The recently passed Farm Bill provided an opportunity for states to assist the Forest Service in getting much-needed work done on federal land. States had 60 days to designate appropriate lands to the agency. Our governor, Steve Bullock, did a wonderful job reallocating resources to meet this timeline. Gov. Bullock enlisted help from his staff, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, the U.S. Forest Service and an ad-hoc group of stakeholders. The lands designated were based on hard data collected annually by the Forest Service and match their analysis of current conditions.
Now critics have surfaced, making a variety of claims ranging from getting no notice of what was going on to not being invited to the table. The Farm Bill deliberations went on for months and were widely publicized. Once the bill was passed, most Montana newspapers ran a story detailing substantive points. Anyone who claims to be a champion of the forested lands had no reason not to know of Farm Bill provisions. Given the 60-day timeframe, there was no way to convene all of Montana. Gov. Bullock did the best he could with the constraints he faced. Montanans owe him and the group he worked with a “thank you,” not shrill criticism.
For Montanans who want to work together to address our ailing national forests, Gov. Bullock’s forest nominations to the federal government are a breath of fresh air and offer new hope that we can finally move past the gridlock of the past 25 years. For those of us who are coming to the table to find new ways to not only provide wood for our mills, but also restore our key fisheries and wildlife habitat, these nominations by Gov. Bullock will give us the opportunity to build projects together, without sacrificing science or public input. It is ironic that the loudest critics are those few individuals who never collaborate, only litigate. Why would anyone think to invite them to the table, the only place they show up is at the courthouse! All they want to do is stop others from trying to find common ground.
The Farm Bill was a bipartisan directive to help the Forest Service and asked others to join in that effort. Gov. Bullock and everyone who helped him managed to find time to accomplish a key component of the bill. There is still project specific analysis to do, but at least now we have a chance to make progress together, what a refreshing thought.
Chief Operating Officer
Pyramid Mountain Lumber Inc.