MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer TOWNSEND
U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg said Tuesday he is still evaluating a plan from Sen. Jon Tester that aims to both expand wilderness and increase logging in Montana. The bill was the big topic among attendees at a town hall meeting that Rehberg held in Townsend, while the health care overhaul gripping Washington, D.C., barely came up. Rehberg told the crowd that he agrees more logging is truly needed. But the Republican wants to make sure the proposed legislation from Tester, a Democrat, will be able to assure an increase in logging. The crowd was mixed on the issue, and Rehberg was asked alternately to help support and help oppose it. The measure would add more than 600,000 acres of wilderness, mostly in southwestern Montana's Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. But it also designates large swaths of land as open for logging and sets aside other areas as permanent recreation areas for motorized and other uses. Ed Regan, who runs Townsend's RY Timber and helped craft the compromise that led to Tester's bill, said it aims to break through years of legal bickering between environmentalists and loggers.