Jon Tester, a U.S. Senator from Montana, is holding meetings on legislation he calls the "Forest Jobs and Recreation Act." It's a Wilderness bill dressed up as a compromise between preservation, forest health and recreation. The stated purpose of which is:
"To sustain the economic development and recreational use of National Forest System land and other public land in the State of Montana, to add certain land to the National Wilderness Preservation System, to release certain wilderness study areas, to designate new areas for recreation, and for other purposes."
That's a fine statement, and I really like the title of the bill. But after careful review of the current draft, I can't see that it does much more than designate a bunch of new Wilderness. It certainly doesn't designate any "new areas for recreation."
What this bill does do, however, is demonstrate just how utterly broken federal land management is these days. As an object lesson, or a demonstration project, I think Tester has created a masterpiece.
Here's why: the jobs in Tester's jobs bill do NOT hinge on the legislation actually opening up lands that are otherwise closed today for logging. Although maps and other "PR" try to make it seem otherwise, the legislation is very clear on this point. Any logging or forest health jobs resulting from this bill are already permitted today, either via an existing Forest Plan or via legislation already passed into law.
The essence of Tester's bill is an attempt to force the Forest Service to follow through with existing plans that allow logging, and also attempts to limit environmental groups' ability to challenge them.
It is no longer a joke to say it takes an act of Congress to cut timber in Montana.
I don't know if I could have created a better example of how gridlocked the agency is in management, or how these "environmental" groups sue at the drop of a hat. That it requires legislation to log a paltry 70 thousand acres over 10 years is a sad indication of how broken our system of public lands management is.
Read more of Forest Jobs and Recreation Act - A Teachable Wilderness Bill from the BlueRibbon Coalition