Tester’s forest bill passes Senate committee

A tweaked version of Senator John Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act made it through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this morning . . .

A new version of Sen. Jon Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act passed a divided Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday morning, clearing a path for the full Senate to consider it.

The latest draft of the four-year-old bill keeps a mandate to harvest or thin 100,000 acres of timber in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai national forests over 15 years. But it switches about 23,000 acres of proposed wilderness into less-restrictive recreation areas.

That brings the tally to about 637,000 acres of new wilderness and 360,000 acres of recreation areas allowing some motorized or commercial use in Montana.

Other changes include a requirement for the U.S. Forest Service to file a compliance report if it fails to meet the bill’s performance requirements, and a guarantee the Montana pilot program won’t draw funds from other state programs or Forest Service regions.

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