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Former representative urges against Tester bill

by The Western News
| January 5, 2012 11:34 AM

Letter to the Editor,

While I appreciate U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s effort to create the 2009 Forest Jobs and Recreation Act he is sponsoring, the bill creates serious problems for Montana hunters, hikers, and anglers.

It calls for removing forest service roads that Montanans cherish.

Let’s get something straight —every time you decommission a backcountry road — which is what Sen. Tester wants to do in near wholesale fashion in his bill, you cut off precious access to our public lands. That is an unacceptable policy for Montana and should never be allowed to occur in our state alone be written into a piece of legislation by our own U.S. senator.

Additionally, according to Thomas DeLuca, Ph.D. and Senior Forest Biologist for the Wilderness Society, even an organization like the Wilderness Society’s that promotes policies to limit Montanan’s access to the National Forests cannot reconcile Senator Tester’s road killing bill with a report Dr. DeLuca offered the state legislature in 2008 for a Fire Suppression Interim Committee.

Dr. DeLuca pointed out in his report that most fires happen to occur in roaded forest areas, and while DeLuca did not make the firefighting connection in his report, roaded access to those areas by fire fighters is absolutely necessary to help stop the environmental degradation to water sheds and wildlife habitat so many overgrown forests on fire cause nowadays.

When I served in the State legislature with Jon Tester, we had a saying about the Senate: “If you gave them the 10 commandments, they would insist on amending them.” Let’s hope the U.S. Senate has the same inclination and Jon Tester amends his bill to eliminate all references and funding that would strip Montana hunters, hikers, and anglers of their ability to use existing forest service roads to access our wonderful backcountry. It’s the right thing to do.

— Rick Maedje

Fortine

• Editor’s Note: Rick Maedje is a former State House Representative, HD2 and is presently a student at Harvard University.