By Deb Courson Smith

Forest jobs in Montana were discussed in a U.S. Senate subcommittee in Washington on Wednesday – specifically, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act put forth by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

The Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee wanted to hear from locals, and Sherm Anderson, owner of Sun Mountain Lumber in Deer Lodge, is one of many who helped craft S. 1470. The bill has seen many new endorsers in the past few months, Anderson says, and in a time of economic uncertainty, the “jobs” portion of the bill that means logging and millwork is especially attractive.

“The national forests in Montana comprise 60 percent of the total timber base in the state, so it’s crucial to us that the bill move forward.”

Those with concerns aren’t happy with plans for logging, or with sections that designate wilderness.

Greg Munther, who chairs Backcountry Hunters and Anglers in Missoula, is happy that the bill sets aside special management areas for snowmobiling and leaves many motorized trails intact while protecting swaths of backcountry terrain.

“That secure habitat is needed to ensure that we can maintain our long hunting seasons. Wild country protects our bull elk, so that they can grow to be mature elk that everybody would love to pursue.”

The AFL-CIO, Missoula Chamber of Commerce and United Steelworkers have recently added their support for the bill.

The text of S. 1470 is online at govtrack.us.

Editor’s note: Tester’s bipartisan Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is designed to create Montana jobs by requiring the logging and restoration of at least 100,000 acres of timber in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai National Forests and by supporting forest restoration projects on the Lolo National Forest. The bill also creates permanent recreation areas and designates wilderness. Since introducing the Act nearly two years ago, Tester modified the bill based on public feedback from thousands of Montanans. The latest version of his bill is on his website, tester.senate.gov/forest.