Great News for Montana Wilderness

Great News for Montana Wilderness by Doug Ferrell

Many of you have heard the recent news that Senator Jon Tester’s logging and wilderness initiative has made a huge step towards being enacted as law. This is great news for wilderness lovers  as well as a large coalition of various forest users. The bill has been included in a large Appropriations Bill that is virtually assured passage through the Senate and House, possibly in the next week or so.

The bill would create 20 new wilderness areas and more than double the number of Wilderness Areas in Montana, from 15 to 35. It would protect over 660,000 acres of wilderness. By comparison, the large Scotchman Peaks Roadless Area covers about 88,000 acres

The bill includes many tremendously valuable areas in the Big Hole, the Pioneers, the Snowcrest, as well as additions to the Bob Marshall and other existing wilderness areas. These are areas conservationists have worked to protect since before the Wilderness Act was passed in 1964. The bill also includes some 40,000 acres of Wilderness in Northwest Montana, in the Roderick area in Lincoln County. This area includes some pristine rolling mid elevation lands that are uniquely underrepresented in the National Wilderness Preservation system.

The bill is also important to wilderness lovers because, if successful, it will greatly improve the chances for other wilderness bills to move forward – including the Scotchmans!

Although this is a great step forward, we need to recognize that this bill still faces some hurdles before it can become law. Senator Tester and his staff are working very hard to make this happen.

Sunset Over Gold Creek
Sunset Over Gold Creek

The bill has been renamed as the “Forest Jobs and Restoration Pilot Initiative”. Besides protecting wilderness and recreation areas, the bill also directs the FS to actively practice restoration forestry on selected lands in the Kootenai Forest and other areas, to reduce fire danger and improve stream quality and wildlife habitat, and create more jobs in the woods and sawmills.

The bill is the product of many people and groups working together to find agreement and solutions, to minimize conflict and get some positive things accomplished in our forests. Tester has held many public meetings and considered a tremendous amount of input on this bill over the past several years.

Of course it is easy to criticize an ambitious effort like this piece of legislation, and the bill has generated criticism from a minority of conservationists, as well as die hard opponents of protecting wild country. The good news is that credible polling shows that very large majorities of Montanans support this bill.

For more information see:

The Montana Forest Coalition’s website at

Tester’s website at

Montana Wilderness Assoc website at:

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Categories: Blog
About The Author:

Phil Hough is the Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

He has hiked the "triple crown": the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon river. Phil's love of wilderness guides him as he works to save the incrediblly wild Scotchman Peaks, one of the last and largest roadless places in northern Idaho and western Montana.

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  1. Article submitted by Junior not Matthew Koehler.

  2. Fact Checking the FJRA Poll Numbers
    by: Matthew Koehler
    Fri Dec 17, 2010 at 09:04:03 AM MST

    (Alternative title could be: “When is a Poll Not a Poll and When Do 16-Month-Old Survey Results No Longer Matter?”)

    FYI: This was just sent to all Montana media outlets. -mk


    Yesterday you likely received a “Fact Check” memo from Kristi Ponozzo of the Montana Wilderness Association on behalf of the Montana Forest Coalition.

    The first item on that memo (pasted below) included the results of an internal messaging survey members of the Montana Forest Coalition commissioned and paid for. I would like to tell you a little more information about that messaging survey.

    First, the memo you received never identified the fact that the date of the survey was August 2009, over 16 months ago. There is a reason the memo didn’t include this simple fact. Over the past year and a half many Montanans have had an opportunity to read the actual language of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and, upon learning more about what the bill would actual do, many Montanans from all walks of life have expresses serious concerns and raised substantive questions about the bill.

    This begs the question: Is it really accurate or honest to drag out a survey from 16 months ago in an attempt to supposedly demonstrate current public opinion? I mean, what if the Democratic Party sent you a press release today proclaiming “Poll shows Obama Approval Rating at 80% 69%?” After all, in February January 2009 this was President Obama’s approval rating.

    Second, when the results of this survey were originally made public through a release from Montana Trout Unlimited in August 2009, Montana Outdoor Writer Bill Schneider wrote an article, Secrecy Clouds Credibility of Poll on Tester’s Wilderness Bill.

    In that article Mr. Schneider stated: “I made two formal requests to coalition leaders to see the actual wording of the questions and get information about the sample polled, but they flatly refused to release anything or even talk on the record about the poll, how it was done or who paid for it. Plus, I know at least two others in the media who made similar requests.”

    Even more revealing, in that same article Mr. Schneider wrote:

    “I know these surveys cost money and those who pay for them consider them proprietary. And I can see that some of the scientific methodology that goes into survey being proprietary, but the wording of the questions? I was told that the coalition primarily intended to use the poll internally to see what arguments against the bill might be sticking and which ones were lost in the public wind. If this is the main purpose of the poll, no problem, but that isn’t how the coalition used it. The coalition quickly sent out a press release applauding the positive results. As soon as this happened, in my mind at least, it ceased to be an internal document.”

    So as you can clearly see, the people who commissioned this survey openly admitted to Mr. Schneider it wasn’t an objective, scientific poll of public opinion. Rather it was an internal survey to figure out which talking points worked for them or which ones didn’t work quite as well.

    A few months later, on October 27, 2009, Bill Schneider was finally provided the exact wording of the survey question and he wrote another article with this update:

    “Question No. 7. Back on September 4, [2009] I devoted my column to the secrecy surrounding a poll conducted by the coalition of green groups and timber companies pushing Tester’s wilderness bill. I’d made several requests to have the exact wording of poll’s questions released before posting that column, but the coalition refused. Since then, after a pint of microbrew and a few more emails, Matt McKenna – who also works with former President Bill Clinton, now has his own communication firm in Bozeman called Jackson Creek and has been recently hired to speak for the coalition – decided to release the exact wording of the key question….Here’s the exact wording of question. You make your own judgment as to whether it biases the results.

    Q 7. Let me briefly describe the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which would do the following:

    * Create jobs in Montana by directing the Forest Service to use light-on-the-land logging and forest restoration projects aimed at improving forest health and reducing forest fire risk;

    * Employ forest stewardship contractors to restore Montana’s damaged streams, forest roads, campgrounds and trails;

    * Guarantee that motorized vehicles will have access to designated recreation areas;

    * Protect Montana’s wildlife habitats and watersheds by designating certain places as Wilderness areas in the Beaverhead Deer Lodge, Lolo and Kootenai National Forests.

    Do you FAVOR or OPPOSE the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act that I just described?”

    Notice that when Mr. Schneider was finally provided a copy of the question, after waiting nearly two months, the question was actually identified as Question No. 7. Having been personally involved with a few of these messaging/talking points surveys over the years, I can assure you there were 6 similar questions about this issue prior to Question No. 7, and perhaps there were even a few questions, which followed Question No. 7.

    This is important because apparently those who commissioned this survey liked the fact that the specific wording of Question No. 7 garnered the greatest support (73%).

    Now again, that’s all well and fine if the coalition wanted to use that information to form their own talking points. However, as Mr. Schneider pointed out above: “the coalition primarily intended to use the poll internally to see what arguments against the bill might be sticking and which ones were lost in the public wind. If this is the main purpose of the poll, no problem, but that isn’t how the coalition used it. The coalition quickly sent out a press release applauding the positive results.”

    This begs many questions. For example, did, perhaps, questions 1-6 push those surveyed to the results in Question No. 7? Were there other questions and messaging talking points similar to Question No. 7 that didn’t garner as much support? And if so, why weren’t those results made public?

    To my knowledge, no scientific, objective poll regarding the public’s support or opposition of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act has actually been conducted. And with the information presented here I hope you will see that it’s less than accurate and honest for the Montana Wilderness Association and Montana Forest Coalition to send out on December 15, 2010 an August 2009 internal messaging survey to supposedly demonstrate current public support or opposition to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

    Thank you for your time and consideration.


    Matthew Koehler

    You can’t censor and fool all of us MWA.

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