Forest Jobs and Recreation Act Offers New Vision for Montana's Forests

Collaboration yields landmark measure to further Montana’s economy, fish, wildlife and wildland traditions

05-10-2011 // Aislinn Maestas
Elk

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is an ambitious bill. In the words if its author, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), the bill aims to "create jobs in Montana's forests, keep communities safe, protect clean water and safeguard Montana’s hunting and fishing habitat for future generations."

While this may sound lofty, the legislation has already achieved a major victory – consensus among conservation organizations, forest product mills, sportsmen, outdoor recreationists and business owners.

How is this possible?

"Through hard work and collaboration," said Tom France, Regional Executive Director of National Wildlife Federation's Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center. "By setting aside our differences, leaders representing a broad range of interests were able to come together to find solutions that work for everyone."

Moving Forward Together

In 2006, after years of (often heated) debate about how best to manage Montana’s forests, National Wildlife Federation helped launch The Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership. By bringing together three of Montana’s largest and oldest grassroots conservation groups, as well as four of Montana’s remaining forest product mills, the Partnership offered a seat at the table to anyone willing to compromise.

After years of discussion and countless meetings, the Partnership agreed on a set of objectives to improve management of Montana’s forests. These objectives were endorsed by Senator Tester and incorporated into the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

"It is remarkable how much we were able to accomplish once we decided to work together," said France.

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would:

  • Permanently protect as wilderness nearly 700,000 acres of Western Montana’s most spectacular backcountry. This includes some 25 places conservationists have fought hard to preserve for decades.
  • Protect and enhance some of the best wildlife and fisheries habitat in North America, including habitat for elk, sheep, bear, deer and moose. 
  • Ensure that traditional activities such as fishing and hunting continue for generations of Montanans to come.
  • Protect the headwaters of some of the most famous rivers in the world and also works to restore front country fisheries.
  • Guarantee access for every outdoor pursuit.
Grizzly

In addition, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act would create timber jobs by requiring the Forest Service to manage a certain number of acres each year for timber harvest -- especially areas infected by pine-beetles that pose a serious wildfire threat to Montana communities and their drinking water sources.

"The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is proof that working together to resolve public land management conflicts can and does work in Montana," said France. "If this bill makes it across the finish line, it will be a success that thousands of Montanans will be able to take the credit for."

The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is currently awaiting action in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Visit www.montanaforests.org to learn more.  

Related Resources
  • Showing Our Support
    National Wildlife Federation and partners are running ads in Montana to garner support for the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

    See our recent ad.

  • Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center
    NWF's Northern Rockies and Prairies Regional Center works on wildlife conflict resolution, responsible energy development, and climate change.
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