Two Views of the Tester Bill

Thanks to Matthew Koehler for finding this..

Missoula Independent December 22, 2011

Nada for collaborators: Tester’s forest act isn’t sleeping–it’s dead
by George Ochenski

It’s the winter solstice, the shortest day and longest night of the year for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Trees are up and lights are twinkling to fend off the darkness, as gifts are exchanged to bring cheer in this holiday season. But there won’t be one gift for the small band of collaborators who support Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. That rider was struck from the bill to fund the federal government, and it’s unlikely to see the light of day again. On the other hand, for many, and for reasons beyond partisan politics, that’s something to celebrate.

The story is long and ugly. Way back when Republican Conrad Burns was Montana’s junior U.S. senator, a handful of people from a few conservation groups decided they needed to find some way to pass a new wilderness bill for Montana. Montana’s senior senator, Max Baucus, a Democrat, was in a great position to do it, but he was too timid to wade into the contentious wilderness debate.

It’s customary in Congress that before any state wilderness measure is passed, the delegation from that state must agree on it. So the die was cast for Burns, who had ridden into office thanks in part to President Ronald Reagan’s pocket veto of a 1988 wilderness bill that had successfully passed both houses of Congress. Reagan vetoed it in order to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator John Melcher, by showing the power Burns carried with a sitting president while still a candidate. It worked.

Knowing that the chance of Burns losing his seat would be almost non-existent, since incumbent U.S. senators typically have the money, connections and power they need to stay in office, the small band of collaborators set out to devise a wilderness bill that could satisfy Burns. To get even some slivers of new wilderness, the conservationists decided they needed to give up swaths of forested lands to the timber industry, give up roadless areas to destruction by all-terrain vehicles and even give away Wilderness Study Areas that were protected by the visionary Wilderness Study Act of 1977, which had been sponsored by Montana’s great Democratic senator and wilderness supporter, Lee Metcalf. And so the first incarnation of what would become the basis for Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act was born as the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership.

But then the unexpected happened. Somehow, Jon Tester, a state senator, unseated Conrad Burns in the 2006 elections by a hair-thin margin of 3,000 votes. Many would say those votes came from supporters of Paul Richards, a candidate in the Democratic primary who dropped out of the race only days before the election and urged his supporters to vote for Tester in both the primary and the general election. Richards did so based on a meeting with Tester to get his personal assurance that all roadless lands would be protected and that no significant natural-resource legislation would be attempted as a rider on unrelated bills. Tester promised Richards it would be so.

Shortly after Tester’s victory, the conservationists presented him with the agreement they had reached “collaboratively” with a few small timber mill owners that, among other things, contained mandated levels of timber harvests from national forests—just as the housing market collapsed and the demand for timber vanished.

Up to this time, the general public had been excluded from the collaboration and remained so up until the time Tester dropped his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in the hopper. A measure designed to please a Republican senator and Republican president was now embraced and defended by a Democratic senator under a Democratic president.

The way legislation is supposed to work in Congress is that a bill is introduced in either the Senate or House while a similar measure is introduced in the other chamber. There are public hearings in both chambers. If both bills pass, Congress irons out the differences and sends the reconciled bill to the president.

But that didn’t happen with Tester’s bill. Instead, thanks to the public land giveaways and the dangerous precedent of congressionally mandated harvest levels on national forest lands, Tester’s bill never made it out of committee. No companion bill was introduced in the House.

So Jon Tester broke his promise to Richards and tried to slip his measure through Congress by attaching it as a rider to an unrelated “must pass” funding bill. Ironically, one of Tester’s most damaging attacks against Burns during his campaign was for using riders to pass significant legislation.

Last Christmas, Tester tried to slip his rider by Congress on an end-of-year government funding measure, but failed. This year, he did the same thing and failed again. Democrats are quick to blame Republican U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg for that failure, but the measure deserved to fail, both for its ramifications and the way its passage was attempted.

As the campaign for Tester’s seat garners national attention, it looks like the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which didn’t even have the guts to mention “wilderness” in the title, is kaput. There’s no chance House Republicans will pass it.

Perhaps this is karma from Tester’s broken promise to a fellow candidate whose supporters’ votes helped give Tester his win. Or maybe the spirit of Lee Metcalf is saying, “Hands off my wilderness study areas.” But one thing seems certain: The collaborators will get no Christmas present this year, and likely none in the foreseeable future.

Helena’s George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political.

And this one from the Missoulian by Rob Chaney was sent by Terry Seyden.

Tester: Congress could learn from supporters of defeated forest jobs bill

By ROB CHANEY of the Missoulian

SEELEY LAKE – Congress could learn a lot from supporters of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., told a roomful of timber workers and environmentalists here Wednesday.

“The only folks who hate this bill are to the far right or the far left,” Tester told the people gathered at Pyramid Mountain Lumber Co. “Once we get this done, it puts a whole different model out there that can work in the forests. It can be replicated just about everywhere.”

Tester’s unusual wilderness and logging bill failed last week to remain part of the Senate version of the $1.2 trillion omnibus budget package. The bill combines a new timber management plan with provisions to create about 1 million acres of wilderness and recreation areas in Montana.

Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who is challenging Tester for his Senate seat in next year’s election, took credit for keeping the bill out of the omnibus legislation. He argued last week that the legislation guaranteed wilderness but didn’t guarantee jobs, saying “it’s not a fair deal for Montanans.”

On Wednesday, Rehberg spokesman Jed Link said the congressman had co-sponsored a better way to create jobs in the timber industry through the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, “which would open millions of acres across the West for multiple use, including a little responsible timber in appropriate areas.”

“The idea that the only way to put Montanans to work in our forest is to carve out a bunch of new wilderness is just not honest,” Link said. “Senator Tester seems to be under the mistaken notion that Denny Rehberg is the only person in Montana who opposes his legislation. The simple fact is, if he really wanted to generate broad support for his legislation, he’d be out listening to the folks in Montana who have honest concerns about his bill and be open to their common-sense improvements.”

Tester’s Forest Jobs Act grew out of logging and wilderness compromises worked out on three separate national forests in Montana: the Lolo, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai. In all three places, timber mill workers, conservationists and environmentalists drafted plans to free up access to marketable trees and protect wild areas.

The collaboration angered some other environmental groups who claimed the timber mandates were excessive and shouldn’t be linked to wilderness designations. Some multiple-use and ranching groups complained their access to trails and grazing lands would be reduced.

During the 2 1/2 years the bill was reviewed in Congress, Tester made several revisions to make it easier for the U.S. Forest Service to work with the logging requirements, while clarifying places where motorcycles and snowmobiles could play.

“How do we reframe this debate?” Pyramid controller Loren Rose asked Tester at the Seeley Lake meeting. “Denny keeps talking about its wilderness, and you keep talking about jobs. We’ve found it’s not that hard to sit at the table and work on those together.”

“I’ve been involved with this for five or six years, and been to more than 100 meetings,” said Bruce Farling of Trout Unlimited. “The one thing everybody said was they liked seeing people who’d always been at odds now working together. I think 90 percent of Montanans want something like this.”

During a tour of Pyramid’s sawmills, Tester said the logging mandates were necessary to keep jobs in places like Seeley Lake. The Forest Service’s current methods of offering timber for sale aren’t working, he said, as evidenced by places like Colorado where almost all sawmills have gone out of business.

“When you lose all that infrastructure, that doesn’t do anybody any good,” Tester said. “And then when you need management, the taxpayer gets hooked with an even bigger bill if we don’t do something sooner rather than later.”

Tester said he expected his bill would again be attached to some larger piece of legislation, rather than passing on its own. Asked how he would overcome the opposition of Rehberg, he said he was working to build relationships with other House Republicans.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me to stop it unless you stop it for political reasons,” Tester said. “Rehberg is on record (opposing this). We just need to influence Dennis in a way that makes sense for these communities.”

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7 thoughts on “Two Views of the Tester Bill”

  1. Can someone help me.. I know I can expect inflated rhetoric from something labelled an “op-ed” but not being familiar with the Tester Bill, I am curious about this statement:

    “To get even some slivers of new wilderness, the conservationists decided they needed to give up swaths of forested lands to the timber industry, give up roadless areas to destruction by all-terrain vehicles ”

    Now every roadless geek worth her salt knows that roadless management as enshrined in the 2001 Roadless Rule allows ATV trails. Also “destruction” to me implies off trail use; which is disallowed by the OHV Rule (as I understand it)- which legislation could conceivably overrule.. but.. I find this even more confusing.

    Does anyone know what was in the Tester bill regarding ATV’s?

  2. Sharon — I believe that Tester’s bill releases some existing “wilderness study areas” to management under regular FS laws. As WSAs, the Forest Service is required to manage them to protect their wilderness attributes, which a recent lawsuit concluded meant regulating ATV use to no more than existed at the time they were designated as WSAs in the 1970s. Tester’s bill would eliminate the WSA protection for some roadless areas.

  3. But if they are going back to regular FS management, why wouldn’t that include the Travel Management Rule? So new trails might be OK, but not off trail use?

  4. Sharon: That’s a fair question.

    The FJRA would also turn some of Montana’s roadless wildlands – including Wilderness Study Areas protected by former Montana Senator Lee Metcalf – into permanent motorized recreation areas and would allow motors and other non-compatible uses in Wilderness. Again, this is something never acknowledged by bill supporters.

    Take, for example, the 229,710 acre West Pioneers Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA), which includes the 151,00 acre Metcalf Wilderness Study Area (WSA). What Sen Tester’s bill does is turn 129,252 acres of this IRA into a permanent, motorized Recreation Management Area (RMA). Not even the “Beaverhead Partnership” supported this. Do we really want politicians ignoring the Forest Service’s travel plans to just legislate where they want motorized recreation permanently permitted?

    Or take, for example, what Tester wants to do to the West Big Hole IRA, a 213,987 acre area along the crest of the continental divide that provides linkages and connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone area and forests to the west and north. Sen Tester’s bill turns just 44,084 acres of this IRA into two small, far-apart Wilderness Areas while turning much of the IRA into a single, large, permanent, motorized National Recreation Area (NRA) totaling 94,237 acres. The large NRA would be twice as large as the two proposed Wilderness areas together and access to these two proposed Wilderness areas would be forced to use the motorized NRA trails. Again, this extreme move by Senator Tester to mandate motorized recreation in our wildlands wasn’t even supported by the “Beaverhead Partnership” in their original proposal.


  5. Below is the exact language from Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act regarding the release of Wilderness Study Areas in Montana.


    (a) FINDING.—Congress finds that, for purposes of section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1782), any portion of a wilderness study area described in subsection (b) that is not designated as a wilderness area by section 203 or any other Act enacted before the date of enactment of this Act has been adequately studied for wilderness.

    (b) DESCRIPTION OF STUDY AREAS.—The study areas referred to in subsection (a) are—

    (1) the Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area;
    (2) the Bell and Limekiln Canyons Wilderness Study Area;
    (3) the Blacktail Mountains Wilderness Study Area;
    (4) the Centennial Mountains Wilderness Study Area;
    (5) the Farlin Creek Wilderness Study Area;
    (6) the Henneberry Ridge Wilderness Study Area;
    (7) the Hidden Pasture Wilderness Study Area;
    (8) the Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area;
    (9) the Ruby Mountains Wilderness Study Area.

    (c) RELEASE.—Any study area described in subsection (b) that is not designated as a wilderness area by
    section 203—

    (1) is no longer subject to section 603(c) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1782(c)); and
    (2) shall be managed in accordance with the applicable land management plans adopted under section 202 of that Act (43 U.S.C. 1712).


    (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds that—

    (1) the studies conducted under section 2 of the Montana Wilderness Study Act of 1977 (Public Law 95–150; 91 Stat. 1243) regarding each study area described in subsection (b) are adequate for the consideration of the suitability of each study area for inclusion as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System; and (2) the Secretary of Agriculture is not required—

    (A) to review the wilderness option for each study area described in subsection (b) prior to the revision of the forest plan required for each land that comprises each study area in accordance with the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.); and

    (B) to manage the portion of each study area described in subsection (b) that is not designated as wilderness by section 203 to ensure the suitability of the area for designation as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System pending revision of the applicable forest plan.

  6. There’s two things that can be seen with this whole Tester plan.

    #1– Radical enviros are responsible for the opposition at BOTH ends of the political spectrum. You have the traditional opposition from the radicals, but the real opposition that Rehberg represents comes from those who are adamantly opposed to the radicals. They see no reason to “reward” radicals with more Wilderness when there is absolutely no guarantee of more timber harvest. A long history of radical timber sale litigation has “created” the opposition that killed this bill. It has so poisoned the well.

    #2-The second phenomenon we see is the “Tester Partnership” has further driven a wedge between the radicals and the much more numerous “moderate enviros” . What I said above isn’t lost on the moderates. Not only are the 6000 “dues paying” members of the Montana Wilderness Association now frustrated, but so are the “well known right wing tea baggers” at the editorial board of the Missoulian, the Missoula city council, and the student council at the U of M-all who endorsed Tester’s plan which proposed MORE logging on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge forest than was done during the 60’s! At one time, long ago, the moderates sympathized and supported the radicals, but now they know it is the radicals who killed this bill. The tester plan shows that “forest collaboration” is alive and well-but it also shows that all the collaboration in the world can be upset by just the few. If there is to be any hope of collaboration-the “moderates” know they need to neutralize the radicals. It’s not just a bunch of Red neck loggers anymore is it.

    Perhaps the only chance of reforming NEPA will come when “moderate enviros” have their plans thwarted by litigation. I’ve written before of the “moderate” enviros in Colorado, Santa Fe, Flagstaff, and Lake Tahoe who now demand more logging. Timber sale litigation there has stopped. I have no doubt that NEPA would be reformed within five years if renewed timber sale litigation thwarted their efforts. Logging isn’t just about a few white trash loggers who are losing their jobs anymore. It’s about four million people in Phoenix who don’t want their forest playground burned up. It’s about four million people in Denver who don’t want their watershed burned up. It’s about a million Montanan’s who realize there’s plenty of acres for both wilderness and logging.

    I do enjoy watching you guys paint yourself into the corner of defending dead forests. You were the golden child when you were defending green old growth forests. If you think it was hard selling “clearcuts” to the public, it’ll be a gas watching you try and sell the public on “we shouldn’t log it, but we should let it burn”. You’re not on the outside looking in anymore, you’re on the inside and everybody is looking at you.

    Finally, I hope I haven’t insulted anyone using the word “radical” so often. I would think you would wear it as badge of honor to separate you from the Quisling collaborators at the MWA (sorry Mathew-had to throw that dig in). Besides, I was once called “bigoted and moronic”, and that guy got a free ride. I do admire Sharon’s commitment to decency and respect for the human spirit. I’m sure you guys are all good fathers.

  7. There’s another view worth contemplating here and that is the view of the originators of the hymnal Derek seems to have only recently found, (surprisingly) to sing from.

    That view is from the author/publisher/distributor/promoters of the playbook/hymnal of all collaborationists intending to implement Quid pro quo Wilderness bills. Hymnals from which beneficiaries such as Trout Unlimited sing so eloquently from and not coincidentally, are among the most “gifted” so to speak, by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

    “I’ve been involved with this for five or six years, and been to more than 100 meetings,” said Bruce Farling of Trout Unlimited. “The one thing everybody said was they liked seeing people who’d always been at odds now working together. I think 90 percent of Montanans want something like this.” (they might want something “like this”, but they obviously don’t want FJRA and the way it was crafted Bruce)

    The purpose of those meetings (like many others) was to operate within an exclusive membership of financially conflicted stakeholders who cut deals with public lands, except the rest of the public doesn’t get to (and doesn’t WANT to) use back room methods for quietly dividing up public resources for the primary benefit of the stakeholders.

    They intended from the start, to use a legislative vehicle known as known as a Quid pro Quo Wilderness bill, which is exactly what Tester’s FJRA is. (For an excellent primer see At one point, over eighty grassroots organizations across America went on record opposing this QPQ approach for cutting deals with public lands.

    While Mr. Farling quoted “five or six years”, the Moore Foundation’s Coldwater Conservation Fund actually started back in March 2002 with a nice round figure of 2 million dollars that the multi billionaire Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation doled out in the name of charity to fund TU/QPQ acolytes like Bruce Farling.

    The Moores (ah, these poor multi billionaires always wanting Moore) are paying Farling far more than a farthing to attend those meetings to sing the praises for QPQ formulas which, in all fairness to Bruce, have had a rather checkered past. Many QPQ attempts have failed even at the height of Republican control of government, indicating how “radical” Tester’s QPQ end-runs really are and leading one to wonder where then, might the “center” actually exist? Certainly not where Derek claims it might be.

    Trout Unlimited is itself, a wonderful play on words: “Trout?(okaaay, but “Unlimited”? — you mean, “a hybrid company incorporated either with or without a share capital” ? The Nature Conservancy, is another well-known, and well-financed corporate front group ($7 million from the Moores) also pushing QPQ and also masquerading as “moderate enviros” (to quote Derek) and collaborationist champions for the environment.

    The conservation goals (ends) are certainly worthy– (after all who can DISlike restoration of decimated fish runs?) It’s just the methods and means they use to get there that leaves a lingering stench of back room deal-cutting, and tired neoliberal opportunism. The QPQ formula is notable for its consistency to privatize, to end-run or undermine bedrock environmental laws (deregulate or as Derek delicately puts it, “reform NEPA”), manufacture consensus (through devolved, financially conflicted, exclusive “stakeholder” groups), and use whatever means necessary to outsource agency functions to front groups like TNC and TU.

    And of course they seek to codify this collaborationist agenda based upon manufactured consensus through QPQ legislation like Tester’s FJRA, which was so roundly rejected by the the majority of the political spectrum, even Tester’s snaky rider tactics on spending bills didn’t work.

    FJRA RIP (rest in pieces — on the floor)


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