Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tester: “widespread bi-partisan support” for forest bill

I received an e-mail this morning from Sen. Jon Tester’s office regarding the “widespread, bipartisan support for Sen. Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.”

Click on the image below or here to see the full “Who supports the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act?” file included in the e-mail. 
Tester's support oppose 
UPDATE (12-14-10, 4:40 p.m.): I just received a modified version of the chart above from Mike Garrity at the Alliance for the Wild Rockies [the source of the document is Denny Rehberg’s office] listing quite a few more opponents. Clink on the image below to see higher-resolution image:

UPDATE (12-15-10, 2:30 p.m.): just received another update to this chart:

supporter and opponents 1

First off, it’s worth pointing out that the bill that was attached to the Senate Omnibus Appropriations Act, now titled the “Forest Jobs and Restoration Initiative,” is not the same bill as the one Tester introduced in July 2009, then called the “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.” As I posted yesterday, the final version included in the omnibus bill contains a number of significant changes from the original bill introduced in 2009. You can read about those changes in this post

You can view the entire Senate omnibus bill with links to Tester FJRI in an easy-to-use DocumentCloud viewer here.

The e-mail also referenced a an Aug. 2009 poll by Harstad Research  that found “73% of surveyed Montanans support FJRA based on bill’s description.”

Here’s the poll question Harstad Research asked participants of that poll:

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?
Results: Favor--73 percent; Oppose--15 percent; no answer--12 percent.
It’s also worth pointing out that the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign is not a single organization, but a campaign that 16 conservation organization from Montana and 39 conservation organizations from around the nation signed-on to. You can see the complete list of groups associated with the LBPWC here.

Here' are the Montana-based groups that signed the official Senate  testimony opposing Tester’s FJRA:

Alliance for the Wild Rockies (MT)
Big Wild Advocates (MT)
Buffalo Field Campaign (MT)
Central Montana Wildlands Association (MT)
Conservation Congress (MT)
Deerlodge Forest Defense Fund (MT)
Friends of the Bitterroot (MT)
Friends of the Rattlesnake (MT)
Friends of the Wild Swan (MT)
Montana Rivers (MT)
Swan View Coalition (MT)
Western Montana Mycological Association (MT)
Western Watersheds Project (MT)
Wilderness Watch (MT)
WildWest Institute (MT)
Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation (MT)

Also notably absent from the list of opponents Tester sent out this morning is former Democratic Senatorial candidate Paul Richards, who accused Tester of breaking key campaign promise by introducing the FJRA. Richards dropped out of the Democratic Senate primary race in 2006 and threw his support behind Tester, who polls showed was deadlocked with state auditor John Morrison. According to Richards, Tester earned his endorsement by agreeing to certain terms, which Richards posted on his campaign website on May 31, 2006.

According to Richards, the top two terms of that agreement were:
1. Help stop the Iraq War, withdraw U.S. troops in Iraq, and work for peace.
2. Work to protect all of Montana’s remaining roadless wildlands.
As one Lowdown reader pointed out in an e-mail to me this morning, the Senate omnibus bill containing the Forest Jobs and Restoration Initiative “also contains another $158 BILLION for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…the wars Jon Tester vowed to not fund when he ran for office.”

On another note, I’ve received an e-mail from Wayne Hirst, a staunch supporter of the bill who appeared at the unveiling of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act at RY Timber in in Townsend last summer.  Hirst takes issue with criticisms leveled by Matthew Koehler of the LBPWC and Mike Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies:
   As the person on the "timber" portion of Testor's bill here on the Kootenai, I must point out some facts that Matt Koehler and Mike Garrity seem to avoid, or outright tell falsehoods about:

   1.  There in NO mandated logging in the bill.  The word "logging" is not there.  The bill mandates "treatment" of these acres, and I have personally discussed this with local USFS people as to just what kind of treatments they will do, or envision.  Logging is one "treatment" for sure. But there are many other "treatments" as well, (now, 1" brush, as well as needles even are considered "merchantable" and fit in the bill) and the bill defines "treatment" as just using a "tool".   Now, since that definition was simplified to using a "tool", there will be court arguments over just what is a "tool" I am sure.

   2. There is no "allowing" motorized use in IRA's in this bill.   I don't know about the Beaverhead, although we were just told Monday nite that there is none of this allowed on the Beaverhead, but here on the Kootenai, it has always been clear, due to Judge Molloy's rulings, that nothing can ever be done in IRA's, as they must be managed as wilderness. Any statement that motorized use in IRA's can be done on the Kootenai is just plain false.

  But, I never knew that Rehberg agrees with Mike Garrity and Matt Koehler.  Who would ever have thought that could occur?

UPDATE: Matthew Koehler responds at length to Hirst in the comments section of this post.

UPDATE: Congressman Denny Rehberg is holding an "Emergency Tele-Town Hall Meeting" to discuss Tester's bill tonight. Click this link for more information.

UPDATE: Another opponent not on Tester’s list: Ruby Valley Stock Association. Montana Standard guest column here.

Again, I urge anyone with thoughts on this bill to e-mail me or post your comments in the comment section below. You can reach me at mtlowdown(at) I’ll continue to post comments as I receive them.


Matthew Koehler said...

(Note: Looks like I reached a word limit, so I'm breaking my comment up into a few posts. Thanks. - mk)

Thanks for your continued coverage of this important issue. Especially thanks for sharing all of these documents with the public. It's important for the public to clearly see what's going on here.

A few points regarding the email you shared from Wayne Hirst up in Libby. First, I should point out to readers that two years ago Mr. Hirst took out a half page ad in a local Libby newspaper accusing me of being (and I quote) the "man most responsible for the economic destruction of Libby." (I guess a little company called WR Grace really didn't screw over their workers and the Libby townspeople after all). In his paid ad Hirst called on the Libby newspaper never to print any of my words again. So that's how Wayne likes to roll.

Next, regarding Wayne's claim that the Tester bill supposedly doesn't mandate any logging and Wayne's inference that under Tester's bill the timber industry might just be picking up a bunch of pine needles and dealing with one inch diameter trees. Are you kidding me? Seems like Wayne is the only person making this claim. Seems like it's been a well-established fact that the bill mandates logging, this according to Tester's office, Mill owners and and MWA, all of whom basically declared the Senate ENR Committee's re-write "dead on arrival" because the logging mandates were dropped in that draft. The fact that the Tester bill mandates commercial logging has been part of the discussion and news coverage now for almost 18 months, so I'm surprised that Wayne would miss it. For example, see: "Forest bill draft cuts logging mandate, but Tester won't support" at

Below I will post the relevant language from the bill as it appears in the $1.3 trillion spending bill. While Mr. Hirst is technically correct that the bill doesn't use the word "logging," I'll let people decide if they think the stated, explicit purpose of the bill to "increase the flow of wood fiber with commercial value" honestly refers to having the "logging industry" picking up pine needles and 1 inch diameter trees, and not actually logging trees with commercial value. I should also point out, as I've been doing for nearly two years, that the bill only establishes a minimum mandate level. No maximum level is established. For example, under the Tester bill 70,000 acres could be logged, er "mechanically treated" on the BHDL NF every year.

Here's the relevant bill language:

"The purpose of this subtitle is to establish an initiative to create an immediate, predictable, and increased flow of wood fiber with commercial value."

"The term 'mechanical treatment' means an activity that uses a tool to remove fiber that has commercial value to local markets in the vicinity of the area treated. The term 'mechanical treatment' excludes prescribed burning."

"Subject to subsection (g), on the eligible land, the Secretary shall place under contract for the mechanical treatment of vegetation—

(1) on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, a minimum of 5,000 acres annually until the date on which a total of 70,000 acres in the National Forest have been placed under contract.; and

(2) on the Kootenai National Forest—
(A) 2,000 acres during the first year after the date of enactment of this Act;
(B) 2,500 acres during the second year after the date of enactment of this Act; and
(C) 3,000 acres during each subsequent year until the date on which a total of 30,000 acres in the National Forest have been placed under contract."

Matthew Koehler said...

Moving on to Wayne's statement: "There is no 'allowing' motorized use in IRA's in this bill. I don't know about the Beaverhead, although we were just told Monday nite that there is none of this allowed on the Beaverhead...."

Seems to me that if Wayne admits that he doesn't know about the Beaverhead-Deerlodge portion of this bill (which easily makes up vast majority of this bills focus) he shouldn't be claiming anything one way or another, right?

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that this bill, if passed, would permanently designate certain Inventoried Roadless Areas into permanent motorized recreation areas on the BHDL NF.

Senator Max Baucus, in his standard, form letter constituent reply to the Tester bill put it this way:

“[The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act] guarantees access for motorized recreation. It allows thousands of acres of land, currently managed as wilderness, to be used for [motorized] recreation and timber harvest.”

But here are some specific examples from the actual bill.

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 would do is turn 129,252 acres of this IRA into a permanent, motorized Recreation Management Areas (RMA). Seriously, do we really want politicians ignoring the USFS’s travel plans to just legislate where they want motorized recreation permanently permitted?

Of course, our recommendation would be to designate the entire 151,000 acre Metcalf WSA as Wilderness and eliminate the permanently motorized RMA, returning the management of that area to USFS travel planning, where it belongs.

Or take, for example, what Tester’s bill would 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.

The Tester bill would turn 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.

Those are just two examples contained in the bill. I can provide more examples if anyone likes; however, suffice to say Mr. Hirst was incorrect with his ill informed opinion.

Matthew Koehler said...

Finally, let me point out that the chart from Senator Tester's spokesperson Mr. Murphy ignores the fact that major mainstream environmental groups, such as Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity have spoken up in strong opposition to key aspects of the FJRA. So too, the chart ignores the fact that the Beaverhead County Commissioners have opposed the bill, as have many, many Montanans and America's from all walks of life. If anyone wants to verify the fact that these organizations and people are on-record opposing key aspects of the Tester bill all they have to do is look at the official hearing record available from the US Senate.

So too, I should point out that while The Wilderness Society is listed on Mr. Murphy's chart as supporting the Tester bill, they actually oppose many of the same parts of the Tester bill as dozens of organization's have been highlighting. For example, this is taken directly from The Wilderness Society's official testimony to the Senate ENR Committee:

“We oppose Congressionally mandated treatment levels in the bill because they, a) neglect the root causes of the problems this bill is intended to address, b) set an adverse national precedent, c) create unreasonably high expectations, d) fail to provide the agency the resources it needs to do its job, and e) most important, we do not believe this approach will work on the ground."

Let me just close by again saying that many Montana's have expressed serious, substantive concerns with this bill, including the mandated logging provisions, motors in Wilderness, Forest Service budget implications and turning some wildlands into permanent motorized recreation areas. That's a major reason why the bill never made it out of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee, never made it to the floor of the US Senate and never was introduced in the US House. Instead of honestly listening to these concerns, it's unfortunate that Senator Tester decided to work behind the scenes to attach his logging bill to a completely unrelated 2000 page, $1.3 trillion (and growing) pork-barrel spending bill.

Anonymous said...

Senator tester is a liar. He knows more than just CBU opposes his bill yet he lists only our organization and Representative Rehberg. The Senator can't get his bill through congress so he resorts to underhanded tactics by attaching it to a 1.1 trillion dollar Senate spending bill in the dark of night out of the public's view.(page 893 or something)

So much for his campaign promises of open government and transparency. Looks like he is taking a page out of the book from his environmental out of state friends which contributed 70% the money he raised to get elected. This is a way for him to pay them back.

Senator Tester does not care that his bill will destroy the economies of 100s of small communities dependent on these federally managed public land.

The Senator is fully aware his bill violates both federal law and the U.S. Constitution and he has refused to meet with anyone opposed to this legislation.

Montana deserves better and we will get better representation in D.C. in 2012. You can count on it!

Matthew Koehler said...

Fact Checking the FJRA "Poll" Numbers


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%?" After all, in February 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 (available at

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.

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