Montana adopted a new Constitution in 1972, replacing one stating the highest use of the land was to mine it. Fast-forward decades to H.R. 1526, by Republican Rep. Steve Daines, which says the highest use of federal lands is to log them. Both concepts are wrong. Neither logging nor mining nor any other single use should be elevated above the multiple uses Montanans expect from our public lands.
According to Daines’ bill, the Forest Service is required to produce at least half of the sustainable yield of timber each year, putting timber cutting before other uses. This top-down management fiat does not call for a single public meeting.
Contrast it with the bottom-up approach of the spectacularly broad Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front. The Front is the narrow band of public lands linking the high Rockies to the west to critical public and private winter range to the east.
Building on a base of many years, the coalition accelerated its efforts in 2007, held countless meetings and negotiating sessions with agencies, organizations and individuals, and succeeded in introduction in 2011 by then-Senator Max Baucus of S. 364. The final bipartisan product protects the interests of more than 50 groups ranging from birders to bow hunters, from ranchers to back country horsemen, from fly fishermen to bicycle clubs — and many more.
Supporters of S. 364 sincerely invite Daines to help enact this popular “made-in-Montana” effort. Montanans of today and tomorrow will thank him.