Man. I read Senator Jon Tester’s (D-MT) press releases on his wilderness bill this week, and I thought- “wow, that’s a big development.” He got the support from the Department of Agriculture for his wilderness bill.
Of course that wasn’t true, but you have to get beyond the press releases to understand that point. The Undersecretary of Agriculture who spoke at the hearing actually testified that the the department still had many concerns with the bill.
Matthew Koehler, who leads a coalition of environmental groups opposing the bill, said Senator Tester and his staff have been less than truthful in their handling of the bill dubbed “The Forest Jobs Recreation Act.” (I guess babies, puppies, and candy was already taken by another bill.) Koehler added that Tester is trying to pass his wilderness bill as a rider to another piece of legislation- despite campaigning in 2006 against the use of riders.
Click below to listen to Koehler’s reaction:
Click to Listen
As an added note- I find it interesting that Koehler has been booted from Left in the West, which has been a popular liberal blog in Montana. I wondered why that blog has seemed like a ghost town lately.
The wilderness bill also continues to be unpopular with logging, recreation, and agriculture groups as The Missoulian reports.
Several ranchers on the call warned the bill would end their leases to graze cattle on wilderness acres and block their ability to maintain irrigation and watering facilities in the backcountry.
“We really have a hard time trusting the federal government; we’ve seen what they’ve done with the wolves,” said sheep rancher John Helle. “It seems like our federal government is our worst enemy in our fight to stay alive in southwest Montana.”
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont, said on the call he didn’t believe the bill’s landscape stewardship projects would survive court challenges from obstructionists. That would leave forest workers without jobs while wilderness areas got permanent designations. He said he proposed phasing in the wilderness areas as the work projects were approved, but “met with a brick wall of opposition.”