LETTER: Wilderness Shouldn’t be a Wedge Issue

By Beacon Staff

When Sen. Jon Tester was president of the Montana State Senate, he had a reputation as a nonpartisan workhorse. After four years of hard work as a U.S. senator that reputation has stuck, and Tester’s work on forest policy is perhaps the best example.

During his very first term in office, he introduced the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, a bill that recognizes our forests as places where we can earn a paycheck Monday through Friday and enjoy in a variety of ways. That bill has been posted on his website for 18 months and, during that time, it has steadily improved because of feedback from stockmen, horse users, bicyclists, hikers, hunters, forest managers and mill workers. With a group like that, you can bet these changes reflect the opinions of Democrats, Republicans, and a wide range of independents. Now, more than ever, this bill shows respect for the local logger as much as the elk hunter who gets into the wilderness early and often.

There will always be people, and many politicians, who use public lands as a wedge to divide communities. But that doesn’t change the fact that federal land is, literally, America’s common ground, and Tester has emerged as one of its greatest defenders.

It’s a tribute to his work ethic that Tester plans to reintroduce the bill this year and continue fighting for balanced management of Montana’s national forests.

Gabriel Furshong

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