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Montana Awaits Jon Tester’s Big Hunt

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Democratic Sen. Jon Tester has touted a pair of regional bills as evidence of his work for Montanans, hoping the provisions will to appeal to sportsmen and voters alike.

Tester has claimed credit for working on that package of conservation and forest management bills, which Democrats want to bundle into the fiscal 2013 Interior Department spending bill. Rehberg has said he worked to ensure it was not included in a catchall spending bill last year. The language is included in a draft Interior spending bill that the Senate Appropriations Committee released late last month.

Tester said in an Oct. 14 debate that the bill would “put loggers to work with chainsaws and truckers to work hauling those logs and give those mills a dependable supply.”

“He doesn’t put the word ‘wilderness’ in the bill, and that’s the only thing that’s guaranteed in that legislation,” Rehberg countered. “It’s 600,000 acres of more wilderness. There’s no guarantee of the jobs, none at all, but there is a guarantee of 600,000 acres of more wilderness.”

Both candidates say dead and dying trees need to be removed from western forestland to reduce the risk of fire.

The forest bill seems likely to remain an issue past Election Day. As for the sportsmen’s bill, Rehberg had supported a much smaller version that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) sought to pass right before the Senate left in September. When Reid objected, McConnell joined in supporting the procedural vote on the Tester measure.

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