Gianforte: Congress Working on Forest Jobs
As a group of land managers debated ways to find jobs in Montana’s public forests, Rep. Greg Gianforte assured them Congress was working on the problem too.
“The fundamental solution is we’ve got to get back and manage our forests again,” Gianforte, R-Montana, told the Montana Counties Forest Summit attendees on Tuesday. “Until we do, these severe fire are going to continue. We know the benefits when we manage our forests. There’s healthier forests, more habitat, more wildlife, we have jobs and the fires are less severe.”
Gianforte touted the elements of the Resilient Federal Forest Act he cosponsored in the House of Representatives. The proposal would speed up permitting of salvage logging and diseased tree removal, block judicial review of some forest activity, reward projects with collaborative group participation and create a pilot program using arbitration instead of court challenges to settle objections to forest activity.
The bill passed the House last November, but has been stuck in the Senate, Gianforte said.
“We’re taking pieces and sticking them in other must-pass bills,” Gianforte said. Several of those got included in the Omnibus budget bill passed in March, including expanded categorical exclusions for hazardous fuels treatments. Among the others: overturning of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court’s “Cottonwood” decision that required high-level Forest Service consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on endangered species critical habitat decisions, and ending the problem of “fire-borrowing” where the Forest Service has to raid its budget for routine forest management to pay for wildfire expenses.