Prominent Montana economist discusses bill on Montana public radio-

Tester Forest Bill. Two Views of the Tester Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill. By Dr. Tom Power. Montana Public Radio.

I’m not sure what to think about the logging part of Tester’s bill either. If you look at it one way, it represents the worst top down mandated logging since the days of the “lawless logging” rider of 1995. On the other hand, wilderness supporters who support this “wilderness bill” might figure correctly that very little logging will really be done because the demand for logs, especially dead lodgepole pine is weak because of the economy.  Meanwhile the supply of these logs is overwhelmingly large, coming from the bark beetle-killed pine from the Yukon south to New Mexico. There are many billions of board feet of logs from better places than the remote Beaverhead National Forest.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

6 Responses to Two Views of the Tester Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill, a.k.a., "Wilderness Bill'

  1. mikarooni says:

    The question of logging during a Depression has been out there from the first. One commenter put it well when pointing out that Tester’s bill, undoubtedly ghostwritten by timber mill operators, mandates “7000 acres of timber harvest a year in a forest that even its own foresters state is excessive, but more than that by subsidizing the mills with public owned timber the private landowners who are battling the loss of their own forest will be paid pennies on the dollar due to the market being saturated with public logs…” Seems to me like a recipe for creating artificially subsidized public competition for private wood lots. Now, why would a bunch of timber mill operators want a subsidized market for logs, saturate with public logs, a market in which they would get to pay the rock-bottom minimum for incoming logs and then be able to artificially pump the market with predatorily low lumber prices and still make a high profit?

    But, the real problem is the potential stealth impact on our ability to protect the roadless areas. We’re all too familiar with the rightwing ploy of giving us a token then using it as an excuse to shut us down and criticize us for always wanting more. I don’t want to play their game.

    Again, tallies vary; but, there are “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, especially since Vilsack has gone out of his way to make it clear that he wants a single national resolution to the roadless question and not piecemeal chaos like this Tester bill. This Tester proposal protects a bit more than 10% of that 5 or 6 million acres while releasing two WSAs and probably a lot 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, well, just a bit condescending or even insulting. I might have been more inclined to be more positive about a 70/30 split, but a 90/10 split seems screwed, er, 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? Are we supposed to be happy with a 10% bone to gnaw on? If this is Tester’s big push to break the wilderness logjam, why propose only a 10% solution, especially if you truly intend to see more than 10% protected later anyway? In fact, this bill only protects a bit more than 600,000 of Montana’s roadless acres; Colorado is working to protect over 4 million! 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?

    Again, 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.

    And 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.

    I’d rather wait and leave it Vilsack’s hands. If Obama gets a second term and then is followed by another Democrat, that might be the right time for Obama to leave a legacy that would make Alaskan lands look miniscule. Think about it; all that roadless declared national monument in one clean sweep.

  2. Mike says:

    mikarooni –

    In my opinion, we shouldn’t do a single thing with this bill until the 10th circuit court rules on the roadless initiative. We should be getting that in January or February. If they rule in favor, then the combination of the 10th and 9th court rulings would effectively keep the roadless initiative firmly in place. This in conjuction with some momentum in terms of congressional designation for roadless areas is far better than what Tester’s bill offers. The worst component of his bill is the removal of WSA’s. That’s unnacceptable.

  3. They are going to have hearing on this bill in the Senate very soon. Word is that it may pass. When it gets to the House, it will probably be improved in the House Resources Committee unless a deal is made to keep it out of that committee, but why would the House leadership give Montana’s lone Representative Denney Rehberg, a strong Republican, any help?

    At any rate, suppose it does move. There are two areas the Blue Ribbon Coalition is agitating to keep out of the Wilderness, and they are two of the best wild country, with real undamaged scenery and one case, Italian Peaks, a lot of wildlife. They are both on the Continental Divide.

    Here is an alert from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition on one of them — Mt. Jefferson in the Centennial Range.

    I think Italian Peaks is even more important due to its much greater size and greater wildlife. I haven’t seen an alert on it (except one by the BRC). I’m not saying I support the bill, but these two areas should certainly be in it.

  4. Mike says:

    Ralph – good point about it going to the House Natural Resources Committee. Grijalva, if he could get his hands on it would make vast improvements.

  5. Pronghorn says:

    Coalition Launches New Website: “A Clear Look at Sen. Tester’s ‘Forest Jobs and Recreation Act,’ S. 1470”

    MISSOULA, MT – Today, a coalition of conservation organizations and citizens dedicated to wildlands protection, Wilderness preservation, and the sound long-term management of our federal public lands legacy, launched a new website dedicated to a detailed examination of Senator Jon Tester’s S. 1470, the “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.”

    The growing coalition includes conservation groups from Montana and throughout the country, as well as citizens who are small-business owners, scientists, educators and teachers, health care practitioners, hikers and backpackers, hunters and anglers, wildlife viewers, outfitters and guides, veterans, retired Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management officials, ranchers and farmers, craftspersons, and community leaders – all stakeholders committed to America’s public wildlands legacy.

    At you will find:

    * Detailed, Line-By-Line Analysis of S. 1470
    * Keeping it Wild! In Defense of America’s Public Wildlands
    * Contact info for citizens to send testimony to the US Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, which will be holding a Dec 17th hearing on S. 1470.
    * A citizen petition
    * Commentary and perspective on S.1470 from experts

  6. Pronghorn says:

    Signed on thus far:
    Alliance for the Wild Rockies (MT)
    Big Wild Advocates (MT)
    Buffalo Field Campaign (MT)
    Conservation Congress (MT)
    Deerlodge Forest Defense Fund (MT)
    Friends of the Bitterroot (MT)
    Friends of the Wild Swan (MT)
    Swan View Coalition (MT)
    Western Montana Mycological Association (MT)
    Western Watersheds Project (MT)
    Wilderness Watch (MT)
    WildWest Institute (MT)
    Allegheny Defense Project (PA)
    Bark (OR)
    Big Wildlife (OR)
    Buckeye Forest Council (OH)
    Caney Fork Headwaters Association (TN)
    Cascadia Wildlands (OR)
    Clearwater Biodiversity Project (ID)
    Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice (TN)
    Dogwood Alliance (NC)
    Ecosystem Advocates (OR)
    Environmental Action Committee of West Marin (CA)
    Green Press Initiative (MI)
    Friends of Bell Smith Springs (IL)
    Friends of the Breitenbush Cascades (OR)
    Friends of the Clearwater (ID)
    Heartwood (IN)
    John Muir Project (CA)
    Kentucky Heartwood (CA)
    League of Wilderness Defenders (OR)
    Native Forest Council (OR)
    Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility (TN)
    Protect Arkansas Wilderness! (AR)
    Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) (DC)
    RESTORE the North Woods (ME)
    Selkirk Conservation Alliance (WA)
    Umpqua Watersheds (OR)
    Utah Environmental Congress (UT)
    Western Lands Project (WA)
    WildEarth Guardians (NM)
    WildSouth (NC)

    Please help this list grow by encouraging groups you are involved in to sign on. This bill will weaken future Wilderness protection with special provisions (military helicopter landings, ATV use, the possibility of Wilderness logging) that set damaging precedents. The hearing is Dec. 17; information on how to contact the Senate subcommittee hearing the bill can be found at


December 2009


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey