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About These Overheated Responses to the Tester Wilderness “Gaffe”

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You may heard this past week that Senator Tester falsely claimed in an interview with Montana Public radio that “every logging sale” in Montana is under litigation.

Let me be clear: Tester was wrong, and should be held accountable for his error, something the first wave of news stories did. It’s important for the media to hold politicians accountable for their remarks, although I find it troubling that some politicians in Montana can routinely lie without censure simply because they’re not seen as honest in the first place. That being said, Tester did what he needed to do: acknowledged his error and apologized for it.

The response, however, has been hyperbolic and not entirely intellectually honest.

Writing from his perch in the Missoulian, George Ochenski compared Tester’s statement to Adolf Hitler’s “Big Lie,” a comparison so specious as to defy analysis—and, apparently, standards for editing and judgment.

Over at the Great Falls Tribune, John Adams once again gave a platform from which environmentalist Matt Koehler could launch another serious of attacks on Tester, without mentioning that Koehler has spent years in an almost-obsessive crusade against Senator Tester, a copy-paste crusade that has often put the interests of protecting Montana wild spaces at a level well below that of attacking the Senator. In his full-paragraph access to the Tribune, Koehler repeated the same litany of complaints he posts non-stop online about Senator Tester, without any context or analysis of his remarks. That missing context provides the fringe environmentalist groups Koehler represents the opportunity to misrepresent the reality of litigation today. In other online sources, Koehler even went as far as to suggest that Senator Tester was responsible for a climate of violence against environmental activists, an incredibly opportunistic and unreasonable claim.

If we’re going to talk about being honest here, those opposed to Senator Tester probably need to offer a little more truth in their analyses. The fact is that litigation is a critical part of  the wilderness dilemma in Montana, because, combined with the housing crash and international competition, litigation has made timber harvest much more challenging. For environmental fringe groups to pretend to be outraged by the notion that litigation delays timber development ignores the reality that litigation—and the threat of litigation—have absolutely stifled development. Ask US Forest Service Deputy Chief Jim Hubbard:

“In your part of the country—south-central Montana in particular— a huge role. It has virtually shut things down on the National Forest, and so environmental clearance there, collaborative or not, has been difficult.”

The Missoulian’s Rob Chaney also reported that the litigation web is so complex that it’s difficult to measure its impact on forest harvest:

“There’s nothing in the cut-and-sold reports about lawsuits – it’s just about timber sales,” said Todd Morgan of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “And that doesn’t get at this spider web of connectivity, where one project gets litigated and it has an impact on lots of other projects. What they’re measured by is not always really clear.”

From the Flathead Beacon:

The persistent litigation of timber sales, which can stall a project for three to five years, has both timber executives and forest managers concerned. “That’s a huge concern for us as an agency,” said Rob Carlin, planning staff officer for the Flathead National Forest. “Our mission is to manage vegetation in a variety of ways. If we lose the biggest tool to do that, and the biggest tool is timber harvest, we don’t have other tools to treat the forests and vegetation except fire.”

And a study published in the Journal of the Society of American Foresters does argue that litigation plays a major role in reducing timber harvest volume:

“The Northern Region has experienced a relatively high level of litigation,” said Forest Service spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown. “From 2008 through 2013, the region had more than 70 projects litigated. In recent years, litigation has encumbered as much as 40 to 54 percent of the region’s planned timber harvest volume.”

If we want to talk about propaganda techniques, it’s hard to overlook some members of the environmental movement using Tester’s misstatement to mask the fact that they do use litigation to delay or block timber sales across the state. Of course they do. They even tout their success in blocking timber harvest through the courts.

Tester is never going to satisfy the extreme environmentalist movement. He’s never pretended to be in their camp and neither are the vast majority of Montanans who do want a compromise solution. Back in 2014, Tester told the Flathead Beacon:

Now, for those folks who don’t want any trees cut, they’re probably not going to be too happy with that. But the truth is, that isn’t a realistic outcome, and it’s not a good strategy for managing Montana’s forests. A lot of the folks who are opposed to this don’t want anything to happen, they are perfectly happy with obstructionism and that’s not how you move a country forward. That’s not how you do what’s right for Montana.”

So the real truth? Montana, for all its natural splendor, is a state that has always struggled with the balance between environmental protection and resource extraction—and is a state with thousands of people who depend on forestry jobs. That our Senator works to balance those interests is not only a reflection of his sound policy-making, but a reflection of the fact that he does need to represent all of the people of Montana. And he’s managed to do that while achieving an 86% lifetime score from the League of Conservation Voters. Steve Daines, on the other hand? 2%.

And let’s not lose sight of what Senator Tester has accomplished.

I’m reminded again of the piece by the Montana Wilderness Association’s John Gatchell and Cameron Sapp, who argue that it’s precisely because Senator Tester is willing to compromise that 650,000 acres in Montana are now protected:

The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act was included in an omnibus package of 70 public land bills that was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, a package that also included the North Fork Watershed Protection Act. Together, these two bills permanently protect more than 650,000 acres of public land in the Crown of the Continent, one of the most magnificent ecosystems on Earth.

While environmentalist groups on the political fringes excel at getting press attention, Senator Tester and the mainstream environmental groups they marginalize excel at protecting Montana wild spaces, despite operating in a political climate that is far more hostile than during the environmental heyday of the 1960s and 1970s.

Am I telling progressives who want better protection of Montana’s wildernesses not to be critical of Senator Tester? Certainly not. Our public officials need to be held accountable—and should be expected to apologize for misstatements.

But those who, whether driven by personal animus, pervasive online presence that rivals South Korean gamers, inflexible ideology or just plain opportunism, seem to obsess over attacking Senator Tester have to realize at some level that they are merely useful idiots for the real threat to Montana wilderness. We’re already seeing conservative blogs and “media” outlets in Montana—most of whom want far more timber sales than Tester would ever support—using the story about his misstatement against him. Are those interested in protecting Montana’s wild spaces really better served attacking Senator Tester so that we can elect a reactionary like Ryan Zinke to the Senate? Those in the environmental movement who are so critical of Senator Tester would do well to consider the alternatives their overheated rhetoric might help create.

Tester was wrong in his facts this time, but he’s far more often right for the people of Montana. His work to develop compromise wilderness legislation and protection is far more important than these poorly conceived comments.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we\'d certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

52 Comments

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  • Don

    Rhetoric aside, the important message of George Ochinski’s column is that due to excessive logging by private interests, our forests are already hacked up beyond reasonable limits. As an ecologist I can attest to the damage done to our wildlife habitat.

    That is why the FS is litigated. They continue to ignore limits. Our public lands are being treated as a credit card for the timber industry–and the timber industry financial interests–is not in the interests of Montanans and the rest of the country’s citizens that own these lands.

    That should be the focus. Not defending the excessive roading, logging, and destruction of wildlife habitat that is on-going.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      To be honest, that’s my real frustration. There is a real debate to be had about proper management of forests, but the rhetoric has become so heated as to make it impossible. Now, I’m not suggesting that Senator Tester hasn’t used excessively passionate rhetoric, but just a quick look online (or even in this thread) demonstrates that the passions of the pro-wilderness crowd are often so extreme that they alienate potential allies.

      If they want a voice in Congress to represent their science, they should probably stop calling Senator Tester a “whore” or a Nazi, to name just a few. You don’t win a lot of friends that way–and I’d argue working to persuade the Senator instead of demonizing him might not be good for fundraising, but it would be good for the forests.

      • Agreed it is best to avoid the rhetoric though there is some value in “framing” issues with rhetoric concepts. For instance, the Republican’s use of “tax burden” instead of tax obligation to support schools, roads and the like.

  • If I may indulge your patience, I would like to quote a passage from Battle for the Big Sky about Tester and FJRA:

    “Tester’s bill is an attempt to do the impossible: find common ground between the traditional, Pinchot-style conservationists and Muir preservationists. Perhaps that is why the bill is controversial and why it’s not overwhelmingly popular with any one group. But it is exactly because Tester attempts to square the circle that it is notable. Tester believes his job is to make government function well while addressing a seemingly irresolvable difference.”–pp. 95.

    This is what is key and why he draws fire from the left and right at times. Tester’s remarks are worrisome because it puts his honest broker reputation at risk. It is quite repairable, however, and I expect he will recover.

  • Tester has shown a willingness to sell out wolves and our forests without any apparent understanding of the consequences, the ecology of these systems, their importance to our water supplies and streams. This is why I no longer vote for democrats..they have sold out their constituents and are generally spineless. The media does not help when it passes on these false statements without any due diligence, but these days it is the corporate media, like the corporate democrats (Tester) so the truth lies hidden beneath false rhetoric and opinion, not facts.

  • This article illustrates the kind of sad, cynical hackery that characterizes the Democratic Party today. Due to its total collusion with Big Corporate Money’s various exploitative agendas, it has lost it the backing of so many progressive Americans who can no longer stomach its spineless complicity with the forces of the 1% who care nothing for citizens and their rights.

    In the present case, it’s about whoring for the Timber Industry. Tester is a poster boy for that kind of genuflection to power and his intemperate lie on timber sales shows him up as what he is.

    Democrats in Montana and nationally spend a great deal of time deceiving the public and then doing damage control when their real allegiance to the Corporate Tyranny becomes too glaringly obvious. It isn’t working, boys. We all know what you are now.

  • At the very, very, very bottom of all of this is the fact that the Forest Service frequently violates the law, and that is why litigation occurs (and often succeeds). The Chief of the Forest Service loves to complain about litigation, when what he should be doing is making sure his own agency adheres to laws and regulations, thereby not getting sued. In the Washington Post article there was this, too:

    “The Forest Service also recognizes the important role of environmental groups who challenge some of its decisions. ‘Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,’ said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. ‘If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.'”

  • In my experience Democrats can do as much damage to the environment and to functional democracy as Republicans. Pretty much two wings on the same bird. In a way, Democrats can sometimes fly under the radar and pull off damage with less public detection because they are cast as more caring about the environment and functional democratic process.
    In the case of Senator Tester, I think early on he was given bad information by certain “conservation” groups, (MWA, MT WF, MT TU, TWS, ??), and that led him to throw some long-time staunch conservationists under the bus.
    Friends of the Bitterroot, a group that I work with, was not invited to participate in the “Beaverhead Partnership” even though we had years and many thousands of dollars along with the blood, sweat and tears that it takes for an all volunteer grass roots group to help protect wildlands, watersheds and wildlife. FOB claims as members, Stewart Brandborg who carried the W Act torch after Zahnhiser died, and Clif Merritt, another Montanan who played a great national role in the W movement. Anybody who knows FOB, like the aforementioned “conservation” groups would have, would know that FOB would not say no to an invitation to join the “Beaverhead Partnership”. We were excluded. And we were castigated, along with other grassroots conservation groups, as “extremist/obstructionists”.
    Extremist?? There has not been a lawsuit against a timber sale in the Bitterroot for nine years. The last time any significant dent was made in a proposed timber sale was in 2001, when as a part of a court sanctioned litigation settlement FOB, after negotiating the cut out of roadless land and the best fisheries, signed off on 60 million board feet of timber cut, over 6 years worth of timber supply at the time. We made a compromise, but we didn’t compromise our mission; we didn’t start with a compromise reduced to a supposed ‘political reality’; and we had a bottom line, below which we would not go.

    The “Beaverhead Partnership” invitation only proposal was incorporated into Tester’s FJRA bill, but only after further compromise and then compromise again. Always less wildland protection at each ‘balanced’ compromise step. We especially had a long standing interest and investment in the West Pioneer WSA because of its biological value. Tester’s FJRA bill would protect two small snake-eye shaped areas as Wilderness. These small fragments would be surrounded and divided by the lion’s share of the WSA designated as snowmobile play area in perpetuity. No matter if it becomes apparent in the future that rare wolverine denning or fisher feeding habitat is being trashed by snowmobiles. Sorry, it’s permanent, no science needed.
    Not to mention that the dividing of the vastly diminished wildland acreage further vastly diminished the biological value by surrounding and fragmenting the wildlife habitat spared with motorized use, forever.
    There goes the West Pioneer baby we’d been watching for years. No questions asked. No science. No open public input, even up to Forest Service NEPA standards. Lee Metcalf, an honorable Democrat and author of Montana’s Wilderness Study Act, crying in his grave.

    The main problem I see is bigger than any acreage figures. Senator Tester repeatedly and with limited/selected information steps out onto slippery and very dangerous policy slopes regarding public land and wildlife management and regarding functional democratic process. Tester wants to legislate logging from DC. He would mandate logging levels far in excess of historic levels, disregard science and essentially turn our National Forests into countless individual local fiefdoms open to local collaborative clearance sales of our national forest legacy. Tester has tried to pass FJRA on a night rider attached to a ‘must pass’ funding bill. Tester delisted wolves with a night rider. That, I believe, was the first legislated override of the Endangered Species Act. The Farm Bill undercuts science and further removes the public from any meaningful influence on public land management. What Tester can’t pass in the light of day he is more than willing to sneak by in the dark.

    Tester is good on many things like veterans affairs, native nations, protecting small farmers, etc, but he is very bad for conservation and public participation in public land management.
    Wildlands and at, a certain point, wildlife are like Humpty Dumpty. Don’t break em because all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put em back together again.

    • Thanks for mentioning the West Pioneers, Larry. It’s as glaring an indictment of Forest Service mismanagement as I can imagine; the FS utterly failed in its legal mission to protect a Congressionally designated WSA for possible inclusion in the NWPS, turning a wonderful wild area into an ORV playground while the agency was legally required to maintain its suitability as wilderness..

      As much as I appreciate Don’s analysis & writing on this site, I have to say that the “neutral” standing he appears to be giving the FS in this post is misplaced; the FS is not neutral in the least, but overall is decidedly and demonstrably anti-wilderness.

      • Dean,

        I appreciate the comment. The truth is I don’t know enough about Forest Service mismanagement, but the voice that seem to dominate the discussion in Montana don’t do much to build support for their position, focusing absurdly on attacking Democrats who aren’t strong enough on the environment.

        I appreciate people who are willing to build coalitions and inform people without Nazi comparisons. 🙂 Feel free to send more information my way.

  • It would be helpful if you (Pogie), or Senator Tester, or other Democrats fond of throwing around the term “extreme environmentalist” or “extreme environmentalist movement” would provide the rest of us non-aligned citizens of Montana a definition. What is your criteria? Is citizen-enforcement of national laws really a bad thing? Is there such a thing as too much public participation in the democratic process? Or is being too effective a fault? I’d really appreciate it if you’d spell it out and tell us what you mean.

    • This is going to be complicated. There are moderates and there are extremists.

      A moderate is someone whose passion for an issue is “average in amount, intensity, quality, or degree.”

      An extremist is someone who is extreme, which means “furthest from the center or a given point; outermost.”

      Given that the groups you defend constantly bash the middle for being too moderate, isn’t extremist a fair characterization? If you have a better term for me, I will certainly adopt it.

  • Nice post. I think Tester can be forgiven for a lot of the logging sales are of the de minimus type, along easements, that can’t be appealed. The Forest Service has done a lot more of those in recent years given the current litiguous nature of the extreme environmental community, especially with all the beetle killed trees that topple over into the road when there is a strong wind.

    • Keep in mind that almost all–if not all these timber sales lose money. They are gifts to timber company executives and stockholders.In the old days when most of the environmental community in Montana was trying to save public lands and public money, this was a constant theme. A theme that seems to have been forgotten.

      Again keep in mind that the subsidies do not include all the damage done by logging operations–fragmentation of wildlife habitat, soil compaction, water pollution, roads that leak sediments into stream killing trout, weed invasions that follow roads into timbered stands, disturbance to sensitive wildlife, removal of biomass (dead trees are ecologically more important than live trees), and the impacts on scenic quality as well. If any of these “costs” were included, there is no way anyone but an industry hack would support logging in Montana. That’s the problem–all of these costs are being ignored by everyone including the FS for the most part–though it’s their job to articulate these costs.

  • Thanks for your thoughts.

    Now I’d like you to help me understand why being “moderate” or in “the center” is automatically a more desirable place to stand socially or politically in a democratic republic. Do you believe there is a legitimate role for anyone, even one with “extreme” views, in this debate about public lands and constitutional, due-process rights?

    Do you see “the center” as occupying a much larger space than “the extreme?” Or an equal and necessary space?

    And to add a bit of context, would you agree that the center, or status quo, is steadily trending in the direction of a more authoritarian, further-to-the right society? If you agree the environment has changed, isn’t it possible that yesterday’s “moderate” could be considered today’s “extremist” by simply staying in one place as the universe trends toward the authoritarian-right?

    I’m thinking of Muir, Thoreau, Emerson, Gandhi, King, et al. Extremists? If so, it’s good company to keep IMO.

  • Tester’s lie was intended to reach as many people as possible. It was broadcasted via mass media. it would nice if his lie could be exposed via mass media. And calling out a lie is not a matter of satisfying environmentalists or anyone or group; it’s a simple matter of satisfying the truth. Somewhere along the way, politics and politicians decided the truth is inconvenient. In my view, calling a lie a “gaffe” is itself a lie. It’s time integrity be demanded of politicians, journalists… everyone.

    • I don’t think I made the claim that being a moderate or an extremist was better. It depends on context. One of my favorite passages from MLK comes from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, when he wrote “So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be.” There are certainly times and places where extremism is warranted. I know this isn’t a popular view with some, but I think we do need to balance the needs of communities that depend on logging with the interests of wilderness preservation.

      And I disagree, I think, with your premise that we are trending towards a more authoritarian society, at least in the long run? You speak of Thoreau, who lived during a time when slavery was legal and women had few rights in our country. Things are better today.

      Now if you’re arguing that we are moving more to the right than we were in the 1970s or 1960s, I’d accept your premise, at least in terms of economic justice and equality. And I think we do need to push back. The difference between us, I think, is that we see different paths to fight back against those pressures and may have different priorities.

  • Was Tester’s first lie, about doing,”all that he could” to protect Montana’s remaining road less lands,during his debate with Burns ?

  • I see you’re ready to move on. Very well then.

    The following senators did not attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: Sen. Al Franken (Minn.), Sen. Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sen. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) Nor did VP Biden.

    Senator Tester where are you when this country really needs you?

  • Good for them. After the trillions of dollars and military backing we have given Israel over the years, Netanyahu comes to our house and disses us with his irrational paranoia. Taking a play from Dick Cheney’s Machiavellian playbook Netanyahu is defying his own intelligence, not to mention ours. I’m not sure what your point is Steve, but Tester’s claims (the subject of this thread) were lies. Plain and simple.

  • And at same time came Senator Tester’s big, flat lie about Bakken crude going into the KXLLimited Partnership pipeline proposition.

    And if Bakken MarketLink, pumping crude oil into dilbit carring Keystone KXL, will not be built, then KXL is a private carrier w public carrier status, and Tester gets another Pinnochio.

    KXL essentially a two end tube from foreign suppliers, to mostly foreign owned diilbit refineries at tidewater seaports in Texas.

    Maybe Tester is on schedule morphing more and more into another rubber stamper. Another, yes man, saying stuff his new base craves to hear!

  • Steve, thanks for telling us who did not go to sit under Bibi.

    I’m old, but what I heard him say was: 1. Stop negotiation progress with Iran, 2. consider more sanctions against Iran(imposible without Russian and Chinese joint sanctions, therefore), 3. make war against Iran.

  • Pogie, you’re gonna have to do an Elm Street on me, meet me in a dream. I know you. You’re a moral coward. Coward. Coward. Coward. An intellectual tool. Tool. Tool.

    A mentor of kids. (Yikes! I just scared myself. This is your nightmare, dammit!)

    And you’ve set up your website so even anonymous comments don’t seep through.

    Creep. Coward. Hall monitor.

    • I don’t mean to tell you how to live your life, but given that you are posting your typical nonsense anonymously under yet another pseudonym while attacking me for blocking anonymous comments, perhaps you should consider not drinking before posting?

      Please see the commenting guidelines here:
      https://themontanapost.com/commenting/

      You’re more than welcome to comment, as you make the case better than I could hope to, about the irrationality of some who oppose Senator Tester. But please try to limit your comments to one user name.

      Thanks for being you.

  • Don: For a guy who’s done some decent mainstream Montana news media critiques before, you sure rush off to those same Montana mainstream news outlets in hopes of bolstering whatever point you are trying to make here.

    Ironically, unless I missed it, you never manage to actually link to, or quote from, the official Washington Post Fact-Checker article, so I have posted (via cut-n-paste) a large chunk of that WaPost Fact-Checker since it actually helps serve the dual role of also fact-checking some of the inaccurate statements and false rhetoric in many of the quotes you decided to highlight. And speaking of Montana news media critiques, the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker is really a fact-check on the Montana news media, as much as it was on Senator Tester.

    It’s interesting that you decided to highlight a quote that Jim Hubbard, the deputy chief of state and private forestry for the Forest Service, made during a July 2013 hearing before the GOP-controlledHouse Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation. Rep Steve Daines served on that Subcommittee and likely had a big role in hand-picking panelist who would deliver the Rep Daines/Rep Doc Hastings/Western GOP message and agenda regarding public lands management and logging in particular.

    Back on July 18, 2013 I wrote this Fact-Checker article (http://bit.ly/1wHTsd6) for a Forest Policy Blog I contribute to taking Rep Daines, Hubbard and others to task to false/inaccurate statements. Strange, isn’t it, that you try to discredit us by going to statements made during a dog-n-pony pro-logging panel put together by the far-right GOP House, including Rep Daines and Rep Doc Hastings, eh?

    Moving on, it’s funny that while you write: “The Missoulian’s Rob Chaney also reported that the litigation web is so complex that it’s difficult to measure its impact on forest harvest,” and then offer up a quote from the pro-timber industry researcher at the pro-Big Business Montana Bureau of Business and Economic Research.

    Weird, isn’t it, that you write that the Missoulian’s Chaney has such a supposed hard time reporting on litigation because the “web is so complex” but you fail to let your blog readers know that the Fact-Checker at the Washington Post actually had very little difficulty (well, once he got around Tester’s lies, miscorrection and some USFS foot-dragging) investigating the fact that right now there are 97 National Forest timber sales under contract and just 4 are prevented from logging by a court-order.

    Next, you quote a Forest Service timber sale planner from the Flathead NF in a very one-sided Flathead Beacon article that didn’t quoted or source from anyone in the greater environmental community, but only quoted very pro-logging types. So again, that’s a pretty curious source for you to use, don’t you think? An entirely one-sided article featuring only pro-timber industry voices? Wow.

    As for the statement you highlight in that one-sided article, “The persistent litigation of timber sales” must be viewed in the contest of the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker findings, which again, you mysteriously manage not to post anywhere here, even though the Washington Post article is THE reason (well, and Tester’s logging lies) we’re having this discussion in the first place.

    Koehler even went as far as to suggest that Senator Tester was responsible for a climate of violence against environmental activists, an incredibly opportunistic and unreasonable claim.

    Next, let’s look at your highlighting of the quote from USFS spokeswoman Elizabeth Slown. (Warning: Some of what’s directly below I have already written about, so to same me some time and hassle I am cutting-n-pasting).

    Did you know that USFS Region One includes all 9 National Forests in Montana and 2 National Forests in Idaho, in addition to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands? And really, those 2 National Forests in Idaho that are part of USFS Region 1, used to be 5 National Forests, but the Nez and Clearwater were combined into one National Forest, while the Idaho Panhandle National Forest actually includes the former Coeur d’Alene, Kaniksu, & St. Joe National Forests. In other words, those Idaho National Forests in USFS Reg 1 are fairly big and include a lot of timber, and therefore big timber sales.

    Anyway, it’s clear that Senator Tester’s original lie and subsequent mis-correction was related specifically to USFS timber sales in Montana, not USFS timber sales in Region 1, which includes those Idaho National Forests mentioned above. So this is not really even an apples-to-apples comparison.

    But even leaving that aside, keep in mind that 70 lawsuits over a 6 year period (NOTE: I interpret Slown’s “from 2008 through 2013” to be a 6 year period, we’d have to check the spreadsheet to make sure) in a USFS Region 1 that includes 11 National Forests would be approximately 1 timber sale lawsuit per National Forest per year. Honestly, that’s really very much in the ballpark with what the WaPost Fact-Checker found, and really doesn’t prove your point Don, or the timber industry’s point either. All that number represents is much-larger area over a much-longer period of time (6 times as long, to be exact).

    Then you pick out some vague quote from Sen Tester in which he sets up a strawman argument (i.e. those folks who don’t want any trees cut). Who are “those folks?” Do we have specific names and specific examples? Nope. Of course, notice that Don prefaces that whole paragraph by saying “Tester is never going to satisfy the extreme environmentalist movement.” Oh, you mean the “those folks” who are never identified and may not even exist, but make for a good strawman argument?

    Steve Kelly has asked you about ‘extremists’ so I’ll leave that debate to you too, but I do know that all the conservation groups I work with on public lands management support public lands management that is science-based, legal and conducted through processes (such as NEPA and NFMA) that are open, inclusive and transparent. That hardly seems “extreme” or honestly even that hard “to satisfy.”

    So, I guess I’ll leave it at that before encouraging people to read the actual Washington Post Fact-Checker article, which contains a bunch of fact-checked, directly sourced information on the USFS timber sale program in Montana. Again, the fact that Don failed to provide a link, or some of these fact-checked facts in his blog post is a real head-scratcher.

    P.S. Don, you wrote “Koehler even went as far as to suggest that Senator Tester was responsible for a climate of violence against environmental activists, an incredibly opportunistic and unreasonable claim.” As a matter of fact, I didn’t go so “far as to suggest that Senator Tester was responsible for a climate of violence against environmental activists.” If you believe otherwise Don, please post the proof here. What I did, in fact, do was point out that there has been a recent and past climate of violence and violet threats directed towards Montana citizens who care deeply about national forest management, and that this was all the more reason why Senator Tester should immediately correct his entirely false statements about USFS timber sale lawsuits in Montana and issue an apology.

    Montana senator twice gets his facts wrong on timber sales and litigation
    By Glenn Kessler February 25
    http://wapo.st/18kUG33

    “Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.” – Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), interview with Montana Public Radio, Feb. 18, 2015

    “Nearly half of the awarded timber volume in Fiscal Year 2014 is currently under litigation.” – revised statement issued by Tester’s staff, Feb. 19, 2015

    Our inbox started flowing with e-mails from outraged residents of Montana shortly after Montana Public Radio ran an interview in which Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)  asserted that “every logging sale” in the state was “under litigation.” The complaints also reached the radio station, as within a day, Tester’s staff offered a revised statement that focused on “volume” rather than sales. Marnee Banks, his spokeswoman, apologized for the original statement, but Tester himself made no comment.

    But when we asked Tester’s staff for evidence to back up the revised statement, they simply directed us to the U.S. Forest Service, rather than explain the data themselves. It’s taken a few days to unravel the numbers, but this is a case of apples and oranges, with a few limes thrown in.

    What’s the actual effect of litigation on logging in Montana?

    The Facts

    …[I]n 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet — enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.

    The Forest Service also recognizes the important role of environmental groups who challenge some of its decisions. “Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,” said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. “If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.”

    But, despite Tester’s protestations, there is relatively little litigation involving timber sales — and even when there is, it generally does not halt logging operations.

    First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging….

    In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation.

    Meanwhile, there are problems with Tester’s revised statement. In that case, he tried to change the subject by changing the metrics. “What we gave was volume of sales,” acknowledged David Smith, another Forest Service spokesman. “That’s quite different from number of sales litigated.”

    But it turns out that the volume of sales under litigation (69.4 million board feet) was being measured against annual timber volume (145.3 million board feet). That is apples and oranges, since “very little of this 69.4 million has been cut this year,” Noel acknowledged.

    Moreover, “under litigation” is a rather expansive term because it includes projects which are still being logged even as disputes are settled in courts. (The Forest Service also sometimes counts as “under litigation” areas which are not under contract or where an environmental group simply has said it intends to sue.)

    The Forest Service ultimately provided a figure of 271.3 million board feet that is under contract in Montana, as of Dec. 31, 2014. Given that many of the projects being litigated are being logged, it is unclear how much has been cut already. So the only reliable figure we can use is the projected volume of the four projects that are enjoined from any logging: Miller West Fisher (15.4 million board feet), Swan Flats (6), Lunar Kraft (4.3) and Meadow Creek (2).

    That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”

    We should also note that of Montana’s nine national forests, only three have projects under contract that have been halted by litigation.

    The Pinocchio Test

    Given that Tester is the senior senator from Montana, his comments on litigation in Montana’s national forests are embarrassingly wrong. In both statements, he was wildly off the mark. He needs to brush up on his facts — and his math — before he opines again on the subject. Four Pinocchios

    • Don

      A second issue that I think underlies this entire issue is the misinformation that is spread by the Forest Service, politicians and others about wildfire ecology. I do not expect Daines, Tester, Bullock,etc. to be experts on fire ecology, but they are misrepresenting the latest science.

      And if anyone, including some environmental groups, the Forest Service and/or politicians are going to claim they support scientific management of our forests, than they need to do their homework. Many of the underlying assumptions behind public statements and assertions are based on questionable science or ignores the latest scientific findings.

      For instance the assumption that logging will reduce large wildfires is questionable at best. There are a number of scientific reviews that have looked at the question of whether logging can reduce wildfires and they have concluded that “fuel reductions” have minimum impact because most large wildfires are largely driven by severe weather/climate conditions, not fuels.

      The failure of logging to prevent large fires is abundantly clear throughout Montana where heavily logged drainages–many of these owned by Plum Creek–have burned in large wildfires. Jocko Lakes, Lolo Creek, Gold Creek, just to name a few of the larger fires that have burned through previously logged areas.

      Most of the forest types in Montana that have burned in wildfires are forest types that have long intervals between fires. In other words they naturally have a slow build up of fuels–not due to fire suppression–but simply because the conditions for a large fire do not exist for decades to hundreds of years. These forest types dominated with tree species like lodgepole pine and subalpine fir. etc. are not “unhealthy” or “out of historic condition”. They are perfectly healthy.

      In addition, science shows that the second highest biodiversity found in western forests are in those that are severely burned. In other words, if you consult the science, you do not refer to burnt forests as some kind of disaster.

      Indeed. by contrast there is abundant evidence that logging degrades forest ecosystems. This is conveniently ignored by many logging supporters.

      Finally if you want to provide security to people’s homes and property you need to reduce the flammability of homes. Again there is abundant scientific evidence on this as well.

      • Matt – you have a serious vendetta against Tester and, honestly, it’s clearly personal bc you don’t like that he’s embarrassed you a few times. Move on buddy. Move on.

        • Hello anonymous “Ugh.” You clearly don’t want to address any of the public lands policy substance contained within numerous comments on this blog post. My ‘vendetta” (as it is) is against bad public lands management and short-sighted policy changes. I fully supported science-based management of public lands that is grounded in law, economic realities and includes open, inclusive processes such as full NEPA reviews. I also have never once felt embarrassed by Senator Tester. Perhaps if Senator Tester would stick to the facts he wouldn’t get embarrassed by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker. Thanks.

          • Yes, but why do you spend ALL your time going after one policy maker that made you feel bad once. As someone who spends a lot time in wild lands, I’m surprised you can’t see the forest for the trees. BOOM!

            But seriously, I know this is your 15 minutes, but wow…

        • One person has been consistently embarrassed when Sen. Tester and Koehler square off. That one attempts to belittle and tell whoppers, while the other stands on facts documented truths.

          Most people know who’s who in that equation, but in case you don’t may I direct your attention to round 1: http://newwest.net/topic/article/what_testers_outburst_tells_us/C41/L41/

          “The truth is, Tester’s staff isn’t interested in listening to ‘non-supportive’ constituents, more or less considering them bugs on the windshield. And, it seems, they keep the Senator in the dark about attempts by anybody except true-blue followers to affect change in this legislation and end up allowing their boss to embarrass himself at a congressional hearing.”

          You may not like Koehler’s persistent advocacy of Montana’s wildlands, but you can’t call him a liar and be anything but a hack. You could fact-check Koehler all day long and you’ll never find anything close to the whoppers Tester and his supporters have spread over the past six or seven years. Koehler’s numerous emails and comments are sometimes annoying in their length and detail, but they’re full of facts and substance, and hardly “extreme.”

          Regardless of where you stand in this debate, we all have to agree there’s NO place for lies, especially from the bully pulpit.

          • Adams, good to see you here and outta the corporate GF Spitoon. And now, take the gloves off! Hey, their your mountains TOO, dude!
            “Life is a desperate struggle to succeed in being in fact that which we are in design.” Ortega y Gasset
            I believe that you were designed to be a REAL reporter. Now, go and succeed at that. SCREW the consequences. The Environmental Rangers learned loooong ago that there ain’t no cavalry comin’. No one is comin’ to your rescue. You want sumthin’ done, then you gotta do it!
            Good to see you writing with OUT the Gannett collar. Now, maybe you’ll understand that old copper collar metaphor a leetle better too, and figure out just who the real bad guys are in Montana. A guy can actually LIVE on bean, oatmeal, and eggs for years. I know. I’ve done it. But by GOD I lived on my feet doing it!
            Peace, dude.

          • Word! Koehler is a straight shooter and a good writer. I always learn something from his pieces because they are crammed full of facts. His facts lead right to his conclusions.

            Tester apologists don’t seem to like that.

  • Ugh,

    This cannot be swept under the rug so easily. Sen. Tester exhibits many of the behavioral traits associated with suppressing dissent by intimidation, and ultimately outlawing journalism and “extremist” political activity when some conveniently pre-planned “emergency” arises. His “straight shooter” varish is all but gone, revealing that “bigger-hammer-kind-of -guy” he’s been all along. He needs to apologize and get a grip. I’m not sure he can.

    • p.s. Adams, I was thinkin’ that maybe I could apply for that job as “faith” reporter for the Spitoon. Think I have a chance??? Could I count on a recommendation from you? Thanx in advance!

  • Don Pogreba: “Tester is never going to satisfy the extreme environmentalist movement. He’s never pretended to be in their camp”

    Why then did then dem candidate Jon Tester in 2006 negotiate with Paul Richards that in exchange for Paul’s dropping out of the primary race and swinging his supporters to him, that he would agree to certain specifics on issues important to Paul and his supporters? And yes, in that moment with his agreement with Paul, we all discussed the agreement, and its ramifications, and we let Paul know that we were “satisfied” with Jon’s promises.

    Paul Richards’ core supporters comprised largely of people like the commenters here and on other MT blogs referred to as “extremists” and “radical left wing enviros”, etc. Paul’s supporters appreciated his principled stances to protect wilderness, roadless lands, endangered and imperiled species. We helped Paul to assemble the list of agreements he was to make with Tester, and we advised him that it was ok to make the agreement, we felt so strongly that it was time for Conrad Burns to go.

    Here is what Tester agreed to, with Paul Richards:

    “State Sen. Tester agreed to six terms stipulated by former state Rep. Richards, concerning the Iraq War, protection of Montana’s remaining roadless wildlands, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, settling outstanding Native American claims, and establishing public financing for all federal elections.

    In exchange for these mutually-agreed-upon-with-witnesses terms, Paul Richards agreed to withdraw from the race for U.S. Senate and publicly ask his supporters to vote for Jon Tester.

    News of Richards’ endorsement appeared on front pages of most Montana daily newspapers and was prominent in other media the final week before the election. The endorsement helped carry Tester to a surprisingly large victory over Morrison. Tester and Richards celebrated the win jointly at a June 6, 2006, election night party in Missoula, MT.”

    If that doesn’t show that Tester “pretended to be in their camp” then what is it? Just hollow political rhetoric?

    It shows that Jon Tester has no integrity when it comes to issues important to a significant swath of Montanans. And we expect him to lie about it now, as he has shown hisself to be as corrupt of a politician as the man he replaced, and probably the person who replaces him will only survive by becoming corruptible, too.

  • I really don’t understand how this has become such a heated issue. Yes, Tester misspoke. How horrifying! His misstaken words hasn’t changed his policy and that’s what matters, Matt. Given that he’s been in office 8 yrs, I’m not going to let one guy (Matt) and some bored journalists impact my opinion of him.
    Tester is a straight shooter. Done.
    In terms of politics… how does this hurt him in 4 years?
    This is so tired…

  • The big timber sale litigation lie is being perpetuated by use of the terms “extreme” environmentalists that file “frivolous” lawsuits. Fish and wildlife are given voice in our government processes only through the application and enforcement of environmental laws. What’s so “extreme” about filing a lawsuit when the Forest Service is violating the law? How can a lawsuit be considered “frivolous” when it is filed only after many months, if not years, of a citizen or environmental group attending field tours, reading many hundreds of pages of environmental and research documents, providing feedback, and trying to resolve differences with the agency? Anyone who does not firstly exhaust these “administrative remedies” is barred from the courthouse door – and that’s all the further a “frivolous” lawsuit gets. The only lawsuit holding up logging on the Flathead National Forest was filed only after we attended numerous SW Crown Collaborative meetings and field tours, filed extensive written comments and, when those were largely ignored, filed an administrative appeal that was also largely ignored. The US District Court ruled in our favor largely because the Forest Service refused to provide the wildlife habitat security called for by the plain language of its own Forest Plan standards – which we had asked it to do repeatedly. Rather than rework its timber sale to provide the necessary wildlife security and get on with it, the Forest Service instead says it will appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, further delaying its logging project. Maybe those of us that insist fish and wildlife have a seat at the table, even if it means going to court, would not appear so “extreme” if other conservation collaborators would quit sitting on their hands and also insist the Forest Service follow the law. In the end, attempts to marginalize those who are trying to enforce the law also marginalizes concerns for fish and wildlife, reducing their protection to mere lip service.

  • Senator Tester way overreached in his attempt to scapegoat those willing to litigate timber sales. So what is with the smoke and mirrors of calling his error a “wilderness gaff?” It’s only a wilderness gaff if one admits that industry is holding future wilderness designations hostage to get more logging out of public lands – and that some members of Congress have fallen in line with industry in doing the same thing. Scapegoating litigation is simply a smokescreen for scapegoating the needs of fish and wildlife, which just happen to need trees and clean water. Like I said before, protection of fish and wildlife is little more than lip service without citizen enforcement of the laws that protect them – something Senators Tester and Daines are looking to streamline, curb or end-run on industry’s behalf.

    • Being on the wrong side of right is nothing new to Tester that reaped serious campaign cash from debit card companies. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/19/jon-tester-swipe-fees-_n_863907.html They came through with something like $60,000 as I remember. The swipe-fee battle had major Dems are opposite sides. Durbin was the pro-consumer advocate on this one. Tester prevaricated on this not unlike what he has done here to satisfy the wood products industry that has much invested in the outcome. As always, when Tester has come under fire, similar to what Walsh experienced, there is always a willing wordsmith to reframe a lie or an acti of plagiarism as a minor blemish. James Connor has an interesting take. Defending the Sinner Publicizing the Sin. http://www.flatheadmemo.com/archives_2015/march-2015/2015-03-04_defending_the_sinner_publicizing_the_sin.html
      “Yes, Mr. Jones had a bad morning during which he robbed the bank and shot dead the teller, but that was just one bad morning, and yes it was a mistake, but overall he’s led an exemplary life, petting his dog, kissing his mother, helping little old ladies across the street, and being nice to children. In fact, the only reason he attempted an unauthorized withdrawal from a selfish financial institution was to take his mother to the golden beaches of the South Pacific before she died. It’s unfair, unkind, and disloyal to condemn him for just one mistake.”

  • I know that we regular Democratic voters be asked to support Tester in 2018. Before doing this, I’d like to know specifically how Tester differs from Zinke — whom I’m assuming will run against him — with respect to the environment. I know that, sadly, they both favor Keystone XL. But is Zinke’s position on logging any different from Tester’s? Or on mining?

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