Phil Davies - Senior Writer
Published September 1, 2009 | September 2009 issue
The state’s timber industry has complained for years about diminishing wood supplies from national forests, the result of objections to logging by environmental groups, tight U.S. Forest Service budgets and other factors. U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has a controversial plan to provide Montana timber companies with more logs while improving the overall quality of forestland.
Tester’s proposal, dubbed the forest jobs and stewardship bill, would create a new kind of working relationship between the Forest Service and timber companies. To ensure that timber firms get the logs they say they need to stay in business, loggers would be allowed to harvest at least 10,000 acres annually for 10 years in two national forests within the state. Cutting would target stands of trees killed or weakened by a severe outbreak of pine-bark beetles. But in return for the right to log, timber companies would be required to carry out restoration work, such as fixing culverts and cleaning up after wildfires.
In addition, the bill would set aside 677,000 acres of Montana wilderness and create a new national recreation area in southwestern Montana.
Environmental and outdoors organizations as well as timber firms helped draft the bill. But other groups such as the Alliance for the Wild Rockies have blasted it, saying that it would lead to excessive logging, endangering habitat for elk, grizzly bears and fish.