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 Forests.org 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.