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.