Selling Out Public Lands to Big Timber: Good for Jon Tester, Bad for the Planet

by lizard

Jon Tester is in the news this week, first making an appearance on CNN’s Crossfire where he was asked about economic populism on the left. Tester gave an essentially empty answer because that’s what politicians do.

The reason I suspect Tester is getting some cable news face time is the coming vote his forest bill will get this week:

Sen. Jon Tester’s bill authorizing more logging and more wilderness in Montana goes before a Senate committee review on Thursday, four years after it was introduced.

“This is the first time the bill has been voted on anywhere in Congress,” said Paul Spitler, wilderness campaign director for the Wilderness Society in Bozeman. “It’s a pretty important day for this legislation for it to see a vote.”

For some great context about the sausage making process of this legislation, John S. Adams has a great piece, titled Collaboration conundrum Wilderness advocates sharply divided on ‘consensus’ proposals:

At a June 8, 1997, gathering in Kalispell, former U.S. Forest Service Chief Jack Ward Thomas foretold a vision of the future for national forest management in Montana.

According to a newspaper account of Thomas’ address to the Montana Logging Association, President Bill Clinton’s former forest chief predicted a “golden decade of conservation” in which environmental groups and timber interests would work side by side to reach “consensus” on the future of management of federal forest land.

Thomas predicted those collaborative projects on the national forests would break down the barriers to logging on public lands and “marginalize extremists.”

“I don’t see any other game in town,” Thomas said in a report in the Daily Inter Lake.

Yes, the business of politics is a game that our two political teams play. The problem (as I see it) is the manner in which our species uses the planet’s finite resources is not a game; it’s a cancer that will one day render the earth we rely on to live uninhabitable.

That day may be much closer than the moderate climate scientists have claimed. Here’s an article from The Nation, titled The Coming ‘Instant Planetary Emergency’:

“We as a species have never experienced 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources, and ecology at the University of Arizona and a climate change expert of twenty-five years, told me. “We’ve never been on a planet with no Arctic ice, and we will hit the average of 400 ppm…within the next couple of years. At that time, we’ll also see the loss of Arctic ice in the summers.… This planet has not experienced an ice-free Arctic for at least the last three million years.”

For the uninitiated, in the simplest terms, here’s what an ice-free Arctic would mean when it comes to heating the planet: minus the reflective ice cover on Arctic waters, solar radiation would be absorbed, not reflected, by the Arctic Ocean. That would heat those waters, and hence the planet, further. This effect has the potential to change global weather patterns, vary the flow of winds, and even someday possibly alter the position of the jet stream. Polar jet streams are fast flowing rivers of wind positioned high in the earth’s atmosphere that push cold and warm air masses around, playing a critical role in determining the weather of our planet.

McPherson, who maintains the blog Nature Bats Last, added, “We’ve never been here as a species and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.”

Instead of seeing dead trees as an opportunity for timber companies, Jon Tester could explain that dead trees are a result of climate change, but we all know that will never happen. From the link:

The recent large-scale dieback of piñon (Pinus edulis Engelm.) and ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa Dougl. ex Laws.) and associated bark beetle outbreaks in the Southwestern United States has been linked to the ”climate change type drought” (e.g., dry and warm) that occurred in this region in the early 2000s. Several bark beetle species, including piñon ips (Ips confusus Leconte), Arizona fivespined ips (Ips lecontei Swaine) and the western pine beetle (Dendroctonus brevicomis LeConte), responded to the vast landscapes of drought-stressed trees, contributing significantly to the widespread tree mortality. Because elevated temperatures potentially influence the number of generations of these species reproducing in a single year, similar outbreaks could occur again as precipitation and temperature patterns continue to shift.

Instead, Jon Tester will shill for extractive industry because that is the path that will lead him toward re-election.

Too bad it’s also the path that’s leading us to an environmental crisis.


  1. Big Swede

    Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Comment below “The Nation” piece.

    “It’s Babalu Goreism at its finest. Catastrophism and Snake Oil
    mixed into a kool-aide fit for a doomsday cult. Did I miss it, or did the our erstwhile and diligent author fail to mention Milankovitch Cycles anywhere in the rant…? Milankovitch? Yeah, he’s the Serbian who sat out WWI in the Vienna Public Library, under house arrest, discovering what really causes Ice Ages and Thaws (AND THIS KIDS, IS WHAT REALLY QUALIFIES AS “settled science”.”

    Of course myself being below average IQ and you of higher intelligence can google “Milankovitch Cycle” in Wiki.

    But take into account Millie wasn’t whoring himself out early in the 1900’s for some fat federal grant money.

    • Big Swede

      P.S. As of Dec 15 53% Snow coverage.

      http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/nsa/index.html?region=National&year=2013&month=12&day=15&units=e

  2. December 18, 2013

    TO: Members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

    RE: S 37, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act

    The Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign is a Montana-based coalition of conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, forest restoration and the sound long-term management of our public lands. Our coalition includes 5th generation Montanans, small-business owners, veterans, retired Forest Service district rangers and biologists, backpackers, hunters and anglers, outfitters, scientists and community leaders.

    Our Coalition supports forest and watershed restoration, protecting our roadless wildlands and sustainable jobs in the woods. Therefore, the issue before this committee is not what the drafters of S 37 intended to do; rather the issue before you is what this bill, as written, would do.

    Our Coalition believes that, despite the best intentions of Senator Tester, S 37 represents a serious threat to America’s public lands legacy. The mandated logging provisions are unprecedented and represent an unscientific override of current forest planning. The notion that Congress should legislate logging levels on public lands is antithetical to the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and irresponsible given that lumber consumption in America has dropped significantly.

    The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (S 37) contains several major precedent-setting provisions detrimental to America’s national public lands legacy.

    The bill would localize the management of America’s National Forests opening the flood gates for mandated logging, mining, grazing, fracking, drilling and road building for National Forest and federal public lands elsewhere. This could fragment and balkanize the entire National Forest system and ignores the basic principle that national public lands belong equally to all Americans.

    As S 37 is currently written it contains several provisions that abrogate the Wilderness Act by allowing non-conforming uses. It also releases – and opens for logging, motorized recreation and development – 76,000 acres that are currently protected as “Wilderness Study Areas” as a result of a late 1970s bill passed by the great Montana Senator Lee Metcalf.

    The numerous unfunded mandates included in S 37 could cost US taxpayers well over $100 million and raises the very real potential for other National Forests to have their funds raided and transferred to fulfill the mandates contained in S 37.

    While supporters of the bill complain of “gridlock” between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service’s Northern Region sold enough timber sales in Montana and N. Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up, would stretch for 2,048 miles.

    Supporters of the bill may tell you that 70% of Montanans support S 37. However, you should know there has never been one single independent state-wide opinion poll conducted about the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. The polls supporters of S 37 refer to were actually paid for, written and commissioned by supporters of the bill and were designed to produce a desired outcome.

    As the Great Falls Tribune reported this past weekend, “The core of the FJRA proposal sprang from a series of private meetings that began in 2005 between Sun Mountain Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, Pyramid Mountain Lumber, RY Timber, Smurfit Stone, Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation and Montana Trout Unlimited.”

    Make no mistake, the exclusive, self-selective process used to develop S 37, particularly on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, has engendered more distrust and hard feelings than anything we’ve witnessed in Montana. Members of our Coalition, and a large segment of the public, have felt excluded, disenfranchised and ignored throughout the entire process. Basically, if you didn’t agree with the radical notion that members of Congress should start mandating logging and resource extraction levels on public lands your views weren’t welcomed.

    For these and other reasons, over 50 forest and wilderness organizations around the country – including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) – either oppose, or have expressed serious concerns with, Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, S 37 the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

    Again, while our Coalition supports forest restoration, Wilderness and sustainable jobs in the woods, Congress doesn’t need to mandate large increases in logging and throw science-based planning and management of America’s National Forests out the window.

    Sincerely,

    Matthew Koehler
    WildWest Institute
    On behalf of Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign
    406-396-0321
    koehler@wildrockies.org

    Alliance for the Wild Rockies (MT)
    Big Wild Advocates (MT)
    Buffalo Field Campaign (MT)
    Conservation Congress (MT)
    Central Montana Wildlands Association (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)
    WildEarth Guardians (MT)
    WildWest Institute (MT)
    Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation (MT)

    • lizard19

      very well-written appeal, good job Matt!

    • Big Swede

      Sorry Matt, your last sentence doesn’t cut it.

      If we were to poll your “Coalition” (interesting root word) we would find few if any members wanting ANY harvesting of timber, public or private.

      Furthermore, the “science-based” planning you quote. Same research that has us Montanans in bikinis and brumdas by Dec of 2015?

      • JC

        I was out in my shorts & sunglasses yesterday here in the Jocko Valley, BS. It was 59 degrees. New record for yesterday.

        I gots my nice little Oregon Scientific min/max temperature weather device sitting in the shade of the back of my cabin to prove it too, “science-based”.

      • JC

        Oh, and what in the hell is a “brumda?”

        • Brumda is Big Swedeish for Bermuda.

  3. It’s also worth pointing out that former Montana Congressman Pat Williams had this to say in the Great Falls Tribune article about the logging mandates contained in Tester’s bill:

    “If there’s any reason that the Tester bill has not moved along better than it has, it’s because of its mandates that there not only be logging, but that certain amounts of timber be extracted. Conservation-minded Senators are very hesitant to vote for that, even though they recognize the Montana wilderness dilemma. They don’t want to set a precedent for other bills to do the same thing….I do worry about the mandate of it. If I was in the Congress, and all this time had gone by without success on designating new wilderness, I would try to amend the Tester bill in one way or other.” – Former Montana Congressman Pat Williams

    One also has to wonder how this whole debate about Tester’s mandated logging would have turned out if the Montana Wilderness Association wouldn’t have been given over $1,000,000.00 to serve as the Pew Trust’s “independent contractor.” One has to assume we wouldn’t have seen all those expensive ads in the paper, radio and TV. We wouldn’t have seen all the coordinated, canned, substance-less letters to the editor, etc.

    As John S. Adams reported:

    “the core of the FJRA proposal sprang from a series of private meetings that began in 2005 between Sun Mountain Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, Pryamid Mountain Lumber, RY Timber, Smurfit Stone, Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation and Montana Trout Unlimited…..

    That concept, particularly when it comes to Wilderness proposals, has fierce detractors in the environmental movement.

    Count 88-year-old Stewart “Brandy” Brandborg among them.

    Brandborg was director of Wilderness Society from 1964 to 1977. His grass-roots organizing and advocacy were pivotal in the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act.

    Brandborg, the son of former Bitterroot National Forest supervisor and early Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness advocate G.M. Brandborg, spent much of his youth traipsing around in the places that would much later be designated as federal wilderness thanks in large part to his efforts.

    Collaboration, as demonstrated by the process that created FJRA and the Heritage Act, is antithetical to the original concept of the 1964 Wilderness Act and threatens to undermine the bedrock administrative laws that demand public involvement and transparency in land management decisions, Brandborg said.

    “Good management of land prescribed by public land agencies, and good protective measures for water and our environment in general, are being subjected to a rash of proposals and policies that defy every rule and every restriction we’ve placed on resource management,” Brandborg says. “I take gross exception to the go-along policies of those state and local organizations who say we can embrace collaboration.”….

    Brandborg, the octogenarian wilderness organizer, takes a harsh view of the collaborators who are at the heart of the FJRA. Brandborg believes moneyed interest closely tied to Democratic Party politics are to blame for the conservation movement’s willingness to “cut the baby in half” on wilderness protection.

    “We’ve had an evolution in the strategies of our opponents, who have said, ‘Let’s go find these weak elements in Montana. Let’s go cultivate them and get them money so they can go about this job of … bringing down their forceful campaigns to protect wild- lands,” Brandborg said.”

  4. It was a cold February morning in 2001 when the Senate tax committee was taking public comments on the legalization of industrial hemp. I was pretty nervous as I got up to the rostrum to speak, but I read my prepared statement nonetheless.

    While speaking Tester’s throat must have become parched for he rose up and headed on over to the water cooler for a drink. I lost my place and paused in the face of the interruption, but continued as best as I could.

    That always bothered me. I was a teacher for 5 years, and if I were to get up and move around to do something else while a student was speaking they’d lose confidence and really just want to stop. Asking them to get up and talk ever again would now be an entirely different ballgame.

    I found it interesting that Tester would do this because he was a teacher. But then I realized that he just didn’t care, and didn’t view his actions as bothersome to others. Well I did, and I wonder how many people continue to find Tester’s actions bothersome now that he’s not in the state capitol anymore.

    • Interesting personal story Greg.

      4 years and 1 day ago, this happened, as reported by award-winning outdoor columnist Bill Schneider:

      http://newwest.net/topic/article/what_testers_outburst_tells_us/C41/L41/

  5. Tester’s bill turns Montana roadless areas — roughly 1 million acres — into “pork.” “Bringin’ home the bacon,” just like Burns, and Melcher before that. What debt/deficit?




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