By MICHELE McDONALD/Montana State News
Republican state Rep. Kerry White of Bozeman has introduced a second bill to oppose Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.
According to the Montana Legislature’s official website, White is currently sponsoring a bill in opposition to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act entitled House Resolution 4. The bill has been presented in a hearing before the House Agricultural Committee, but no further action has yet been taken.
Tester’s bill, first introduced in 2009, would designate 650,000 acres of national forest in western Montana as permanently protected wilderness, while mandating the harvest of timber on 70,000 additional acres and designating other areas of forest for motorized recreation.
White originally introduced a bill named House Joint Resolution 8 which addressed the same topic, according to the Legislature’s website. The bill was tabled by the House Natural Resources Committee.
According to White, Democrats said he was breaking the rules by introducing a bill, which mirrored House Joint 8. White said House Resolution 4 is a new form of opposition to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and the arguments of opponents were incorrect.
“That is simply not the case,” White said at the hearing pertaining to the bill. “The first resolution I had was in opposition to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act; this resolution is completely different. It is in opposition until certain things are put into the bill that would make it both legal, follow federal law, follow the U.S. Constitution and also address the lack of coordination that is in the bill.”
According to Montana Wilderness Association Executive Director Brian Sybert, Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is popular amongst Montanans and has support from a variety of individuals. He believes Tester’s bill deserves the support of Montana’s residents and legislators.
“Many Montanans have made a commitment to set aside differences in order to work on common interests: jobs, clean water, secure habitat and healthier forests,” said Sybert. “They, their efforts and the act deserve your encouragement.”
Tester also argued in support of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in a statement posted on his official website. “It’s a common-sense bill that will create jobs in Montana’s forests, keep communities safe, protect clean water and safeguard Montana’s hunting and fishing habitat for future generations,” he wrote.
According to White, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act has failed to gain the support of some Montanans. He said he introduced House Resolution 4 because “Senator Tester has refused to listen to the folks in southwest Montana, including ranchers, property owners, miners, recreation groups and local governments.”
The individuals in the counties affected by the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act are concerned about their livelihoods and what Tester’s bill could do to them, according to White. He said it fails to protect mineral reserves, private property and prospects for future lumber harvests.
White said his passion for the opposition to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act stems from the fact that “thousands of people have contacted the senator and asked for these things to be included, and they are important.”
Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act also violates many federal laws, according to White.
“He has refused to comply with the 1964 Wilderness Act in the requirement to inventory and identify all precious mineral reserves and private inholding prior to wilderness designation. In his new S 37 Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, he has removed the federal requirement of coordination with local governments,” said White.
According to a legal review provided by Citizens for Balanced Use, Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act violates 10 different laws and several portions of the U.S. Constitution.
– Edited by Nathan Voeller