Forest Bills: Going Nowhere?

I don’t really get too excited about natural resource issues, although there are some folks who take the management of forest service lands very personally. In fact, the Federal government created the U.S. Forest Service way back in 1905 which, according to their website, “is entrusted with 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands.”

That’s a lot of land and the people who use this land all have ideas about how to best take care of it.

Montana is home of the “Northern Region” Forest Service headquarters and their office is in a federal building in Missoula. There are a bunch of people who work there (a bunch). I have been in that federal building several times. The first time I visited the building I got lost, and I walked around for what seemed like days. It was cubicle hell. The same thing happened the second and third time until I marked my trail so I could follow it in and out. Luckily they had vending machines that helped me survive the ordeal. I should have received a medal or something…

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D–Mont., and Congressman Steve Daines R-Mont., both have ideas on how to best manage our forest lands. 

Tester has been attempting to get his bill called, “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act” passed for most of his time in the senate. The major reason why it was not passed was politics. First-term senators are more vulnerable for defeat, so members from the other side of the aisle are less likely to support their bills.

Fresh from a re-election victory, Tester reintroduced his bill in January. The bill number is S.37 and the title is the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2013. It mostly deals with Montana. According to this article, “the Energy and Natural Resources Committee had a hearing on the bill in July and we are awaiting a vote in the committee sometime this fall.”

Daines’ office sent a press release last week with the headline, “DAINES FOREST MANAGEMENT REFORM BILL PASSES HOUSE” with the opening paragraph stating, “The U.S. House of Representatives today passed Congressman Steve Daines’ bill to revitalize Montana’s timber industry and clear the way for active and responsible forest management in Montana. Daines’ bill, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, now heads to the U.S. Senate for consideration.”

I decided to read “Daines’ bill” and found out quickly it was not exactly “Daines’ bill” but that Congressman Doc Hastings, R-Ore., R-Wash., was the sponsor of H.R. 1526. Daines is a co-sponsor of the bill. Several reporters failed to catch that fact – that happens when you just read or copy from a press release.

Since Daines is probably going to run for the U.S. Senate, just about anything he supports will be shelved by Democrats so that he won’t have any “ammo” to help him get votes. It was the same thing for Tester when he was running for re-election against Denny Rehberg. That is a major problem with getting work done in Washington because there is always the next election.

In a perfect world, Tester and Daines would sit down together and draft a bill that they both support and take it to their respective leaders in Washington and get it passed. Of course they will say they are talking about it with each other, but that is just for show.

In the meantime, Montana loses.

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  1. Doc Hastings represents the 4th congressional district in Washington.

    • James – Thanks for this heads-up – I corrected it. -JmB

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