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Senator hopes jobs bill moves forward

by Brad Fuqua & Western News
| September 24, 2010 12:40 PM

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act still hasn’t gone before the Senate Natural Resources Committee but with Congress now back in session, Sen. Jon Tester hopes a hearing date looms on the horizon.

The current version under consideration includes logging mandates – an issue particularly important to Lincoln County. The Senate sub-committee had removed the logging mandate during the discussion draft process in June. Tester immediately had the logging component restored but with a few changes.

For example, the 100,000 acres of harvesting in Kootenai National Forest and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was stretched from 10 to 15 years.

“What that’s about is allowing them some ramp-up time to get it done,” Tester said last week during a telephone interview. “We’re still going to reach that 100,000-acre figure and that is what’s important.”

The Montana senator believes S. 1470 can serve as a model for the future.

“Once this bill gets enacted and it’s been evaluated several times through its lifetime, I honestly think it’s going to be a success,” he said. “And I think you’re going to see it expanded as we move forward.”

Another change in Tester’s revised proposal involves the environmental analysis process. Instead of the current system, the bill incorporates the Forest Service’s new watershed-level environmental analysis.

“It does not derail the environmental process at all. I just think it helps streamline it,” Tester said.

The new approach would supposedly eliminate delays that are seen with harvest projects.

“The way it’s written, if anyone wants to sue … they have to do it early and come up with recommendations on how to fix it to make it work,” Tester said. “I think that’s important from the standpoint that as we get into timber sales, it seems at the 11th hour, it’s sued to not happen.

“I think there are times when trees shouldn’t be cut but there are also times when they should be cut,” Tester added. “People can have their input but in the end, it allows the Forest Service to manage those resources for our children and grandchildren.”

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On the Net: http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/foresthome.cfm