Good news from DC today. Senator Jon Tester's Forest Jobs & Recreation Act passed out of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. That's good news for Montana and very good news if you're an elk in Region 3.
We've written before about the bill. The basics are this:
- Improve elk and trout habitat by mandating the Forest Service roll up old roads that fragment otherwise secure elk habitat & remove old culverts and other bad ideas that stop fish passage. Both of these activities will increase abundance of wildlife of all species over the long term.
- Increase the amount of people in the woods earning a paycheck through sustainable logging practices, forest restoration and saw logs for local mills based on boots on the ground that know the country and wildlife advocates who want to ensure a forest system full of elk, deer, bears & even squirrels.
- Add over 600,000 acres of Wilderness from Libby to Dillon protecting some our best high country fishing & elk hunting opportunities. Wilderness in Montana is only place you can hunt bull elk in the rut with a rifle on a general tag. Those backcountry hunts are the stuff of legends. New additions to the Wilderness complex just mean that kind of opportunity can be expanded, rather than retracted. That's a damn good thing.
To be sure, critics will continue to call FJRA a sell out to one side or another depending on their bent. Controversy never fades when it comes to Forest Management, but the reality is this: Compromise, Collaboration & Common Sense are better ways to manage forests than protracted legal battles over small technicalities in the Federal Code. New wilderness is good for wildlife and hunters and anglers over public lands criss-crossed with illegal trails & roads, driving elk farther into the dark timber and creating silted, un-productive streams.
Every elk hunter knows that outside of the firing squads on valley floors, elk are far from the road. That's why we close roads before the general rifle season on public lands: Less motorized travel means better elk hunting.
And Forest Jobs & Recreation passing out of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee means better opportunities to hunt, fish & earn a paycheck so long as Congress can keep this momentum going. Well done, Senator Tester. Keep fighting.