Tester to unveil new forest bill draft details Thursday

I just received word that Sen. Jon Tester will hold a conference call with reporters tomorrow morning to share details of a new draft of his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

It’s not yet clear whether a full version of this latest draft will be available tomorrow or not. His staff person said the updated draft has been submitted to the Office of Legislative Counsel for review. She assured me that once legislative counsel is done dotting Is and crossing Ts the bill will be available to the public.

As soon as the latest draft is available I’ll post it here.

Earlier this month a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee “discussion draft” made headlines when some of the key supporters of Tester’s original bill came out in opposition to the committee’s suggested changes. (view the two-part draft here and here)

The discussion draft removed a key provision that called for the mandated logging of 100,000 acres of timber on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai National Forests. Members of the collaborative group that helped draft the original measure, including some of the environmental groups in the Beeverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, said they would not support a bill that does not contain logging mandates.

In a brief interview after my June 4 story ran in the Tribune, Tim Baker, legislative campaign director for the Montana Wilderness Association, said the committee’s draft was “inadequate.”

“We have to have a piece of legislation that has those mandates in there. Those are types of assurances our timber partners need and we are all committed to working together on this and sticking together on it,” Baker said. “If the final products doesn’t meet the needs of our timber partners, then we’re not supportive.”

Reporter Matthew Frank addressed that issue in more detail in last week’s Missoula Independent.

Be sure to check out Friday’s Tribune for a full story and the latest details on Sen. Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. Check back here tomorrow for information about the press call and a copy of the latest draft, if available.