In December, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources approved and advanced Montana Senator Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act to the full Senate floor. The four-year old bill would designate 670,000 acres of new Wilderness in western Montana (164,000 in Greater Yellowstone alone), restore national-forest lands damaged by past industry, and provide jobs with a mandated 100,000 acres of logging. The affected areas would be the first land designated as Wilderness in 30 years.
Tester’s bill is the result of bipartisan efforts from a diverse coalition of Montanans: hunters, hikers, and anglers; loggers and conservationists; snowmobilers and trail riders. Tester himself calls it “a common-sense bill that will create jobs in Montana's forests, keep communities safe, protect clean water, and safeguard Montana's hunting and fishing habitat for future generations.” Not everyone agrees, of course—many are opposed to new Wilderness designations, and others consider the amount of logging land insufficient. Either way, the bill has a long way to go before it becomes law. Stay in the loop at montanaforests.org.