Monday, January 4, 2010

The Politics of Public Lands - Montana

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) has crafted legislation to designate 600,000 acres of wilderness, 100,000 acres for logging and 330,000 acres for recreational uses, which would codify most of the areas being used by ATVs and snowmobiles in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

To put together this package, which if successful, most would call his biggest achievement since winning office in 2006, he has held nine public meeting/listening sessions and drawn the backing of diverse groups including the state's Wood Products Association, wilderness advocates and a former Republican Governor.

Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT), the state's only representative to the U.S. House has announced that he'll be gauging the public's response by holding meetings of his own in five western Montana counties.

Because the legislation would open 70,000 acres to immediate logging over the next decade and boost timber harvest to 1970s levels, the U.S. Forest Service says logging component may be unsustainable. Yet, Representative Rehberg has publicly wondered, if Sen. Tester's bill opens enough forest to the practice.

Complicating matters, Rep. Rehberg is reportedly considering a run against Sen. Tester in 2012. Depending on what he hears, his political ambitions may motive him to seek his own stamp on the proposal, or he could oppose the legislation outright and fan the flames against it.
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