Wilderness Bill Holding Loggers Hostage

Aaron Flint posted on December 16, 2010 14:17 :: 1418 Views

If you missed the oft-played clip that followed the agreement between Congressional Republican leaders and President Obama on the tax compromise- it basically went like this:  Obama said the GOP was holding the American people hostage over the tax cuts.  He said, although you normally shouldn’t negotiate with hostage takers- in this case the hostage would get hurt.  That led The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart to basically say: what do most hostage takers do, offer the hostage ice cream?  (Watch the full clip below)

So that got me thinking.  Given all this discussion over the poorly played hostage analogy by President Obama, the hostage analogy is actually the perfect analogy for this whole wilderness debate happening back here in Montana.  For those new to the story, Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has a controversial wilderness bill that he was able to attach as a rider to a more than $1 trillion spending bill that members of Congress are trying to force through during the waning days of the lame duck session.    

The bottom line:  first term Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) has a bill that would create hundreds of thousands of acres of new wilderness in Montana, and also mandate logging.  The Senator has made it clear, no logging mandates without the wilderness.  So essentially what you have happening is a US Senator holding a small, select group of timber companies hostage, all in the hope that he can get his ransom of new wilderness designations across Montana.  Here’s the problem: we all know how this story plays out.  The hostage gets shot.  Recent history shows clear evidence that any effort by the timber companies to actually log the timber would be shot down by the Iron Curtain of US District Judge Don Molloy (L-Missoula) and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  So- if the hostage taker (Sen. Tester) wants the wilderness as his ransom, and we all know that the hostage (the timber companies) will be shot down (by Judge Molloy) once the final deal is negotiated: why would anyone continue to negotiate with the hostage taker?

No matter what your opinion is of the so-called “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act,” it is clear this week that open transparent discourse took a nosedive.  Earlier this week, as The Great Falls Tribune’s John Adams does a great job in pointing out– a staffer to Sen. Tester sent out a chart to a select group of reporters in the state attempting to mislead reporters about who did and did not support the wilderness bill. 

Matthew Koehler with The Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign basically called the document a deliberate lie:

Apparently, the document is supposed to demonstrate that everyone in Montana thinks Senator Tester’s is the greatest bill ever and that only a few people on the left and right have any concerns with the bill or the fact that it has been attached to the Senate’s $1.3 trillion spending bill.

Without question, I believe the document is one of the most dishonest, incomplete, desperate pieces of information Senator Tester’s has sent out regarding this bill. For starters, it’s common knowledge that Montanans from all walks of life have been expressing serious, substantive concerns about key aspects of the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act for nearly 18 months.

You can click here to see the original document sent out by the Tester staff, and click here to see a chart put out in response by Congressman Rehberg’s staff. 

Adams points out another interesting historical footnote:

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.

Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) held a tele-townhall last night with constituents.  After the event, he had this to say in a prepared statement Thursday afternoon.

“The Montanans I heard from are just as opposed to the legislation itself as they are to the underhanded tactics being used to force it through Congress,” said Rehberg.  “The pro-con breakdown of this call mirrors the 22 public meetings I held earlier this year. 

“Montanans have to be able to provide input,” said Rehberg.  “When you’re out there manufacturing support, it can be easy to start believing your own push-polls and assume the racket of the echo-chamber is actually an army of supporters behind you.  That’s when you risk making bad decisions.”

Seems to me that if Senator Tester truly wants to help these loggers out, instead of using them as bargaining chips for new wilderness, he would quit holding the wilderness ransom over the head and simply press for common sense management of our forests. That in itself should be expected of our representatives.   

Watch The Daily Show clip with Obama and the hostage takers comment by clicking below. 

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