U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Steve Daines today pressed the U.S. Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell, on forest management reforms to create much needed revenues for Montana counties.
During a U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing, Daines questioned Tidwell on reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service that negatively impacts forest health, recreation, watershed and habitat protection.
“We can’t get logs to the mills – it’s a sad, sad state of affairs and it is because of these extreme environmental groups who are litigating many of our sales that we have right now in Montana,” Daines remarked. “We aren’t taking care of the forest – then we see them burn. We can reduce the wildfire risk, as we know, by actively managing our forests.”
“I have introduced legislation to statutorily reverse the disastrous Ninth Circuit Court decision in Cottonwood Environmental Law Center vs. U.S. Forest Service,” Daines continued. “According to the Obama Administration, this decision has the ‘potential to cripple’ federal land management across Ninth Circuit states. Citing the Cottonwood decision, courts have already halted four forest health projects in Montana.”
Tidwell endorsed the legislation responding, “Senator, first of all, thank you for your work here, bipartisan work, with Senator Tester to introduce that legislation. Yes, we support that and we need your help on this. It would be one thing if we just needed to reinitiate consultation – we’d be glad to be able to do that. Our folks are working through that now, but the way this court decision came down – is it creates a continuous procedural loop and so they were never done.”
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Additionally, Daines pressed Tidwell on the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program and the need to pass strong reforms to restore active management to provide much needed revenue for forested counties.
“I’m a cosponsor of legislation to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools program; it remains critical for timber counties in Montana,” Daines stated. “Just last week in these roundtables we had county commissioners from counties in Montana that have ninety to ninety two percent of their acreage in their counties are federal lands –so the SRS is critical because the federal government doesn’t pay taxes. I hear over and over again that we need to extend SRS – they want Congress to pass strong reforms, additionally, to restore active management to National Forests. The president’s budget doesn’t mention SRS, does the administration support reauthorizing this program and do you believe increasing pace and scale management must be a priority in addition to this program?”
Tidwell responded, “Well first of all I’ve been up here every year talking about the need to increase the pace and scale of restoration to be able to maintain and restore our nation’s forests, so there’s no question we need to do that part. I want to work with you to find ways to also provide some certainty, you know, for counties.”