Tester Gets a 4 Pinocchio Rating from the Washington Post

by William Skink

I wanted to do a follow up to the last post, Jon Tester’s Big Lie, because based on one commenter (Dan) I’m getting the feeling there is some reluctance to acknowledge just how blatantly obvious Tester’s lie was, not to mention the subsequent damage control, which wasn’t much better. That is why Jon Tester earned himself a 4 Pinocchio rating on the lie spectrum from Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post. From the link:

Logging on federal lands is an important part of Montana’s economy, with the Forest Service having the complex role of seeking to keep the forests healthy while also keeping the state’s mills running. Meanwhile, environment groups in the region are active in making sure the agency does not violate key laws, such as the Endangered Species Act.

Thus, there is an inherent tension. Even so, in 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet — enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.

The Forest Service also recognizes the important role of environmental groups who challenge some of its decisions. “Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,” said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. “If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.”

But, despite Tester’s protestations, there is relatively little litigation involving timber sales — and even when there is, it generally does not halt logging operations.

First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging.

These four sales are the Miller West Fisher timber sale in Kootenai National Forest, two Glacier Loon sales (Swan Flats Stewardship and Lunar Kraft Stewardship) in Flathead National Forest and Meadow Creek in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. We might question the inclusion of Meadow Creek on this list because Forest Service records show the agency itself pulled the decision without explanation. In the Flathead case, the Forest Service choose to appeal rather than accept a court decision ruling against it, thus extending the delays itself.

In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation.

This is very specific information that I doubt even the most ardent supporters of our senior senator can deny. He lied. And then he dug deeper. Here’s more from Kessler:

Meanwhile, there are problems with Tester’s revised statement. In that case, he tried to change the subject by changing the metrics. “What we gave was volume of sales,” acknowledged David Smith, another Forest Service spokesman. “That’s quite different from number of sales litigated.”

But it turns out that the volume of sales under litigation (69.4 million board feet) was being measured against annual timber volume (145.3 million board feet). That is apples and oranges, since “very little of this 69.4 million has been cut this year,” Noel acknowledged.

Moreover, “under litigation” is a rather expansive term because it includes projects which are still being logged even as disputes are settled in courts. (The Forest Service also sometimes counts as “under litigation” areas which are not under contract or where an environmental group simply has said it intends to sue.)

The Forest Service ultimately provided a figure of 271.3 million board feet that is under contract in Montana, as of Dec. 31, 2014. Given that many of the projects being litigated are being logged, it is unclear how much has been cut already. So the only reliable figure we can use is the projected volume of the four projects that are enjoined from any logging: Miller West Fisher (15.4 million board feet), Swan Flats (6), Lunar Kraft (4.3) and Meadow Creek (2).

That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”

We should also note that of Montana’s nine national forests, only three have projects under contract that have been halted by litigation.

Politicians lie. The joke is you can tell when they lie because their lips are moving. But this is more than just a lie. It’s a purposeful escalation against people Tester has labeled extremists, the same provocative term John Boehner used after Obama vetoed the Keystone piepeline. Why is that important? Because it actually endangers people’s lives, as this tweet from John S. Adams indicates:

John S. Adams @TribLowdown:

@HelenaVigilante I’ve interviewed people who were physically threatened w/ violence & had their home shot at over forest policy issues.

It’s sad, thinking back to 2006, the hope that many of us had when we cast votes for Tester. Now my hope is that a reckoning will come in 2018. Tester isn’t just a proven liar–he’s a reckless politician willfully misrepresenting an issue that some people are willing to commit crimes over. And litigation, when it works, only works because the courts determine that laws are being broken.

If low-information wing-nuts think litigation has stopped ALL timber sales, then who knows what some unhinged, gun-toting actual extremist will do to the people they identify as being responsible for something that was never true to begin with.

Jon Tester should apologize directly. So far the damage control has been no better than the lie itself. Montanans deserve better.

It would also be nice to hear something from Tester’s supporters, the ones who would be expressing their outrage if this was a Republican lying so blatantly about an issue so many people feel very strongly about.

    • JC

      What are you trying to say, Larry? That the lesser of two evils lies should not be discussed because he’s a democrat, and not an “earth hater”?

      Oh, wait a minute, Tester is an “earth hater” based on his environmental record and his words. But dem earth haters get a pass in your book?

      • Steve W

        I think Larry is mentally ill and Democrats shouldn’t be blamed for that any more than the Rainbow Family should be blamed because someone who attends happens to be mentally ill.

        Both the Democratic Party and the Rainbow Gathering attract a wide variety of folks, a small percentage of whom are mentally disturbed.

        Jon Tester is a disgrace and he’s in disgrace.
        Calling out a dedicated citizen activist with snakelike falsehoods is wrong.

        I’d vote for Koehler twice before I’d vote for lying Jon Tester again. Once in the primary and again in the General.

    • What the hell is wrong with you? We tell you, point blank, that the “mean-old-Republican” meme is used to keep you in line, scare you into voting for bad Democrats. But you’re like a stone face on Rushmore, unreachable. This is crashing, bone deep stupidity on display here.

  1. Craig Moore

    Nothing much has changed in 8 years. http://thatsmycongress.com/index.php/2007/05/17/tester-war-failure/

    What is wrong with Jon Tester?

    Last year, we were all told that Montana Democrat Jon Tester was a strong liberal who would work in the United States Senate to end the war in Iraq.

    What happened to that Jon Tester? Why did he change to a pro-war Democrat when he entered the United States Senate?

    Yesterday, Jon Tester voted in favor of prolonging the war in Iraq. Senator Tester voted against Russ Feingold‘s legislation to end the Iraq War. (S.Amdt. 1098 to S.Amdt. 1097 to to H.R. 1495)

    We were bamboozled. We were tricked. We were lied to.

    Jon Tester turns out to be just another Democratic politician with no backbone.

    What a disappointment.

  2. larry kurtz

    Pull the pin, Missoula.

  3. Betrayal from your beloved.

    I feel your pain.

  4. Before our politicians are elected, they are selected. The Burns seat was in danger, so the Timber Lobby lined up the election so that no matter who won, they won. That’s just how it works. With big money behind both parties, a compliant media, a dumbed down electorate, there’s really no telling who we are electing.

    You say you want him replaced in 2018. Good luck on that. My bet: 2018, guy with slickest ads and the most money to buy TV time wins. That’s how Max Baucus held in for 24 years, Burns for 18. Montana has not had a honest senator since … I don’t know when.

  5. lizard19

    looks like the Missoulian is finally covering this because the Washington Post covered it.

    • The forum on which the lies should be addressed is the one where it was told – Montana Public Radio. If they call him out, he never appears there again. It takes moral courage, a rare commodity, virtually absent in media.

    • Matthew Koehler

      Great recap above Liz! But, oh-boy, what an entirely bizarre Lee State Bureau article in the Missoulian. Somehow the Lee papers in MT manage to write about the WaPost fact-checker article without providing ANY of the actual USFS timber sale FACTS the fact-checker uncovered! Wow.

      Here’s a comment I just posted on the Missoulian:

      This is a really bizarre article about the Washington Post Fact-Checker story because this State Bureau article actually never presents the simple USFS timber sale facts dug up by the Washington Post’s fact-checker. How is that even possible?

      Here are the facts, as presented in the Washington Post: http://wapo.st/18kUG33

      Last week Senator Tester told MT Public Radio listeners: “Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.” (Source: http://bit.ly/1vBRZUP)

      However, once the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker dug into the actual numbers it was revealed that there are currently 97 US Forest Service timber sales in Montana under contract to be logged, and just 14 of those timber sales have active litigation. However, some of those timber sales under litigation are actually being actively logged, so the Fact-Checker discovered that, in truth, right now only 4 timber sales out of 97 cannot be logged because of litigation.

      Obviously, these numbers are a far cry from Senator Tester’s original statement that supposedly, “every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.”

      Again, how is it even possible that these basic timber sale numbers from the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker article aren’t presented in this State Bureau article, which is supposedly about the Washington Post’s fact-check of Senator Tester?

      Here’s what the Washington Post’s final Pinocchio Test of Senator Tester stated: “Given that Tester is the senior senator from Montana, his comments on litigation in Montana’s national forests are embarrassingly wrong. In both statements, he was wildly off the mark. He needs to brush up on his facts — and his math — before he opines again on the subject. Four Pinocchios (reserved only for whoppers)”

      Again, I’d encourage people to read the actual Washington Post article so they can see the facts for themselves. http://wapo.st/18kUG33

      This is an important issue for Montana, and the country. Right now Senator Tester and Senator Daines are going around the state spreading entirely false information about public lands management and the US Forest Service’s timber sale program. As anyone can clearly read in the Washington Post article, only 4 out of 97 current timber sales on USFS land in Montana are halted by litigation.

      Furthermore, Tester, Daines and some in the Montana news media seem to have forgotten that right now the Forest Service in Montana has the authority to conduct an unlimited number of fast-track, streamlined logging projects on 5 million acres under the Farm Bill. Just how big is 5 million acres? That’s the equivalent of 5 Glacier National Parks! Nationally, the Forest Service is authorized to log 46 million acres under the Farm Bill. All of this Farm Bill logging would be ‘categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA.’

      The problem is that Congress never funded the Forest Service to plan any of these new Farm Bill timber sales. So with 5 million acres of National Forests in Montana available TODAY for fast-track logging – and only 4 out of 97 current USFS timber sales in MT halted by litigation – Tester and Daines want the public to believe that timber sale lawsuits are the problem? Give me a break!

      If Tester and Daines were truly serious about getting more logging done on National Forests they should increase the Forest Service’s funding to do so and see what happens. Of course, in the meantime, the Forest Service has a $10 billion road maintenance backlog nationally, including a $670 Million maintenance backlog in Montana, but Senator Tester and Daines never provide anywhere close to the funding required to deal with it. And honestly, they never even talk about all the rural jobs that could be created dealing with this restoration backlog. Nope, they’d rather ignore their own responsibility and toss out lies or wild misinformation in what can only be viewed as a clear attempt to gut our nation’s environmental laws further and reduce public participation in public lands management.

      Finally, speaking of lawsuits, when’s the last time you read about all the current lawsuits and official objections against the US Forest Service from the ranchers, oil, gas, coal industries, outfitters/guides, cabin lease holders, etc. If Senator Tester and Daines want to claim lawsuits are a big problem for the US Forest Service let’s have a full and public view of all of these lawsuits as well.

      • JC

        The Missoulian article was so typical of low-information reporting. As usual, the paper treated the incident as a controversy, and are only reporting on the controversy instead of the facts — in this case the WaPo story.

        So the whole thing turns into a self-perpetuating controversy about somebody else getting into the game, in this case you and the WaPo. And the original trigger — Tester’s lies — get buried in the noise.

        This is so typical of modern “journalism” in that the money is to be made by focusing on controversy instead of the issues, and then reporting on the escalating controversy, leaving the issues in the dust.

  6. steve kelly

    This is all “ramp up” to a statewide logging bill. Don’t miss Tester standing down, playing the role of the junior senator from Montana. Daines will set the agenda, and if past is proloque, 80% of Montana’s remaining (roughly 6.4 million acres) will be sliced and diced and given away to various “user groups” for some type of commodity extraction, or commercial service. http://www.flatheadnewsgroup.com/hungryhorsenews/daines-calls-for-new-timber-jobs/article_bb67c40c-bd04-11e4-a1e1-bf8c3dd44721.html

    We are entering another period of accellerated retrograde. It looks like the old “Burns-Baucus” bill will be raised from the ashes. I want to thank Democrats in advance for their “Three-Little-Pigs” strategy. Too bad there’s not another safe house to hide in. If people would prefer to live the way they do in Utah, why not just move there? Alas, killing the Golden Goose is all they’ve ever known. Hard to change.

    • SK, I’ve long admired your political acumen. Are you saying here that this lie/response Tester backing down is a prelude to Burns/Baucus II, that we (me, big time) are walking into a trap?

    • I’d say jump ship and move to Canada Steve but the lumber barons just left you stumps.

      Stevie won’t you take me back to Calgary’s forests
      Up in the north rockies where paradise lay.
      I’m sorry my son you’re too late in asking
      Chain sawing Canucks have hauled it away.

      • steve kelly

        And why does carnage make you salivate so?

      • The fact that you’re doing a chicken dance here Swede tells me that even after all of these years of comments and hanging around blogs you don’t have a clue about politics. The debate about men like Tester between enviros, progressives, liberals and rank and file Democrats is beyond your grasp. You see D vs R. That’s all you see. Ever.

  7. larry kurtz

    Missoula is completely ignorant if not uncaring of how the ingrowth of lodgepole and ponderosa pine has sucked water from the Missouri Basin and its contributing aquifer recharges. Mr. Koehler’s hope that catastrophic wildfires will alter the human manipulation that has caused that infestation is selfish elitism that puts land owners in harm’s way.


    • lizard19

      and that has what to do with this post?

      • larry kurtz

        The federal government is in a state of continual litigation: not just the Forest Service but the EPA, Fish and Wildlife Service. Missoula sees everything east of the Divide as North Dakota: sacrifice zones for energy development and ignores the Pryors, the Beartooth Range and other less glamorous public lands.

        Politicians’ pufferies are par for the political process, liz. You and your anarchist gaggle don’t want representative democracy you want a nihilistic revolution without consequence.

        • lizard19

          you have no clue what you are talking about.

          • larry kurtz

            I am talking about choosing champions to represent a state’s citizens in DC who will do the best for all their constituents and not just for their donors. Senator Tester is an honorable man who will see to it that every stakeholder is represented at the table.

            That you have chosen to pile on is merely evidence of a charmed, bored, or more a likely desperate existence that your powerlessness locally telegraphs your need to tear down the republic relentlessly rather than to build up without fear.

            Pathetic, really.

    • JC

      This would be a hilarious, if not so sad comment. You don’t have a clue about Missoula or Missoulians, and what they have done.

      Go read some George Wuerthner, one of the best writers taking on the role of wildfire in the west. Oh, and he used to be a Missoulian.

      Cutting trees will never replace the role that wildfire took in the ecosystem. Thinking it will is just plain ole human hubris.

      And actually, how many north dakotans (or in your case south dakotans) know how clear cuts affect water availability in the clark fork river drainage? Think ranchers and farmers like what the mega-logging plans will do to their irrigation water availability?

      Oh, and nice article at IP talking about how much you appreciate Montana’s Governor and Senator whoring themselves out for the democrat party.

      If you understood Montana politics, Larry, you’d realize that most of us here (outside of a handful of dem party loyalists) find that the new responsibilities of glad-handing and money-grubbing is a distraction from the jobs they were voted to take. And it just invites corruption to spread to the whole bipolar political process.

      • LK, Environmental Rangers is right: Mizzoola is truly in a state by itself.

      • Craig Moore

        I enjoyed debating with George at NewWest. He was always respectful. I didin’t know he lived in Missoula. He did go to school at UM. He would be a great writer for any blog now that NewWest is defunct.

        Kurtz, Foxtrot Oscar.

        • Craig cozying up to the anarchists because piling on Democrats is so just so darned christian.

          • Craig Moore

            Tester being caught lying is not something you can hide with your silly diversions. Have you noticed he has not had the courage just to set the record straight but rather doubled down with the a new lie?

            • Matthew Koehler

              RE: “Have you noticed he has not had the courage just to set the record straight but rather doubled down with the a new lie?”

              Very true Craig. Of course, the MT Lee State Bureau gives Tester a big hand in the double-down with their totally bizarre article about the Washington Post’s fact-check.

              Earlier today on twitter I suggested that the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker might now have to do a fact-check on the Lee State Bureau article about the fact-check.

              Sure, I understand Mike Dennison was/is busy with transmittal over at Leg, but boy-o-boy, that article is just mind-boggling because it actually doesn’t report/reprint any of the Washington Post’s actual fact-checked information, and instead opts to just repeat Senator Tester’s lies/misinformation, as well as the incorrect USFS info. Is that just lazy reporting or something more sinister?

              But, hey, the Washington Post’s fact-checker wrote me about the Lee State Bureau article and said they at least got the headline right….so I guess that’s something, right Lee State Bureau? My goodness!

  8. For Steve and company.

    There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees,
    for the maples want more sunlight and the oaks ignore their pleas.
    The trouble with the maples, (And they’re quite convinced they’re right)
    they say the oaks are just too lofty and they grab up all the light.

    But the oaks can’t help their feelings if they like the way they’re made.
    And they wonder why the maples can’t be happy in their shade.
    There is trouble in the forest, And the creatures all have fled,
    as the maples scream “Oppression!” And the oaks just shake their heads.

    So the maples formed a union and demanded equal rights.
    “The oaks are just too greedy; we will make them give us light.”
    Now there’s no more oak oppression, for they passed a noble law,
    and the trees are all kept equal by hatchet, axe, and saw.
    – Neil Peart – drummer for the band “Rush.”

    • steve kelly

      And here I thought we were talking about native lodgepole pine, and mixed conifer stands being clearcut with bulldozers, skidders, feller-bunchers, limbers and log trucks — so it can all be chipped and shipped to Asia on Warren Buffet’s trains.

      I understand some metaphors, just don’t get what you’re getting at here.

  9. Dan

    Sorry to burst your bubble William. My position was directed towards Ochenski’s abuse of math. Nothing more nothing less. Go back and read what I wrote. Not once did I write any single word about what Tester said. That was intentional. George had, and has, plenty of ammunition at his disposal to make his point. its quite common for people to selectively pick and choose what data they use to form their argument. He used one set of dates on the Lolo for timber sales and another date range for lawsuits on the Lolo. Some commenters refused to acknowledge that very simple observation. The dates dont match. My point, then and now, is there a reason for the difference in the dates? Does this introduce an intended or unintended bias into the conclusion? I dont know the answer to that question, do you? Of course not. I think its a valid question. Like I said, George had plenty of ammo to use against Tester and he should have and could have written a blistering piece. And yes, I was being a Math Nazi by my attack on Ochenski. And no, I was not refusing to look at the bigger picture, Tester lied and that was and is obvious. However, I still want the information to see the bigger picture on the number of timber sales and the number of lawsuits.

  10. larry kurtz


  11. steve kelly

    ”Manufacturing would appear to be, by its nature, technologically progressive—with a systematic tendency to find ways to produce more goods with fewer workers.” https://www.imf.org/EXTERNAL/PUBS/FT/ISSUES10/

    If machines now do most of the work done by workers in the past, and offshoring continues to offer capital investement a considerable tax advantage, how will increasing the supply of worthless, beetle-killed, and live lodgepole pine increase jobs in Montana’s timber sector? It cannot.

    This is the even bigger lie Daines and Tester have been telling with the media’s help, of course. These two nitwits cannot stop deindustrialization in Montana, or anywhere else in the U.S. manufacturing sector.

    It’s why we run a trade deficit, and why union strength declines, and wages don’t rise. There has to be a scapegoat, no?

  1. 1 Why Montana Democrats Can’t Be Trusted on Environmental Issues | Reptile Dysfunction

    […] when he claimed every single timber project was under litigation, a lie so obvious (earning him a 4 Pinnochio rating from the Washington Post) it probably made this Ochenski take-down pretty easy to […]

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