Tester Logging Bill Mandates 100,000 Acres of Cutting across Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai Forests

by JC

Montana Senator Jon Tester released his logging bill today, and it calls for a mandated timber harvest across 100,000 acres of forest lands over the next decade. I don’t have time to pore over the details this afternoon, but i thought that our readers would like to see what our Senator has been up to behind closed doors. I’ll post an update later with reactions to the bill.

The pdf of the bill can be downloaded for viewing, and I’d appreciate it if our readers would take a look and post their comments about the bill and its particulars to this story. Please keep your comments concise and link to extended statements elsewhere if needed.

Email release from Senator Tester’s office is below the fold.

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Updates:

The Missoulian just posted a map (3.5MB pdf) of the Bill’s prescriptions.
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Subject: Fwd: Tester’s Forest jobs bill

From: Murphy, Aaron (Tester) [mailto:Aaron_Murphy@tester.senate.gov]

The following information and attached legislation is EMBARGOED until 1 p.m.:

SUMMARY
The Forest Bill would provide timber and restoration jobs through large forest stewardship projects, and it would set aside areas for motorized recreation, hunting, camping and fishing through the establishment of National Recreation Areas and wilderness designation.

Because there are many components to the legislation, calling it a “wilderness bill” is a mischaracterization. It is a “forest jobs and stewardship” bill.

It is the product of the hard work of Montanans from all walks of life-hunters and anglers, loggers and conservationists-who found a solution to maintain our way of life and our legacy of managing our land wisely. The bill would impact:

* The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
* The Three Rivers District of the Kootenai National Forest
* The Seeley Lake District of the Lolo National Forest

A FEW DEFINITIONS

Forest Restoration Jobs: Jobs in forest restoration are jobs that aren’t necessarily related to timber harvest, but require similar “in the woods” work such as road improvements and road removal, harvesting biomass material, wildfire mitigation, and cleanup.

Stewardship: This is a general term that refers to the overall management of our forest lands-not just “conservation,” but also common-sense management of those lands, including responsible, light-on-the-land timber harvest and recreation.

Watershed: For our purposes, this term applies to waterways (streams and rivers), but also the sources of Montana’s waterways (snowcapped mountains, springs, alpine lakes, etc)

Watershed restoration: This is “in the woods work” to strengthen and protect Montana’s clean water, by improving water culverts, fixing roads that are slipping into streams, improving drainage along roads, etc.

SPECIFICS

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
* Follows U.S. Forest Service plan for where timber harvest can occur (a base of 1.9 million acres)
* Mandates that the agency harvest an average of at least 7,000 acres per year for ten years within those boundaries, as part of a series of broader restoration projects of at least 50,000 acres (for example, where prescribed burning, road removal, improving culverts, fixing roads that are falling into streams, etc.). This provides a level of certainty to the timber industry that it does not currently have.
* Creates areas that the Forest Service must manage for recreation, including snowmobiling
* Solves the long-standing BLM Wilderness Study Area debate by following the BLM’s recommendation to create five BLM wilderness areas and release seven Wilderness Study Areas. Currently those 12 Wilderness Study Areas are not official wilderness areas but have been managed as if they are wilderness, awaiting action by congress on either designating them or not. This proposal allows the lands not designated to be opened up to other uses, such as timber harvest and recreation.
* Designates roughly 505,000 acres of wilderness on Forest Service lands
* Designates roughly 59,000 acres of wilderness on BLM land and releases about 76,000 acres on BLM land

Plan based on proposal brought to Sen. Tester by members of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, which includes:
Sun Mountain Lumber, RY Timber, Roseburg Forest Products, Smurfit-Stone, Pyramid Lumber, Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:
* Directs timber harvest to happen only where the U.S. Forest plan allows (different than original Beaverhead-Deerlodge proposal)
* Adds designation of five BLM proposed wilderness areas and releases seven other wilderness study areas to management under the agency’s regional plan (grazing, timber harvesting, recreation).
* BIG HOLE:
* Creates a Big Hole National Recreation Area
* EAST PIONEERS:
* Designates a road into Tendoy Lake for ATV use.
* Adjusts boundaries to put trails outside wilderness boundary
* WEST PIONEERS:
* Creates Recreation Management Area
* HIGHLANDS:
* Includes language allowing limited airplane landings for military training, and motorized access for maintenance for municipal water supply and transmission tower
* SAPPHIRES:
* Moved trail number 313 outside wilderness boundary, keeping about 40 miles of trail open for bicyclists
* SNOWCREST WILDERNESS AREA:
* Includes language to allow continued motorized access for ranchers to water infrastructure
* LEE METCALF WILDERNESS ADDITION:
* Keeps 1.5 miles of bike trail out of wilderness area in order to keep whole a 23 mile bike trail to Ennis Lake
* THUNDERBOLD PROTECTION AREA:
* Creates area to manage for snowmobiles in winter and bicycles in summer on the south side of Electric Peak

Three Rivers District of the Kootenai National Forest:
* Follows U.S. Forest Service plan for where timber harvest can occur (exact acreage to follow)
* Mandates that the agency harvest an average of at least 3,000 acres per year for ten years as part of a series of broader restoration projects of at least 50,000 acres. This provides a level of certainty to the timber industry that it does not currently have.
* Creates Three Rivers Special Management Area, which encompasses separate motorized and non-motorized areas.
* Directs the Forest Service to conduct a study of potential ATV routes
* Designates 30,000 acres of wilderness at Roderick Mountain.

Plan based on proposal brought to Sen. Tester by members of the Three Rivers Challenge, which includes:
* Yaak Valley Forest Council; Chapel Cedar Works (Troy); Lincoln County Snow Kats; Kootenai Ridge Riders ATV Club; Wayne Hirst (longtime accountant for loggers and timber advocate in Lincoln County); Kurt Rayson, logger; Troy Snowmobile Club; Tim Linehan, Linehan Outfitters and Guides

Seeley Lake District of the Lolo National Forest:
* Follows U.S. Forest Service plan for where timber harvest can occur.
* Allows for collaborative group to guide large, landscape level forest management and restoration projects
* Put aside an area for snowmobiling use until the next revision of the Lolo Forest Plan
* Designates 87,000 acres of Wilderness as addition to the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Mission Mountain Wilderness

Plan based on proposal brought to Sen. Tester by members of the Blackfoot Challenge, which includes:
* The Wilderness Society; Pyramid Lumber; Clearwater Resource Council (Stan Nicholson, president); Jack Rich of Rich Outfitters; Jim Stone, Rolling Stone Ranch; Montana Wilderness Association; Blackfoot Challenge; Bill Wall Sustainability, Inc.; Orville Daniels, retired Lolo National Supervisor supervisor

ALL THREE AREAS:
* Authorizes use of federal funds for biomass facilities that process material harvested in Montana.
* Directs Forest Service to conduct a study to determine feasibility of sustainable development of biomass supplies in areas covered by this Act.

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  1. JC, when is the last time you’ve spent some hours in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge? It is in sick, sad sorry shape. The Pine beetle has done such a number on the Lodgepole forest that the top of Homestake looks like Missoula Maples in autumn. I’m not saying that Tester is right or wrong, and I recognize that he is disingenuous in promoting this as a jobs bill. But these forests are dying. They need reclamation … badly. Fire, under current circumstances, is too dangerous. Cutting is, unfortunately, about the only way to keep pines in that part of Montana from becoming a memory.

    • JC

      I regularly spend time in the BDNF, Wulfgar. And I know what the forest looks like. Without getting into site-specific needs, I do know that lodgepole forests need to regenerate through fire. Thinning large stands in need of replacement does nothing to help forest health.

      You can’t log lodgepole into health. It has to burn in order to reseed. The sort of prescriptions that RY Timber talks about:

      Because so much of Montana’s southwestern forests are in the epicenter of an historic pine bark beetle epidemic, a lot of what [RY Timber resource manager Ed] Regan envisions are thinning projects to both remove dead trees and give the surviving trees a chance to fend off the beetles on their own.

      just isn’t true about lodgepole forests, when it comes to bark beetle. Bark beetle epidemics of the sort we see in the BDNF are an indicator of a lodgepole forest that has had fires suppressed far beyond their normal cycles. Indeed, bark beetle infestations are lodgepole’s natural method of instigating a stand-replacing fire.

      • Then you know well that a fire burning through, now, even a so-called ‘control burn’, risks devastation the likes of which happened in the Bitterroot 9 years ago. We’re not talking about stands. We’re talking about large tracks of forest. You’re right. We can’t log the B-D into health. But if it burns as is, the fuel load is way too high, and no one will like the result (not even the lodgepole, whose seeds will disintegrate into ash.)

        Don’t get me wrong, I’m none happy at all with the idea of logging, as a cure. But I do recognize that the alternative is worse.

        • elkamino

          Bark beetle epidemics are a natural part of the cycle. Stand-replacing fires are a natural part of the cycle. Since people live only a few decades and think in those time frames, they believe that these events are “devastating.” They’re not, and if you can get past thinking in human terms you’ll realize they’re critical to forest health.

          Wulfgar brings up an excellent example- the Bitterroot 9 years ago. Yes it sucks to breathe forest fire smoke, just like it sucks to watch hurricanes rip through your neighborhood. But we don’t build our homes in avalanche paths, we build them in a fire-dependent ecosystem and we should accept that there’s some larger-scale forces at work around us.

          Please realize that “devastating,” stand-replacement fires are part of how the forest works. Deal with it, or move elsewhere- those are reasonable solutions. Cutting down all the trees, removing the forest’s thin layer of biomass and stacking it up in a lumber yard where nobody’s going to buy it is not.

          Go for a hike where the Blodgett Fire ripped through in 01. You’ll find wildflowers, tons of wildlife and a diverse ecosystem thriving at this stage of its cycle. I just camped in a “devastated” area last week, the fishing was great too. Those who see it as “devastated” are just unable or unwilling to recognize that longer-term cycles are at play here. We need to accept our place in this system, and allow them to run their course.

          • Steve W

            i couldn’t have said it better my self. Forest are not now, and have never been, dependent on logging for health.

            The arrogant idea that we can “mechanically treat” the forest to health is delusional.

            Let’s be honest here. The question is do we wreck our ecosystems, our water sheds, our national heritage so that some corporations can make a fast buck off our resources, or do we tell them to take a hike?

          • crow

            What Tester is doing is using the old tried and true tactics of the Bush Administration to scare us in to bad forest policy. Another example of total and utter failure of the Democrats to actually lead with the unbelievable mandate they were given by the voters who wanted a new direction. Instead of taking a true leadership position and inspiring Montanans to break the bad habits of the past and reject the old and tired arguments of the so-called timber wars, Tester is simply dredging up old mud and trying to use it paint a pretty picture where “everyone gets a little something.” That ain’t gonna work. elkamino is dead on. Wulfgar obviously knows nothing about forest ecology and obviously has never spent time in “devastated” forests. To say that beetle killed lodgepole will result in fire that will burn the seeds into ash is repeating ignorant timber industry talking points. Show me a burned fire that doesn’t begin springing back to life the very next year. Show me ONE. It doesn’t happen. These forests evolved with massive landscape-scale fires. elkamino is right, it’s how the system works, whether we think its pretty or not. We’ll never get past this ignorant kind of thinking until someone takes a true leadership position and guides the state to actual sustainable forest policy. Why should I have to bail out an unsustainable industry with unsustainable taxpayer-funded logging? It’s insane. Where’s my taxpayer funded bailout? Why aren’t Tester or Baucus doing anything to protect my job? I’m with elkamino, learn to live with fire, or move someplace else. This bill is a disaster and Tester is an embarrassment.

  2. Tamara Rollins

    Here here Wulfgar. The area west-northwest of Pony is a godforsaken blanket of red-orange forest spreading north, and waiting to either burn, and catch everything west, or continue moving the pine-beetle deeper into some amazing mountains. The Beeverhead-Deerlodge is, as you say, a prime example, at least looking from that eastern side.

    • JC

      Tam, I would have thought that you’d get into the bark beetle-lodgepole thingy. You know, they’re like having sex in there.

      Every lodgepole forest needs to burn, or it will cease to be a lodgepole forest. Those who advocate fire suppression and thinning as ways to avoid fire in these lodgepole domains are just postponing the inevitable, or accepting that lodgepole forests aren’t acceptable in Montana anymore.

      You can either have fire, or you can clearcut the lodgepole and plant another species, and hope to convert the forest. Of course, nature tries that all the time with minimal or very slow success. What makes us think we can do any better?

      • Pronghorn

        “I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent
        less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her
        sweetness and respecting her seniority.”

        — E.B. White

  3. Jim Lang

    We had to destroy the forest in order to save it…

  4. ladybug

    Climate change, wind and prolonged drought weaken the forest’s resistence to insects. These same factors influence the frequency, range and intensity of wildfires. There is no direct correlation between beetle kill and fires. The “fuels” factor pales in comparison to climactic conditions, weather and drought. Sad about Tester.

  5. Pogo Possum

    …..i thought that our readers would like to see what our Senator has been up to “behind closed doors”.

    My date and I were reading our Chinese fortune cookie “fortunes” to each other after a great meal at The China Garden last night when one of the college age students at the table joked about adding the old worn out phrase “in bed” at the end of each fortune. You know…….as in “You will soon find exciting new career opportunities……’in bed’.”

    Seems like “behind closed doors” could be the new add on for fortune sayings since it seems to be the phrase used in almost every discussion concerning any environmental legislation proposed that anyone opposes.

    No matter how many committee hearings, public discussions, years it has been on the table or public groups that have added their two cents, the phrase…….”behind closed doors”……..seems to get added.

    While Senator Testor and I may strongly disagree on many issues, I do have to compliment him on what appears a good step forward in advocating reasonable middle ground to a difficult and complicated issue.

    Both the “never cut another stick of timber” crowd and the “cut it all down” crowd will never be happy with any bill that isn’t 100% in their favor.

    Both groups will always end every proposed bill they oppose (and possibly every Chinese fortune they read) with….. “behind closed doors.”

  6. Generally it takes years to corrupt a senator. But Jon studies at the feet of the master. Grasshopper is progressing wonderfully. Before he runs for reelection, he’ll be having protesters arrested, and the cloning process will be complete. Max can then die.

  7. Matthew Koehler

    The Great Falls Tribune’s Lowdown blog has video and audio from the entire press conference for Senator Tester’s Mandated Logging Bill announcement last Friday.

    If you have any doubt that this bill is really an effort by self-selected special interests groups and timber corporations to mandate industrial logging and give tens of millions in US taxpayer subsidies to Montana’s timber industry (during the steepest decline in lumber consumption in US history) you need to watch the press conference and listen to the Q/A between Senator Tester and reporters.

    You can watch the entire press conference (in three parts) at:

    http://mtlowdown.blogspot.com/2009/07/tester-drops-major-forest-bill.html

    Also at that link, you can download audio of the entire Q/A between Senator Tester and the reporters. As you’ll notice, Senator Tester was asked (and pretty much entirely ignored or danced around) a bunch of important questions regarding how all this mandated logging will pay for restoration work given there’s no demand for lumber.

  8. omegaman646

    possum you dont understand how lopsided this bill is.
    It is about a 10% conservation to 90% exploitation ratio.

    only select large env. groups does not represent a whole side.

    It was behind closed doors and your so brainwashed you defend these scumbags.

  1. 1 On Principles, Policies and Politicians; Speaking Truth to Power: a Message to You, Jon Tester « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] office he took two actions that have explicitly gone against his promises: 1) he has introduced his Logging Bill, which would release certain lands protected as wilderness under current statutes and management […]

  2. 2 Wilderness: the Third Rail of Montana Politics « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Tester’s logging bill which keeps showing up in different incarnations as rider fodder and stand-alone versions. “The Buffalo Field Campaign? Really? If the Buffalo Field Campaign (hippie skirt-wearing […]




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