I am a fourth-generation Montanan. I worked as a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service and state wildlife agencies in Montana and Idaho, served as assistant conservation director with the National Wildlife Federation in Washington, DC., and served as The Wilderness Society executive director. I was privileged to advocate for the protection of our public lands legacy, presenting the case for wild land preservation across the nation. During my tenure, Congress passed landmark public lands legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, and laid the groundwork for the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
For 70 years, I have been involved with public lands issues. With this background, it is with deep personal concern that I share reservations about Sen. Jon Tester’s Logging and Recreation Bill, S. 1470. This measure, if enacted, poses a serious threat to our national forests. The Forest Service itself has determined the bill’s mandatory logging quotas to be unachievable, unsustainable and unaffordable.
The Tester bill was conceived in private and written by four corporate logging entities and a few conservation “collaborators.” Deliberations purposefully excluded major players — the Forest Service, local county governments, watershed and irrigation interests, local and state land, wildlife and wilderness interests, and a broad segment of other user groups — who have concern for the long-term protection of our National Forests.
The Tester bill abrogates laws and administrative procedures that have served well to protect our public estate, including the Organic Act that established our National Forest System, the Multiple Use and Sustained Yield Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
Objective review of the Tester bill brings these questions to mind:
• Are congressionally-dictated quotas for logging submarginal and uneconomic timber in the long-term interest of our national forests and adjacent communities?
• Does unsustainable industrial-scale logging of nonproductive federal lands offer the best employment for workers, when compared to sustainable forest and watershed restoration programs?
• Instead of subsidizing roading and logging of fragile forestlands lacking commercial timber, could we better place our priorities upon the plentiful jobs provided by stream bank restoration, culvert maintenance, road obliteration and reclamation, habitat restoration, tree planting, and selective thinning within designated community protection zones?
• Should Congress abandon over 100 years of federal resource protection laws, set in place through bipartisan actions of 50 Congresses, and begin dispensing our national forests to any interest group that gains the ear of any representative or senator?
• Is it wise to set this calamitous precedent from which any member of Congress could dictate the exploitation of public lands, thereby severing our national forest system into 535 separate fiefdoms?
• Do we really want to open this Pandora’s box of special loopholes, corporate subsidies, and federal lands management that statutorily excludes the public?
In years past, Congress responded to voices from the people and protected our national forests from raids of special interest groups. I hope we will again mobilize to protect and defend our priceless public lands legacy.
Stewart M. Brandborg’s testimony before the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests is available at: http://testerloggingbilltruths.wordpress.com/. Brandborg lives in Hamilton.