Rehberg and Tester on Wilderness: A Week in Review

While some maintain that there is no difference between Senator Tester and Representative Rehberg when it comes to protecting Montana’s wild lands, the past week provides a stark contrast in their approaches.

A letter to the Bozeman Chronicle from the Montana Sierra Club reveals that Rehberg’s priorities are to strip Montana lands from landmark environmental regulation, using national security as a cover:

Despite its title, HR 1505 is not about making Americans safer. It would pave the way for the type of ecological and cultural damage that currently scars our southern borderlands to be inflicted upon Montana. It is an assault on federal lands and environmental laws using border security as a convenient cover, nothing more.

Par for the course for Representative Rehberg, who never met a patch of land he didn’t want to see an oil well sitting on.

At the same time, Senator Tester has included his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in the Senate Appropriations bill. While some on the far left and some on the far right have spent the past two years making political hay and raising money based on opposition to Tester’s approach, it’s a sensible policy that will protect Montana’s natural wilderness heritage, commercial, and recreational opportunities.

Hell, the bill was supported by the Montana AFL-CIO and the local Chambers of Commerce, demonstrating that it’s a balanced approach.

The Montana Wilderness Association supports the Tester approach:

On June 17, 2009 Senator Jon Tester introduced a new bill: the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act or Senate Bill 1470. After years of hard work, Congress has a bill, championed by a member of the Montana delegation, that proposes new wilderness in Montana. This is the first such bill that Montana has seen in over a decade and, if it succeeds, the first new wilderness designation in Montana in over 25 years.

For many, this bill arises from the ashes of what has been a sordid past for Montana’s wildlands and forest management. That past left some folks jaded and scarred, and often seemed to split Montanans along urban and rural lines.

The collection of business owners, loggers and conservationists at Montana support the bill, too:

By championing the Forest Jobs and Restoration Act, Tester has taken the bull by the horns and is addressing the challenge of keeping jobs in the mills and creating jobs on the land restoring streams and protecting communities from wildfire. The forest bill also protects some our most special areas in the state and safeguards elk security habitat, improves our fisheries, and designates over 600,000 acres of wilderness.

So does the Greater Yellowstone Coalition:

Montana Sen. Jon Tester is unwavering in his efforts to create jobs, restore forests damaged by past practices, protect prized recreation lands and add more than 660,000 acres to the nation’s wilderness system in Montana — including 170,000 acres in Greater Yellowstone.

On May 25, 2011, Tester’s made-in-Montana Forest Jobs & Recreation Act received a hearing in the Senate Public Lands and Forests Subcomittee (read our testimony here and watch a video of sawmill owner Sherman Anderson’s testimony here). Now is the time to show support for a bill that would create new wilderness in Montana for the first time in a quarter-century and put Montanans back to work in the forests.

That Senator Tester has crafted a bill which can be supported by groups so often in opposition to one another demonstrates the kind of leadership he brings to Washington.

There’s a stark choice in this election, no matter what passionate, one-issue advocates on either side might try to make you believe. Representative Rehberg wants to strip environmental protections to the bone and won’t listen to any input from his Montana constituents with whom he disagrees. Senator Tester, on the other hand, not only worked with all the constituent groups affected by this bill, but then worked to craft a bill balancing their interests.

That’s the kind of leadership we need to keep in Washington.

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 would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a 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.


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    • Don, I thought the natural reflex was yours given you penchant to post scurrilous remarks about what Homeland Security in general, and Border Patrol in particular, would do if they were empowered with responsive, operational control to protect our borders without waiting months for permit approvals.

  • Then why isn’t the Border Patrol asking for these changes, Craig? As easy as it may be for you to swallow whatever inane talking point comes out of Rehberg’s office, I’d suggest the people who actually enforce the laws might be better people to ask.|topnews|text|Frontpage

    Kim Thorsen, deputy assistant secretary for law enforcement, security and emergency management at the U.S. Department of Interior, testified to the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands that the Obama administration opposes the measure.

    “We recognize the significant ecological and cultural values of the extensive lands Interior agencies manage near the borders, and we strive to maintain their character and fulfill our mission to protect and preserve these assets on behalf of the American people,” Thorsen said in written testimony to the committee. “We also believe that these two objectives — securing our borders and conserving our federal lands — are not mutually exclusive; we are not faced with a choice between the two, instead, we can — and should — do both.”

  • The reason should be evident to a partisan like you. Those whose jobs are on the line for politically sensitive comments.

    As to the quote from Kim Thorsen, “We recognize the significant ecological and cultural values of the extensive lands Interior agencies manage near the borders, and we strive to maintain their character and fulfill our mission to protect and preserve these assets on behalf of the American people,” Thorsen said in written testimony to the committee. “We also believe that these two objectives — securing our borders and conserving our federal lands — are not mutually exclusive; we are not faced with a choice between the two, instead, we can — and should — do both.” makes the very counterpoint to ANY claim that his agency would run roughshod over environmental concerns if given greater control under HR 1505. The GAO report highlights the friction among the agencies to adequately respond to immediate threats. 1505 solves that. BTW, did you read the testimony of a former Border Patrol officer whose job is not on the line?

  • As for your assertion that Thorsen is not telling the truth because of political concerns associated with her job, I’d suggest you need to offer some proof, lest you fall victim to to “post[ing] scurrilous remarks about what Homeland Security in general.”

    Your testimony from a former member of the Border Patrol might be more credible if it came from an organization and speaker not quite so clearly linked to an overt political agenda. I think their web site makes the case pretty convincingly. (

      • That was the best you could do in three hours? Well done, sir.

        It sure seems like you are questioning Thorsen’s application of her oath–the very thing you accused me of doing in your first comment. Do you believe that Thorsen would deliberately violate her oath to the country and Constitution and lie about this bill?

        If you won’t admit to that, there’s no point in continuing the conversation, which, as always with you, just collapses into an absurd rabbit hole of inconsistency.

        As for Keystone XL, the truth is I don’t know what I think. I’ve read very little about it yet–and hope to soon.

        • Don, oaths are like marriage vows. Only some take it seriously. Whatever Thorsen’s motives to support the administration’s stated position to hamstring the Border Patrol in the feeble excuse that it protects the environment, I leave to your imagination. I see no evidence to the contrary that 1505 would lead to the environmental degradation that is alleged given Thorsen’s own words.

          BTW, I see you have dropped B-birds from your links. Oversight or intentional?

          As to being away for 3 hours, life has its priorities.

              • I’m certainly not suggesting I am innocent. I believe, quite clearly, I’m saying that you use incredibly inconsistent arguments that are laughable in their application.

                In the midst of a thread, you change your position–and you do it every time, rather than debating the merits of the question.

                Better yet, you act like others are motivated by partisanship while you are some kind of objective observer of the truth. Talk about insulting intelligence.

                • Interesting perspective. Here’s my response. I don’t swing at a pitch in the dirt. If one does it’s still a strike if one misses. If one hits it, it doesn’t count.

                  Again, what’s the deal with eliminating your link with B-birds?

                • Perhaps not. But I do know that debating or discussing with someone who can’t maintain even the illusion of consistency is a waste of time.

                  Have a nice evening.

                • Don’t want leave you in misery not knowing. Relationships have discussions, no rules. Competitions have debates, controlled by rules to determine a winner. Have a debate with your wife, partner or children when they come from the conversation frame of reference and see what happens.

                • Geez Don! That guys a little to far out on a dry dead branch…. hanging over a cliff ….in a windstorm of reality… to be helping his cause! Just my Opinion! 🙂

  • This is gonna be a point of contention for the GOP tools of our state for quite some time, because Rehberg has had a head start spreading contagious, felonious talking points and lies to the true believers of his party for a long time!

    I don’t know how many times I have to say this, but this state will always be indebted to the Government for a long time, because the first republicans of this state broke the bank and almost the states spirit.

    In every state that had work done, there is a tribute, statute, or museum explaining the CCC, for some reason this state, which had the brunt of CCC work done during the depression, looked at it as a reason for shame. Why? Because the government came in and saved us?

    History regarding the Great Depression show us that this state was one of the worst off financially. The New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments.

    The CCC was designed to provide employment for young men, and “in relief” or welfare style families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression, while at the same time implementing a general natural resource conservation program in every state and territory. Montana got a great chunk of that mostly forgotten conservation program and the Federal Money that propped up the states citizens, and plus Agriculture and ranching!

    Largely on or near public forest and park lands, where most Montana towns reside, the CCC by 1938’s end had planted 1,456,973,900 trees; put in 8,594,829 man-days at fire fighting & prevention; completed 102,004 miles of trails and roads; killed uncounted millions of prairie dogs, pocket gophers, jackrabbits, practiced “rodent control” on 30,774,000 infested acres; “re-vegetated” (grassed) 267,600 acres of grazing lands; built 41,960 bridges, 5,181 large dams, 3,612 towers and stations for fire lookouts, 68,990 miles of telephone line.

    Montana got upwards of 20% of that CCC emergency endowment for the whole country!

    Its No. 1 private job: erosion control. The Corps shows community groups of farmers how to combat soil-wastage, has built 4,400,490 dams to check erosion. It also digs and maintains ditches for drainage districts organized by local governments and cooperatives. Today it looks to the 84,400,000 acres of U. S. farm land requiring drainage as one of its most useful future fields of operations.

    By statute, CCC purposes were: 1) to provide employment (plus vocational training), and 2) to conserve and develop “the natural resources of the United States.” For this, the CCC between April 5, 1933 and December 31, 1938 spent $2,125,000,000. On its job rolls had been 2,120,000 men, the number varying widely at various times.

    A few hard facts show that the U. S. got more for its money from CCC Policies and practices, to defray the depression and put this state back on the map of Prosperity, than from almost any other depression-begotten experiments. And, it pretty much built every inch of infrastructural property that now resides in this state. Our parks quite literary and the townships around them considered the most pristine in the nation!

    You can read more about the CCC, in general Here:,9171,771421,00.html#ixzz1az091Hdx

    Republicans want us to forget this Depression Government Bailout, saved our hides as Montanans! The rich ranching tools of the GOP wouldn’t have a good life here today, if it wasn’t for the conservation practices of a democratic president…. and I believe Tester is one of the few people who know how well this worked for our farming Communities in the past!

    Rehberg doesn’t give a damn about this state, or how important our relationship is still, to the US Government. We are the forth biggest land mass in the country’s borders, with one of the smallest populations for the US states. We can’t possibly at this time pay for all the new ideas in Infrastructure, let alone the maintenance of what we have now without the feds to continue helping us for quite some time into the future.

    Not Sorry to smack you GOP with a dose of Reality!

  • Keep banging that drum Don. You don’t have to support Tester’s logging bill to draw a distinction between their wilderness positions. But this is what I expect when an analysis like yours fails to look at the pitfalls of Tester’s bill in an honest fashion. There’s too much wrong here for me to take your approach seriously. I just throw my hands up and say, whatever.

    • You’re certainly right. Why should I trust long-term advocates of Montana wilderness like the Montana Wilderness Association when I have your insight on the matter?

      Surely, you’ve studied the issue far more extensively than those right wing hacks at the MWA, Trout Unlimited, and all the other environmental organizations who support the bill.

      • As to your snarky rhetorical question about MWA, here’s another — Why do you trust Tester for his support of the XL pipeline to garner union votes and money? You asked for some pipeline reading, try Counterpunch:

        Rigging the Keystone XL Pipeline
        How to Grease a Pipeline
        by MARGOT KIDDER

        The State Department “hearings” around the country about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline have been rigged from the get go. We were just too passionately righteous to notice. Four of us from Livingston decided to speak at the Montana event…

        “Get out of here!” the first peroxided blonde yelled.

        “I’m just handing out fact sheets.” I said. “I’m a union member too.” I didn’t mention that the union I was referencing was the Screen Actors Guild; it just didn’t seem the right time.

        “We don’t want your facts!! You people have to be over THERE!.”, she said, pointing to distant parking lot, “This parking lot is only for US.!”

        The woman was clearly not from Montana because here we don’t divide our public parking lots into us and thems. In fact she was an organizer from Seattle from a group call the Laborers International Union, which appeared to have, under its umbrella, the Teamsters Union, the Union of Pipefitters, AFL-CIO; the Journeymen’s Union; Construction workers, etc., all of whom had signed an agreement a full year ago with TransCanada.

        I was led away–with force…

        The first 24 speakers in the auditorium out in eastern Montana were pro-pipeline and all parrotted exactly the same talking points, cribbed from the TransCanada Pipeline Co. website. Similar cloned messages came in letters from Governor Schweitzer, Senator Max Baucus, and Senator Jon Tester: 13 to 20 thousand jobs; cheaper gas for Americans; energy security as we would be dealing with those polite, white Canadians who are our friends, and thus no more foreign wars would need to be fought over oil, such as the one in Afghanistan; and a state department environmental study that concludes that the pipeline was subject to strict new rules (not even remotely true) ensuring absolute environmental safety.

        And several of them echoed one line that stood out like a sore thumb: “All these environmentalists who’ve been talking have been trying to scare you with all this stuff about oil spills and global warming. Well, we need jobs, and we need them now. Alternative energy won’t be ready for another 20 years.” And of course, “I bet they drove here in cars, right? They’re hypocrites”. One pro-pipeline speaker ended his three minutes by growling, “And all of those tree-hugging environmentalists can go burn in hell.”

        The only problem with these statements was that not a single environmentalist had yet been given the chance to denounce the pipeline…

      • Let’s just say that I’m not funded by the Pew Foundation to say and do their bidding.

        And actually, yes I have studied the wilderness issue far more extensively than most of the current crop of people who work at these organizations. I helped to conceptualize and write NREPA and advocate for it going back to the late 80’s in response to MWA’s selling its soul for political power and foundation favor. You, on the other hand, ever write or help to write environmental legislation? Didn’t think so.

        You can be as condescending towards me as you want. But that doesn’t matter to me. It just shows how petty you are being.

  • On the bright side, the environmental legislation you wrote has about as much chance of passing as the legislation I haven’t written.

    In all seriousness, could you and lizard please make a list of all the “sellout” organizations and individuals that shouldn’t be trusted? It’s certainly an interesting strategy to demonize your opponents as sellouts for disagreeing with you, but it gets confusing for those of us who make the mistake of seeing them actually achieve aims like protecting the environment instead of grandstanding on absolutist principles which only alienate the general public.

    It would be helpful to me, certainly, to learn which groups I should no longer trust.

    • Don, best of luck to you and the perennial defense of D’s in this state. whether they’re whoring our coal, or allowing a foreign company to seize private property to build a pipeline, or helping to facilitate the destruction of the MM industry, or mandating logging in a depressed economic climate where there is little demand, i’m sure you will find pragmatic arguments to cover their asses.

    • “On the bright side, the environmental legislation you wrote has about as much chance of passing as the legislation I haven’t written.”

      I sure hope you don’t teach your students with an attitude like that. God forbid they might think they can make a difference in the world.

      You’re cynicism and condescension must go over so well in the classroom.

      • And, finally, we’ve reached into the last refuge of typically right-wing commentary. Speculating about the quality of my work as a teacher. How progressive of you.

        Did you guys have time to get that list together yet? Who are the sellouts?

        • Let’s just say Pogie, if you’re going to insult the qualities of my and others’ work, I feel no compunction other than to return the favor.

          And you are going to dip into the “last refuge” trope as a put down? I thought you were a more creative writer than that. I think the last refuge of terrified dems is to attack the left as being a refuge of right wing-style commentary. So there.

          You may not like my tactics, which means I am hitting a raw nerve. But you open the door to cheap shots and off hand remarks, and condescension with your writing and commenting style these days. If you can dish it, then you should learn how to take it. But I’m sure you’re feeling all smug about obliterating 4&20 off of your blogroll. Take that, lefty righty!

          Don, you used to be able to have fair debates with your readers and commenters here. What happened? Are you and your dem party insiders feeling so threatened by a handful of lefties that just plain old triangulation no longer is enough for you?

          As to your list demand, you just don’t get it. I’ll speak up against an agenda of any organization that has political goals that work contrary to the preservation of wilderness, habitat and endangered species. I’m a policy guy. Not a political hack.

          Oh, and Matt K. wants people to know that you are censoring his rebuttal. But I guess that is one of the first lesson of debate: control the stage. Can’t lose an argument if you don’t let the other side present theirs.

          • Keep digging.

            I certainly didn’t censor anything. He’s free to copy-paste to his heart’s content. If anything, the spam filter might have blocked it–but I certainly didn’t. In fact, if you look, you’ll see it’s posted below you, but it’s not surprising that you’ve missed the trees in your forest of outrage.

            Actually, I’m quite confident that I’m an excellent teacher–and my record speaks to that. You’re not hitting a raw nerve at all; you’re simply betraying your ignorance. You know what I do try to teach my students? The tools to become active participants in the world, so that they can change it as they see fit.

            Of course you won’t make a list of sellouts, because a sellout is anyone who doesn’t agree with you, the arbiter of moral and policy truth. It’s utterly inconceivable to you that another organization could be right about something, because you hold the truth and speak it to power under your pseudonym.

            Given your first comment on this thread, do you really think you should lecture anyone about “fair debates”? Did you really add a lot of substance to the discussion? Any insight?

            Don’t presume to tell me or anyone else how to have a fair discussion. Your narrow worldview simply doesn’t permit it.

            • Don,

              1) Betraying ignorance? Of your capability as a teacher? I said “I hope you don’t….” The ignorance is all yours. You could relieve that by reading NREPA and its congressional testimony.

              2) “Sellout” is your term, not mine. So don’t presume that you know anything about “moral and policy truth” as it applies to me. And you have no idea of what I may or may not find “conceivable.” And I write under no pseudonym. Those are my real initials, and the name by which many friends call me. Your strawman is getting ragged.

              3) if you thought teaching people how to use tools is a good thing, then you wouldn’t lambast me for learning those same tools in college, and then applying them in the real world doing things like, um, doing research and helping to write legislation that got introduced into Congress. You or any of your students go through a learning process like that?

              4) It wasn’t my intent to add substance, you’re right. Nor was I attempting to debate. We’ve been this road on this issue before, and you have shown an absolute unwillingness to look at any other approaches to this issue. Which is why I throw up my hands and say “whatever.” You want to have a debate, then let’s debate the issues. Let’s start with one by George Nickas, the ED of Wilderness Watch: “the FJRA still stands for the unacceptable proposition that local politicians should largely dictate management of national public lands.” Your post is so wrapped in politics that the debate over policy can never occur.

              5) Narrow worldview? You would continue to have a “fair discussion” by labeling your conversant as having a “narrow worldview.” Hey Pogie, you’re too narrow minded to debate anything I’ve got to say anyways.


              • Right. Because I didn’t agree with you the last time it came up, I must not have listened hard enough. It certainly wasn’t your argument or lack of persuasion, but my inability to see your wisdom. Perhaps I’m just like those uneducated college kids Koehler went after in his diatribe. Those approaches certainly are winning converts by the hundreds.

                But it’s not about policy success, right? It’s about being right–consequences be damned.

                I think I’m done with this discussion. As much fun as it is to argue with someone who lacks the conviction necessary to put his own name on his personal attacks and arguments, there are richer ways to spend my evening.

                Feel free to keep commenting, though. You make my case better than I could hope to.

                • Actually, I’d kind of like to point out that Koehler writes:

                  “Senator Tester’s FJRA bill would have members of Congress mandating how and where logging takes place in our forests”

                  And JC pens:

                  “George Nickas, the ED of Wilderness Watch: “the FJRA still stands for the unacceptable proposition that local politicians should largely dictate management of national public lands.””

                  JC wants to debate policy. That’s about as serious a policy disagreement as anyone could have, simply because both guys can’t be correct. They promote contradictory opinions. Both JC and Matthew claim penultimate authority concerning such policy disputes, so which the hell is it? Does the FJRA give Congress authority over national forest usage and exploitation, or us yokels who live here? Regardless of their legal authorship or impressive testimonials, it seems to me that these ‘authorities’ ought to get their story straight before telling the rest of us how little we know about the issues.

        • Quite obviously, you and I and anyone who does not agree with the holy and apostolic ’cause’ of the principled few. Please, Pogie, tell me you’re not surprise by this?

          For over the last 3 years, several folks both conservative and liberal have attempted to discuss Tester’s FJRA online. Every single time the discussion has followed the same pattern.
          1) Authority. I know more than you or any one else. My experts know more than your experts know.
          2) Possession of the discussion. The environment is *my* concern. How dare you attempt to discuss it without accepting step 1?
          3) Dismissal, both general and specific. a) Logging is not profitable in a down market. (Neither is road construction or replacement of water pipes but that doesn’t stop the demands for stimulus in those areas.) b) Fire concerns only affect those who are in a fire’s path. This no biggie. ~Pshaw~ c) Motorized recreationalists shouldn’t have a voice in *my* concern for Wilderness, even though such lands belong to us all. It belongs to them less, I guess. d) Wilderness study areas were *meant* to become Wilderness.
          4) Accusation. The only reason you want to discuss this is because you support EVIL. (Jon Tester, Democrats, development, Sellouts, crushing the souls from the young and idealistic … pick your mal-intent of the day.) Ultimately, for even wanting to discuss these issues in the face of 1 and 2, there must be something wrong with you.
          5) False concern. Since you don’t know as much, you can’t possibly care as much. We must think of the children. We have to leave them these pristine lands. (Please disregard the beer bottles as you hunt at 8500 feet, and ignore the diarrhea behind that tree from the recent kegger attendee on your favorite nature hike. We’re about a week away from having 7 billion folk living on this rock. Preservation? It’s a myth.)

          This has played out time and time again, and yes I mean ‘played out’ in all senses. The arguments from those who serve the holy and apostolic progressive view have become increasingly cloned from the right-wing in their arguments and behavior. That’s what we’ve seen in this here thread. You, Pogie, have pointed out that one policy making candidate is a metric ton better than the other. But that’s not good enough for the fantasy-loving preservationist crowd. When it comes to Conservation most will accept Jon Tester every single time over Richy Rehberg. But not those who want it all.

  • If you look beyond the flowery rhetoric and actually deal with the substance of the bill, you’ll see that Senator Tester’s FJRA bill would have members of Congress mandating how and where logging takes place in our forests; would turn some of Montana’s federal wildlands (including Wilderness Study Areas protected by former Montana Senator Lee Metcalf) into permanent motorized recreation areas; would allow motors and other non-compatible uses in Wilderness and would cause negative impacts to the Forest Service budgets in our region.

    The undeniable fact is that over the past two year many Montanans – as well as Americans – have expressed serious, substantive concerns with Senator Tester’s FJRA. Concerns and opposition has come from not only the 50 plus conservation organizations (including 16 Montana non-profit organizations) that make up the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign, but also conservation groups such as the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – some of the most respected environmental groups in our nation. Concerns have also been expressed publicly from some of the former Chiefs of the Forest Service and a host of former Forest Service supervisors and district rangers.

    One very troubling aspect of Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill is the fact that the bill would release currently protected Wilderness Study Areas in Montana and open them up for future development, while creating pernament motorized recreation play areas in other former Wilderness Study Areas. Some of these WSA’s were protected in the late 1970s by our own Senator Lee Metcalf and recent court rulings have favored maintaining these Wilderness Study areas in their wild state.

    Take, for example, the 229,710 acre West Pioneers Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRA), which includes the 151,00 acre Metcalf Wilderness Study Area (WSA). What Sen Tester’s bill does is turn 129,252 acres of this IRA into a permanent, motorized Recreation Management Area (RMA). Not even the “Beaverhead Partnership” supported this. Do we really want politicians ignoring the Forest Service’s travel plans to just legislate where they want motorized recreation permanently permitted? Our recommendation would be to designate the entire 151,000 acre Metcalf WSA as Wilderness and eliminate the permanently motorized RMA, returning the management of that area to USFS travel planning, where it belongs.

    Or take, for example, what Tester wants to do to the West Big Hole IRA, a 213,987 acre area along the crest of the continental divide that provides linkages and connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone area and forests to the west and north. Sen Tester’s bill turns just 44,084 acres of this IRA into two small, far-apart Wilderness Areas while turning much of the IRA into a single, large, permanent, motorized National Recreation Area (NRA) totaling 94,237 acres. The large NRA would be twice as large as the two proposed Wilderness areas together and access to these two proposed Wilderness areas would be forced to use the motorized NRA trails. Again, this extreme move by Senator Tester to support motorized recreation in our wildlands wasn’t even supported by the “Beaverhead Partnership” in their original proposal.

    According to George Nickas from Montana-based Wilderness Watch (George is one of the nation’s leading experts on the Wilderness Act), “While the bill is improved in some areas due to the efforts of groups in the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign as well as Senate committee staff, the FJRA still stands for the unacceptable proposition that local politicians should largely dictate management of national public lands. The FJRA, with its politically mandated logging levels, off-road vehicle and snowmachine playgrounds, and similar mandates, flies in the face of almost a century of public lands’ policy evolution that has made America’s public lands protections the envy of conservationists around the world.”

    Regarding the Montana Wilderness Association and their support for the FJRA, according to official IRS tax reports at, the Montana Wilderness Association received nearly $1 million ($943,595.00) from just two out-of-state foundations (One of them being Pew’s “Campaign for America’s Wilderness”) to promote these “collaborative” logging and wilderness bills springing up all over the place. That figure doesn’t even include any grants from 2011, so the figure MWA collected from just these two foundations to support FJRA and other campaigns might actually be closer to $1.5 million.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure all that cash came in handy when running expensive FJRA newspaper ads, conducting internal focus group studies/polling information, hiring largely unknowledgeable college kids to gather petitions and write letters to the editor and over all, giving the public the false impression that everyone in the world supports Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill.

    Here is the official written testimony that Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (the head of the US Forest Service) gave before the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee concerning the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act on May 25, 2011.

    As you’ll see in the official testimony the US Dept of Ag, US Forest Service and Obama Administration still have substantive concerns regarding the mandated logging provisions within Title I. Astute readers will notice that many of these same substantive concerns are shared, and have been expressed to Senator Tester, by members of the Last Best Place Wildlands Campaign and by conservation groups including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and others.

    From Harris Sherman, USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment, official written testimony on FJRA:

    “In general, and as the Department has testified to this Subcommittee in the last Congress, we have reservations about legislating forest management direction or specific treatment levels on a site specific basis because it could establish a precedent leading to multiple site-specific laws in the future. We also recognize the importance of collaborative efforts such as the one which helped produce this legislation. These efforts are critically important to increasing public support for needed forest management activities, particularly in light of the bark beetle crisis facing Montana and other western states. We believe these efforts can significantly advance forest restoration, reduce litigation risk for these activities, and make it easier to provide jobs and opportunities in the forest industry for rural communities.

    I will now point out several specific concerns that the Department would like to work with the Committee and Senator Tester to address.

    One concern is the definition of mechanical treatment in Section 102(6). The Department acknowledges the inclusion of language that allows fiber to be left on the forest floor after treatment only if an option for removal of the fiber was provided. However, while we acknowledge the importance of encouraging the development of woody biomass and other small diameter timber markets, requiring that an option be provided for removing the fiber creates a barrier to using certain contracting methods that may be more effective in achieving the objectives of the bill.

    Another concern arises in Section 103(b). While the Department believes the acreage targets for mechanical treatments are achievable and sustainable, we are concerned about the precedent set by legislating these targets given constrained Federal resources. Further, the Department would not want to draw resources from priority work on other units of the National Forest System in order to accomplish the goals in this legislation. Finally, we do not want to create unrealistic expectations by communities and stakeholders about the quantity of treatments that the agency would accomplish.

    The reporting requirements in Section 103(f) raise two concerns. First, the requirements overlook an important opportunity to evaluate whether the Act’s prescriptions continue to provide optimal performance in light of potential changes in budget trends, wood markets and forest health conditions. Second, the analyses prescribed by this subsection may be duplicative of reports required by other laws and regulations.

    Regarding Section 103(g), we very much appreciate the Senator’s recognition of the need to maintain the agency’s financial capacity to carry out critical forest management activities elsewhere in the National Forest System. We look forward to working with the Senator to further refine this subsection in order to achieve that outcome. Specifically, we are concerned that the provision as written could give rise to potential litigation about the appropriate allocation of funds among the Regions.

    Finally, the Department is concerned about several prescriptions in the legislation that codify scientific assumptions and value determinations that, while consistent with our shared vision today, may come to be recognized as undesirable or ineffective as new data and circumstances arise in the future. These include the road-density standards in Sections 104(a)(4) and 104(b)(3), and the INFISH compliance requirement in Section 104(b)(1).”


    Below is the exact language from Senator Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act regarding the release of Wilderness Study Areas in Montana. Sadly, you won’t see the Tester bill collaborators address these substantive concerns with Tester’s bill. Apparently having an open, honest discussion about what’s actually in the bill didn’t poll as well in their focus group, so they will just continue sticking to their talking points inspired soundbites about the bill.


    (a) FINDING.—Congress finds that, for purposes of section 603 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1782), any portion of a wilderness study area described in subsection (b) that is not designated as a wilderness area by section 203 or any other Act enacted before the date of enactment of this Act has been adequately studied for wilderness.

    (b) DESCRIPTION OF STUDY AREAS.—The study areas referred to in subsection (a) are—

    (1) the Axolotl Lakes Wilderness Study Area;
    (2) the Bell and Limekiln Canyons Wilderness Study Area;
    (3) the Blacktail Mountains Wilderness Study Area;
    (4) the Centennial Mountains Wilderness Study Area;
    (5) the Farlin Creek Wilderness Study Area;
    (6) the Henneberry Ridge Wilderness Study Area;
    (7) the Hidden Pasture Wilderness Study Area;
    (8) the Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area;
    (9) the Ruby Mountains Wilderness Study Area.

    (c) RELEASE.—Any study area described in subsection (b) that is not designated as a wilderness area by
    section 203—

    (1) is no longer subject to section 603(c) of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1782(c)); and
    (2) shall be managed in accordance with the applicable land management plans adopted under section 202 of that Act (43 U.S.C. 1712).


    (a) FINDINGS.—Congress finds that—

    (1) the studies conducted under section 2 of the Montana Wilderness Study Act of 1977 (Public Law 95–150; 91 Stat. 1243) regarding each study area described in subsection (b) are adequate for the consideration of the suitability of each study area for inclusion as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System; and (2) the Secretary of Agriculture is not required—

    (A) to review the wilderness option for each study area described in subsection (b) prior to the revision of the forest plan required for each land that comprises each study area in accordance with the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1600 et seq.); and

    (B) to manage the portion of each study area described in subsection (b) that is not designated as wilderness by section 203 to ensure the suitability of the area for designation as a component of the National Wilderness Preservation System pending revision of the applicable forest plan.

    • Okay.

      Kohler: “If you look beyond the flowery rhetoric”

      3) Dismissal. There is no flowery rhetoric at play here. If Kohler thinks there is, perhaps he’d best spend more time with Lizard.

      Kohler: “you’ll see that Senator Tester’s FJRA bill would have members of Congress mandating how and where logging takes place in our forests”

      Begging the question for the purpose of fear-mongering. Considering that the exact lands are specified in a bill submitted by a Montana Senator, what exactly are you afraid of, Matthew? That “CONGRESS” might have a say in public land use? They already do.

      Kohler: “would turn some of Montana’s federal wildlands (including Wilderness Study Areas protected by former Montana Senator Lee Metcalf) into permanent motorized recreation areas;”

      That would be why they were Wilderness *study* areas in the first place, Kohler, to see how their use would have impact. See number 3 and number 5.

      Kohler: would allow motors and other non-compatible uses in Wilderness

      Established Wilderness or hoped for Wilderness? Are helicopter rotors really untoward in firefighting efforts in Wilderness? Define” compatible”, please.

      Kohler: “would cause negative impacts to the Forest Service budgets in our region.”

      Exactly how and why would it be bad?

      The rest of your exposition, Kohler, is a matter of “concern”. These are all good concerns and well worth the discussion we could have about them. But discussion has never been your desire, nor is it here. Your form of “discussion” has followed the very pattern I have described here. Face it, few if any will bow to your superior knowledge, or that of ‘your experts’. So, you’re left facing several obstacles. Rehberg is still vastly more heinous than Jon Tester, who you have wasted enormous energy attacking. Your arguments don’t have great appeal with the majority of Montana. You dismiss the concerns of motorized vehicle users, and expect that they’re going to listen to you? You claim concerns from official agencies as if they are impediments as opposed to challenges. In truth, that’s kind of weak. You’d best find a better way to convince others that you are on the correct side of this issue. Most of what you’ve done so far is to stupidly judge others and expect them to see you as superior. Do you actually think you’ll get what you want, or even what’s right, by doing so? If you do, you are not a terribly bright man, Matthew.

      Wilderness study areas are not holy ground. Lee Metcalf is not sainted. Environmentalists in Montana are most often not listened to as regards policy, and there is no such thing as pristine forest. If you continue to pursue the path of attacking friendlies, Matthew, you might want to start your search for a new gig. And don’t step in that diarrhea behind that Wilderness tree, just there.

  • Don, I suggest your support for Tester here is reflexive. I suspect that had Burns proffered this Bill, you’d be offended.

    Where did we go wrong? You’re a smart man. I suspect that when you put forward your opinions and you draw sharp criticism that you naturally defend your turf, and consider us enemies. The problem is that we need smart people over here..

    We are not your enemy. How do we rectify this?

    • I think Tester’s bill does two things: 1) it reflects the political reality on the ground here in Montana and 2) does quite a bit to protect wilderness. I trust the organizations that support it. I think they (and I) would agree the bill isn’t perfect, but a damn sight better than the alternative–or what Rehberg will propose.

      As for the other issue, I’m having a hard time seeing the value of the lines between draw by my fellow progressives. In a worldview in which I am defined as a “centrist,” they have no chance of winning any kind of popular support.

      Being “smart” also means recognizing what can and cannot be accomplished, given a thirty year slide towards the right in this country. Sitting on the sidelines, casting out allies for being insufficiently progressive isn’t the answer. Frankly, I’m seeing too much of that from the left these days.

    • It is rare that a comment actually has me laughing out loud.

      Mark, you answer your own question. In your very first statement you attribute to Pogie what you assume are his motivations and draw whatever conclusions you wish from that. You then ask “Where did we go wrong”. The answer to that should be obvious.

      Unlike your previous online incarnation as regards myself, I’m not going to assume your last sentence is written with the royal “WE”. I’ll stick again to what’s obvious. Your use of “We” is exclusive. There is your side (obviously suffering from a dearth of smart people) and there is whatever side Pogie is on. That is a false opposition. The ‘sides’ as evidenced by both the Polish Wolf’s post and Pogie’s responses are those who wish to see job creation, better management of forest and Wilderness assets and who accept the political reality at play v. those who are after political favor via draconian control of land and assets through fear mongering and political chicanery. Obviously, again, you don’t agree with either of those “sides”. So when approaching someone who does support one those sides, with opposition, how can you possibly think you are not “an enemy”? Do you want to see job creation, better management of forest and Wilderness assets and accept the political reality? Or do you want to lament that those who do have pushed you out when quite obviously you are the one setting opposition, the one in disagreement?

      Here’s the answer to your last question. You “rectify” the situation by accepting that you are talking past each other, quite deliberately on your part. Speak to the opponent’s concerns, or don’t. That’s your choice.

      Finally, Mark, I think your comment stands as the ultimate example of ‘back-handed compliment’. But it does raise the question: if your side ain’t so smart, and Pogie is, what incentive whatsoever do you offer him to switch to your “side”?

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