Logging Bill or Wilderness Bill ?

More controversy has been in the news concerning what has been framed the Beaverhead-Deerlodge “W“ilderness bill in Montana.

Paul Richards has taken a candid approach to the spread of this nominal Wilderness in Montana – he’s calling it what it just as fairly might be called, a logging bill : 

Why Does Jon Tester Want to Log Wild Montana? : Counterpunch

In the Tester Logging Bill, we are witnessing the worst of hardball politics. The Tester Logging Bill ignores economic, scientific, and environmental reality. It circumvents the public and environmental laws designed to serve the public good, such as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

Paul points out many of the problems with the bill, including one of the quid pro quo’s being the loss of already protected Wilderness Study Areas :

The Tester Logging Bill “undesignates” the Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area, Bell/Limekiln Canyons Wilderness Study Area, East Fork Blacktail Wilderness Study Area, Henneberry Ridge Wilderness Study Area, and Hidden Pasture Wilderness Study Area. All of these roadless wildlands would be subjected to “logging without laws,” as the Tester Logging Bill specifically excludes them from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

Rocky Barker looks at the same bill and sees what some might suggest as more important than the pesky details concerning wildlands lost.  He sees sweet, sweet *compromise* :

Montana wilderness (sic) bill similar to Idaho approach – Letters from the West





  1. kt Avatar

    .. sweet like one of those artificial sweetener things that wrecked the liver, or something? Pathetic.

    Barker’s never seen a sell-out he doesn’t swoon over.

    Rocky has either never understood – or cared enough to want to expend the energy to understand – how hard enviros have fought to keep every acre of roadless or WSA lands from being assaulted, and to get the areas recognized as unroaded to begin with ….

    And WHY is it suddenly ok for a Wilderness Bill to release these undeveloped areas? Speaking of hypocrites and quid pro quo wilderness gutting of wild land protections: The Sierra Club’s hypocritical Carl Pope prattled a few months ago “We kept the Bush admin from building almost no roads in roadless” – at the same time as Pope was saying this, the Idaho Sierra Club was fervently praying to get 200,000 acres of WSAs released for development in the quid pro quo Owyhee Initiative.

  2. JimT Avatar

    Tester and the other Blue Dogs are just trying to have it both ways, like most politicians. I am hoping the lobbying folks and the wilderness grass root groups tell him that wilderness should be wilderness..no forever guarantees for logging. Period. Tired of getting rolled.

  3. mikarooni Avatar

    I’m personally not against jobs or all the happy things that Tester and his handlers describe as being in this proposal or even a “compromise” when the need arises. But, the problem’s with this proposal are… 1) the need to “compromise” has not yet clearly arisen; these roadless areas are still in Vilsack’s control and I don’t see any reason to panic; 2) this particular “compromise” isn’t a very good compromise, not a good trade for conservation; there isn’t a good balance or trade between what the “enviros” are asked to release for exploitation and motorized mayhem and what gets preserved; and 3) I’m afraid that this bill is such an insulting giveaway by the “enviro” side that, aside from the fact that I find the lopsided imbalance of it insulting and don’t like to be insulted, I believe this kind of skewed giveaway will form a bad precedent and serve to badly damage future preservationist positions.

  4. jburnham Avatar

    I’m pretty disappointed with this bill, though not surprised.

    I think the bill and the media coverage/comments illustrate how decisively the anti-Wilderness groups have won the PR war. In their framing of the debate, releasing WSAs and roadless areas to logging and ATVs=stewardship, fire protection, jobs, fairness and common sense. Nevermind the details. In this alternate reality, Wilderness is just a big giveaway to some imagined politically powerful hiker’s lobby. It’s just jobs and recreation. Conservation doesn’t even enter the picture.

  5. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    This deal is also discussed at length in Ray Ring’s recent High Country News cover story. Whatever one thinks of the program, I’ve always been very impressed with Ray’s stories.


  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    For many years I was a great enthusiast for the MWA, but I let my membership lapse after this “great deal” they made with the loggers on the Beaverhead NF, one of the poorest quality timber growing national forests in Montana.

    I think milkarooni is right. What is the purpose of this compromise? What is gained by giving up the roadless areas for big W wilderness for some splendid alpine areas. Don’t get me wrong. There is some wonderful high country in the area. However, the timber “resources” are just pathetic. The real environmental problem in the area is the overgrazing.
    – – – – – –

    In case folks wonder where I have been, I’m hiking and camping with my grandkids. They are going to be great wildlife enthusiasts, probably in a differing variety of areas and occupations.

  7. Hilljack Avatar

    I don’t see how they would be able to circumvent enviromental laws like NEPA. If it is federal land you have to follow the laws and do the analysis wether you are logging or cutting down a couple snags for safety. I am sure this would lose in court if challanged.

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan


    Because NEPA itself is a law, Congress can pass a new law exempting a project from further NEPA analysis. They could even repeal NEPA completely, although they won’t.

  9. Mike Avatar

    This plan seems to be a roadless area attack plan with some industry welfare thrown in.

    We all want more offical wilderness, but at what cost?

  10. Rocky Barker Avatar

    In the end was even the Western Watersheds Project happy with the final Owyhee’s bill? Is there a better, wilder place in the lower 48 than Dickshooter’s Ridge?

    Compromise comes with democracy. I have been watching and admiring people fighting for wilderness and other values for nearly 40 years. Only in the last 25 years have I seen people assassinate the character of others who did it differently or had a different approach and until recently it came with a wink and a nod.

    What I hear mostly in this Montana debate are people fighting the last war. Andy Kerr and other thoughtful forest advocates are looking for ways to restore national forests
    that have been dramatically altered by human activity including fire suppression and climate change.

    They actually see loggers and logging as part of the solution, not the problem. Look at the details of the timber program in the bill, not just the released wilderness study areas. But also remember that now the work in Congress begins and each one of you has a shot along with the people who have been willing to devote hours to working out the compromise.

    If it is a bad deal stop it.

    I have always marveled at my environmental friends who believed that somehow the environmental laws passed in my youth were passed in enlightenment and would stand up like my conservative friends think the Constitution will.

    To protect places you love you have to build and hold the support for them. Environmental laws need the same perseverance.

    But now the environmental community is among the ruling powers worldwide. Are you ready to lead or do you want to keep sniping from the sidelines?

    It’s a lot easier making smart comments than it is creating smart policy. I acknowledge my bias toward people on all sides of the issues willing to do the heavy lifting.

  11. Brian Ertz Avatar
    Brian Ertz


    I’d say WWP is certainly more happy with the OI than before. But if we’re to be honest about what made WWP happy – it’s not the result of any local/collaborative process that took place – and it’d be just as fair to claim that the Owyhee lawsuits were at the genesis of spurring end product of the bill than the ‘collaborative’ that followed.

    David Brooks re-wrote that bill. How’s that for a wink & a nod ? He stripped out the irresponsible sweet-heart deals for ranchers – the meat of their demands – that were brokered via the process of “compromise”. He re-introduced a level of fiduciary responsibility – of accountability – to the land exchanges as well as the public land management – and he made explicit the impotence of the grazing working group. He did it behind closed doors.

    And then there were the buy-outs, which I think you’d be surprised, maybe not, whose influence ensured the integrity of these provisions. Behind closed doors.

    If you want to celebrate in the local papers the process of collaboration and pretend that it’s a cleaner process, that’s great – but the way it went down in the end proved it to be window-dressing, just like the rest. Local politicians in Owyhee County were so afraid of a National Monument they played along – the local collaborative produced an incredibly corrupt bill – then, a Senator in DC representing New Mexico (i.e. the antithesis and rhetorical target of the “local collaborative” process) straightened that bill out when the Democrats took control back.

    Window-dressing. Dirty politics ~ sausage.

    Rocky says :

    But also remember that now the work in Congress begins and each one of you has a shot along with the people who have been willing to devote hours to working out the compromise.

    This is just not true Rocky – groups and public are left out of these processes all the time, in fact – the Press Release announcing the startup of the Owyhee Working Group specifically precluded certain members of the public from participation. These are exclusive processes. Why did that never make your coverage ? Did you know about that ?

    and on the BD partnership – is this true ? :

    The Pew-funded conservation collaborationists (National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and Montana Wilderness Association) were required to sign “confidentiality” agreements that they would not share any details of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership with us, their members, or the general public.

    what does that say about the integrity of these processes Rocky ? What does it say about everyone’s opportunity to roll up their sleaves ? Is this the cleaner process you’re championing ? Did you know about these preclusions ?

    These processes are highly exclusive — inclusive of extractive interests and those folks willing to let so many of the important conservation details slide.

    Rocky, the public counts on you for straight-up information on these matters of public policy. These are remarkably pertinent facts about the process – and i’d be willing to bet that you’re willing to admit that you’ve always been more enamored with the process than with the product. but if you’re going to consider process, don’t you think the fact that public is left in the dark ought make the coverage ? Why did you never publicize the exclusivity of the OI collaborative process Rocky ? Why did you not include the exclusivity concerning the BD partnership in your coverage ?

    I acknowledge my bias toward people on all sides of the issues willing to do the heavy lifting.

    LOL ! This is a remarkably absurd statement.

  12. otto Avatar

    Rocky your credibility continues to degrade with each hypocritical and illogical statement you spout.

    Rocky wrote: “To protect places you love you have to build and hold the support for them. Environmental laws need the same perseverance.”

    But you, Rocky, have made a pet project of assailing people who litigate to enforce and protect these laws. You never miss a chance to criticize WWP for challenging violations of existing laws and instead champion silly collaborative processes like the bighorn sheep working group that was prohibited from even discussing disease transmission or the Owyhee working group specifically excluding members of the public.

    Your blog post notes that logging is mandated on 100,000 acres. Mandated levels of production from a centralized bureaucrat is communism not collaboration.

    Rocky wrote: “It’s a lot easier making smart comments than it is creating smart policy.” The problem is your comments are not smart and often the policy you promote is not either. Remember your example of using cows to prevent fire. Well the factual background to that example is cows had been the only herbivore for almost 100 years and the landscape was compromised of 100% invasive plants. Is this the smart policy you are promoting?

  13. mikarooni Avatar

    Once more… Tallies vary; but, there is “about” 5 or 6 million acres of candidate Wilderness in Montana, primarily in the form of WSAs and other roadless areas. Right now, all of these areas are under Vilsack’s direct control and may or may not be touched in the foreseeable future. This Tester proposal protects a bit more than 10% of that 5 or 6 million acres while releasing two WSAs and probably a bit more roadless than we expect. I understand that this is supposed to be a compromise, with both sides giving a bit; but, protecting 10% of the areas that should be protected still leaves those of us on the conservation side a long way from our goal and opening a “collaborative compromise” relationship with a 90/10 split seems worrisome. I might even be inclined to be more positive about a 70/30 split, but a 90/10 split seems skewed. What happens to that other 90%, that other maybe 4 million or more acres? Will it be another 25 years before the conservation side gets any more of it protected? If this is Tester’s big push to break the wilderness logjam, why propose only a 10% solution? If this is going to be Tester’s new model for a new collaborative beginning, why did the collaboration stop at only a 10% offering to the conservation side? What faith can we have that this kind of a lopsided beginning is only the beginning and that we should be happy with this start? As I have said before, I worry that the passage of this bill might be used as a political ploy to poison the well for further Wilderness protection. I can hear it now, “Tester gave them some wilderness; but, the enviros are never satisfied.” I’ve heard that before.

    Again, essentially all of the roadless in Montana is under Vilsack’s control right now and there aren’t any big cracks in that armor, at least not right now. I don’t see any reason to panic, at least not yet; but, I fear that this bill could be exactly the kind of political ploy that could open that first crack in roadless protection. Why get spooked and chance it for a 10% proposal that, as far as I’m concerned, is rather insulting.

    Speaking of getting spooked into taking the bait on a bad deal, lot’s of people seem desperate to convince the conservation side that NREPA is dead, will never be anything but dead, that we need to cut a deal while we can, and that we’re so hard up that even a 10% charity share is the best we’re ever going to get. I’ve played that game myself before; it’s nasty and I, for one, won’t fall for it. NREPA is still out there; our side is growing stronger with time while our opponents weaken; and NREPA will protect 100% of what needs to be protected.

  14. Ken Cole Avatar


    I think you take some of the sniping personally and maybe you should since a lot of it is directed at you. The reason a lot of it is directed at you is because you neglect, I believe intentionally, to tell the whole story. You have admitted you have a bias “toward people on all sides of the issues willing to do the heavy lifting” but I think you confuse those in the conservation community who don’t stand for anything with people who do the “heavy lifting”. I see these collaborations, which always seem to be initiated by the “multiple use” people who want something that they don’t already have, as a way to remove protections from something so that they can avoid any consequences for their abuse of these resources.

    A few cases in point, the bighorn/domestic sheep collaboration. The woolgrowers wanted a solution which would allow them to continue killing bighorn sheep so the Governor called for a collaborative group so that they wouldn’t have to change what they were doing even though it is contrary to science and NFMA. When it became apparent that the conservation groups, including WWP who I work for, weren’t going to just brush off the science and allow industry types to distort it, they went to the legislature and the Governor and got a bill to bypass the whole thing. They weren’t going to compromise yet you neglected to ask any of the right questions about the science and just reported Marie Bulgin’s opinions with little investigation into the possibility of conflict of interest. You wouldn’t quote WWP for some reason but ICL was quoted regularly. How can you call that process “collaborative”?

    The Owyhee Initiative eliminated dissent from the get go yet you, to this day, have not reported that. You never really discussed that the whole thing was a way to remove Wilderness Study Area (WSA) designations from all or most of the areas where cattle graze and classify the areas where they don’t graze, such as the canyons which are de-facto wilderness anyway, as wilderness. The whole effort was started because the ranchers knew that there was a threat of a national monument designation and they were losing badly in court due to WWP’s efforts. They wanted to find a way to get around the inevitable and remove protection from areas which is what they managed to do except for the rewrite of the bill. You celebrated the collaborative nature of it yet have not reported that the bill was rewritten. I didn’t see much heavy lifting on behalf of conservation groups. I just saw a shell game that resulted in fundraising efforts and the elimination of protection for WSA’s.

    This latest bill seems to be doing the same thing. These lands already have protection as WSA’s but the timber industry wants to have some of them. The only way they can remove protection is to have congress remove it so that’s what they are trying to do. The conservation groups seem to want to have another notch on their belt so they can say “Hey look! We got some land designated as wilderness. Give us some money!” Is the result greater protection for the lands or less? I say less because the land that was once protected as a WSA will now have mandated logging. Your response…… celebrate “collaboration” and ignore the reality of what is going on.

    Rocky, you should take the sniping personally because you are complicit in allowing collaboration to be viewed as an advancement of protection for lands and wildlife when in reality it is not. You are not a reporter but rather a cheerleader for “collaboration” and the industries who hide behind it.

  15. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I’ve been away. I’m still away, but I just posted my views on Senator Tester’s new Montana Wilderness Bill.


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Brian Ertz