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Senator Tester Slips Bill Calling for Mandatory Logging of Public Lands into Omnibus Spending Bill

This sets a dangerous precedent for forest management, endangers wildlife and amounts to a $140 million gift to the timber industry courtesy of taxpayers.

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This legal track record is available to anyone who can Google. Court precedents are clear: If a conflict in law arises, “the specific overrides the general.” That is, Congressionally-mandated timber cutting quotas preempt such laws as the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, National Forest Management Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

11. Mandates taxpayer-subsidized timber cutting at least 5,000 acres per year until a total 70,000-acres have been cut on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in southwest Montana. Forest Service employees and officials readily admit the roadless wildlands of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest are unproductive forestlands containing no commercial timber of any value.

The public wildlands that Tester and the timber industry want to log are east of the Continental Divide and therefore receive very little precipitation. Located on very steep, fragile mountainous slopes with little-to-no soil, minimal rain and snowfall, and extremely short growing seasons (30 to 60 days) due to high altitudes; the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest’s trees are merely “sticks,” a term coined by Forest Service timber cruisers.

Trees 150 years-old might reach a maximum of ten inch diameters at the bottom. Since they taper considerably, if logged, they are incapable of producing anything except firewood and wood chips. Foresters know that high-altitude lodgepole pine-dominant forests are useless when treated as commodities. Logging trucks carrying these “sticks” bear from 110 to 150 trees in one truckload.

Due to these limiting factors, Tester’s bill, if not removed from the Omnibus Spending Bill, will cost the public at least $1,400 per acre to log its mandated 70,000 acres of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and its mandated 30,000 acres in the Kootenai National Forest. “This $140,000,000 gift to the timber industry is nothing more than corporate welfare,” said Michael Garrity, an economist and executive director for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

12. Ignores historical timber cuts from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Tester claims that Congressionally-mandated and taxpayer-subsidized timber cutting will come from the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest’s “suitable timber base” and that inventoried roadless areas are not threatened. But, Tester did not involve the Forest Service in any phase of his top-secret bill writing sessions with the timber industry. If he had, Tester would know that Forest Service foresters have established the Forest’s sustainable yearly harvest at a maximum of 500 acres. The most the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has ever cut, even during the housing boom, was 2,800 acres a year.

13. Congressionally-mandates a cut of at least 30,000 acres of prime grizzly bear habitat in northwest Montana’s Kootenai National Forest, causing disruptions that bear biologists say will force the rapidly-dwindling and endangered population of grizzly bears into insecure habitats, more conflicts with humans, and, ultimately, extinction. Much of the Kootenai National Forest already looks like moonscape from decades of overcutting.

14. Violates Tester’s 2006 campaign promises to “protect all of Montana’s remaining roadless areas.” “Senator Tester broke two campaign promises,” said Garrity. “When Senator Tester ran against Senator Burns, he promised to protect all roadless areas and not use riders for public lands legislation. Senator Tester’s rider opens up at least one million acres of some of the best elk hunting in the world to clearcutting. Thanks to Senator Tester we can kiss grizzly bears in the Yaak, the smallest grizzly bear population in the world, goodbye.”

15. Alienates Tester’s main supporters. In the November 7, 2006, general election, Tester defeated Burns by less than 1 percent of the vote, a razor-thin 3,562 votes. Conservationists provided the margin of victory that allowed Tester to defeat incumbent Sen. Conrad Burns. In tacking solely towards the timber industry, moneyed corporations that never previously supported him in any fashion, Tester has abandoned his true constituency.

 
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