tester bill is not endorsed by Congress.  Instead, we will constructively stand for a scientifically-sound, ecologically-based Wilderness Bill that preserves the greatest amount of our priceless and rapidly-vanishing public roadless wildlands in Montana.

We, the following, are conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, Wilderness preservation, and the sound long-term management of our federal public lands legacy.  Our coalition includes small-business owners, scientists, educators and teachers, health care practitioners, hikers and backpackers, hunters and anglers, wildlife viewers, outfitters and guides, veterans, retired Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials, ranchers and farmers, craftspersons, and community leaders  – all stakeholders committed to America’s public wildlands legacy.

Note: Individual citizen supporters are encouraged to sign this version of the sign on letter.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies (MT)
Big Wild Advocates (MT)
Buffalo Field Campaign (MT)
Central Montana Wildlands Association (MT)
Conservation Congress (MT)
Deerlodge Forest Defense Fund (MT)
Friends of the Bitterroot (MT)
Friends of the Rattlesnake (MT)
Friends of the Wild Swan (MT)
Montana Rivers (MT)
Swan View Coalition (MT)
Western Montana Mycological Association (MT)
Western Watersheds Project (MT)
Wilderness Watch (MT)
WildWest Institute (MT)
Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation (MT)
Allegheny Defense Project (PA)
Bark (OR)
Big Wildlife (OR)
Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (WY)
Buckeye Forest Council (OH)
Caney Fork Headwaters Association (TN)
Cascadia Wildlands (OR)
Center for Biological Diversity (AZ)
Center for Sustainable Living (IN)
Citizens for Better Forestry (CA)
Clearwater Biodiversity Project (ID)
Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (TN)
Dogwood Alliance (NC)
EcoLaw Massachusetts  (MA)
Ecosystem Advocates (OR)
Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (CA)
Environmental Protection Information Center (CA)
Green Press Initiative (MI)
Friends of Bell Smith Springs (IL)
Friends of the Breitenbush Cascades (OR)
Friends of the Clearwater (ID)
Heartwood (IN)
Hells Canyon Preservation Council (OR)
John Muir Project (CA)
Kentucky Heartwood (CA)
Klamath Forest Alliance (CA)
League of Wilderness Defenders (OR)
Native Forest Council (OR)
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility, United Church of Christ (TN)
Protect Arkansas Wilderness! (AR)
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) (DC)
RESTORE the North Woods (ME)
Save America’s Forests (DC)
Selkirk Conservation Alliance (ID)
Umpqua Watersheds (OR)
Utah Environmental Congress (UT)
Western Lands Project (WA)
WildEarth Guardians (NM)
WildSouth (NC)