New Montana Wilderness Legislation

Posted on Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

By now most everyone has heard about the legislation recently introduced by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana), which includes almost 700,000 acres of wilderness. This message to the Friends of Scotchman Peaks will attempt to answer some common questions and provide links to more information.

First of all, Scotchmans is not included in this bill, and in fact we never expected it to be. Tester’s bill, S1470, makes a variety of resource allocations including logging and motorized recreation plans as well as wilderness designations for three separate areas in Montana. Plans for all three of these areas are based on recommendations developed by diverse community groups working together over several years.

One of the areas covered in the bill is in the Roderick Mountain area, northwest of Libby. Other areas in the bill are in the Blackfoot Valley area north of Missoula, and large areas of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Forest in south central Montana. This bill has its critics from various points of view, but most wilderness supporters in Montana have responded with great joy and hope, that we can break the long drought of protecting Montana wilderness.

By contrast our Scotchmans proposal is a far simpler project, based on advocating for the appeal and common sense of protecting the magnificent Scotchmans wild country for future generations.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has focused, since our inception, on working to secure wilderness designation for the 88,000 acre Scotchmans roadless area, and we have consistently avoided taking positions on all other issues. The board of FSPW considers Tester”s recently proposed legislation a very positive step forward for wilderness and forest management. It is a well conceived attempt to base forest management on common sense middle ground, instead of continuing management gridlock based on conflict over opposing views. We salute Jon Tester for being a good listener, and for being willing to step forward, recognize community efforts to work together to solve problems, and to help forge solutions.

The Scotchmans board also believes that S1470 will improve our chances to protect the wild Scotchmans.

We encourage our members to consider supporting this legislation. Tester has an interesting website with good information, and a place to register support at:

http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/forestcosponsor.cfm

Another link takes you to an interesting and informative news article at:
http://www.hcn.org/issues/41.12/taking-control-of-the-machine/article_view?b_start:int=0&-C=

The Scotchman’s board considers our group’s mission to be very clear, to continue working to build community support for the Scotchmans wilderness. Strong community support will make wilderness protection for this magnificent wild country politically inevitable, and hopefully sooner rather than later.

For more information or to make a personal comment, please do not hesitate to contact Scotchmans board members:
Doug Ferrell at ferrelldoug@gmail.com (406-827-4241)
Charlie Clough at bear2th@monanasky.net (406-293-5210).

Additional Information:

Sen Tester’s Overview Page on the issue:
http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/foresthome.cfm

Text of the Legislation:
http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/upload/forest_jobs_and_recreation_act.pdf

Bill Text and Map Links:
http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/forestresources.cfm

Former MT Congressman Pat Williams Comments:
http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/lets_applaud_senator_testers_bill/C41/L41/


New – Recently Added FAQs

Q & A on Tester Wilderness Bill
Many Friends in our local communities are wondering about details of Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Some common questions we have heard are answered below. Other info is available on Tester’s website (http://tester.senate.gov/Legislation/foresthome) or by contacting Doug Ferrell at 406-827-4341 or doug@scotchmanpeaks.org

Does the bill mandate logging levels?
The bill directs the FS to “mechanically treat” a certain number of acres per year. Treatment could include logging, thinning, or fuel reduction projects. The Kootenai Forest is directed to treat 30,000 acres over ten years, or an average of 3,000 acres per year across the Three Rivers District (not just in the Yaak). The legislation steers logging towards areas that are currently degraded, roaded, and identified as suitable for harvest by the Forest Service. No permanent road construction is permitted in projects authorized by this bill.

Where would restoration money come from?
Stewardship contracts would create jobs aimed at repairing Montana’s damaged streams and wildlife habitat, and reducing road densities. Stewardship contracts ensure that income from timber sales is retained and spent locally to restore and improve forest resources.

What about our fundamental environmental laws?
Nothing in this bill changes or suspends state or national environmental laws. All logging and stewardship activities must be in compliance with all laws, regulations, and policies including NEPA, the Endangered Species Act, and multi-agency grizzly bear habitat standards.

Who supports the Tester bill?
Mainstream conservation groups including the Wilderness Society, Montana Wilderness Association, Trout Unlimited, National Wildlife Federation, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Montana Wildlife Federation, Yaak Valley Forest Council, Campaign for America’s Wilderness, former Congressman Pat Williams, Montana rod-and-gun clubs and many others.

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