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Know the West

A win for the gipper?


Though there has been widespread praise in some quarters, I find it difficult to muster much enthusiasm for Sen. Tester's Forest Jobs and Recreation Act described in "Taking Control of the Machine" (HCN, 7/20/09). Perhaps a historical anecdote will help explain.

In 1988, both houses of Congress passed a Montana wilderness bill that protected 1.4 million acres. However, a coalition of mining, agricultural, ranching and timber groups convinced President Reagan to veto the legislation. Reagan stated at the time that he wanted to put only half of that acreage into permanent wilderness status.

Unfortunately, Tester's legislation basically grants Reagan's wish –– protecting less than 700,000 acres. Not only that, but most of the forest designated as wilderness doesn't need protection from logging anyway, since it largely consists of high elevation, low value trees. Furthermore, Tester's bill opens up to logging many roadless areas that are presently protected.

It's sad to consider how far backwards we have come. Some may be smiling –– including our anti-wilderness former president –– but don't count me among them.
Jim Rogers
Polson, Montana