• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

CounterPunch needs you. piggybank-icon You need us. The cost of keeping the site alive and running is growing fast, as more and more readers visit. We want you to stick around, but it eats up bandwidth and costs us a bundle. Help us reach our modest goal (we are half way there!) so we can keep CounterPunch going. Donate today!
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Sen. “Big Timber” Tester

The “big lie” theory was originally put forth way back 1925 and has been used by governments and politicians ever since. Simply put, it means that if you’re going to lie about something, tell a big lie, and tell it over and over, and people will tend to believe it.

Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester employed that propaganda technique last week and told a whopper on Montana Public Radio when he claimed: “Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them.” The truth is that is one very big lie.

The U.S. Senate likes to call itself “the greatest deliberative body in the world” which, besides being extremely self-aggrandizing, would definitely be debatable given the stunning lack of deliberation or progress the Senate has actually accomplished in recent years. But that aside, if one believes in the worth of deliberation in the Democratic process, then the undeniable truth is that deliberation can only be productive if it’s based on fact.

Which brings us to Sen. Tester’s statement that is, without question, the polar opposite of the facts about timber sales being litigated in Montana. The truth is quite another story.

*The Bitterroot National Forest has not seen a single timber sale litigated since 2006, which is before Senator Tester even went to the Senate. Zero.

*There was not a single timber sale lawsuit filed on the Lolo National Forest from 2007 to 2012 and then had two lawsuits of which only one is still current. In the meantime, 99 active timber sales were conducted from 2005 to 2010.

*The Flathead National Forest has 13 active timber sales, with four lawsuits pending.

*The Region 1 National Forest announced in October of 2014 that it had reached its timber target goal, logging 280 million board feet of timber. Notably, that’s the first time Region 1 met its timber harvest goal in 14 years because the agency “overhauled its litigation strategy” according to Regional Forester Faye Krueger, who told reporters, “the main emphasis is on threatened and endangered species” saying the agency is paying close attention to previous court rulings and working hard to develop projects that get it right the first time.

Besides lying about the lawsuits, Tester conveniently omitted discussing the 2014 Farm Bill, under which some 5 million acres of Montana forestland that Governor Steve Bullock nominated can be logged with little or no environmental analysis or public review and comment.

One might reasonably wonder where Sen. Tester got the information that turned out to be so terribly wrong – or why he would repeat it without checking his facts. Thankfully, Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post’s FactChecker looked into Tester’s misrepresentations and, in an article titled “Montana senator twice gets his facts wrong on timber sales and litigation” gave Tester the WaPo’s highest rating for lying politicians — a 4-Pinnochio “Whopper” rating. Given that Tester’s “correction” was also terribly wrong, he probably deserved a Double Whopper rating.

As Kessler’s Fact Checker article noted:

“First of all, let’s examine Tester’s claim about every logging sale. According to Tom Martin, a Forest Service deputy director for renewable resource management, there are 97 timber sales under contract in Montana’s national forests. Of that number, just 14 have active litigation, so about 14 percent. But only four of the sales are enjoined by a court from any logging…

“In any case, even if one accepts the Forest Service’s definition of enjoined sales, just 4 percent of the timber sales cannot be logged because of litigation.

“We should also note that of Montana’s nine national forests, only three have projects under contract that have been halted by litigation.”

In regard to Tester’s “correction,” in which he tried to claim “Nearly half of the awarded timber volume in Fiscal Year 2014 is currently under litigation,” Kessler again dug out the truth from the Forest Service’s own professionals and writes: “That adds up to 27.7 million board feet, or about 10 percent of board feet remaining under contract. That’s a far cry from “nearly half.”

What Tester has done only further inflames those who falsely believe that litigation is halting all timber sales in Montana. This does nothing to “end the timber wars” as Tester so often claims is his goal. It does just the opposite. Tester even claimed that Matthew Koehler, the executive director of the WildWest Institute, was “part of the problem.” The truth is that Koehler’s group has not filed a single lawsuit on timber harvests in Montana since 2007.

As further noted in Kessler’s article, even the Forest Service’s own spokeswoman defended challenging the government when it needs to be challenged. “Things should be litigated that need to be litigated,” said Heather Noel, a Forest Service spokeswoman. “If there is something the Forest Service has missed, it is very healthy. We absolutely should be tested on that.”

Given that Sen. Tester is now the Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, one might equally wonder how well his credibility will hold up when people nationwide know that the Big Guy tells the Big Lie. That same lack of credibility on the timber issue may make Tester’s fellow senators more than a little dubious when he appears before their committees with his next logging bill.

Make no mistake about it, Senator Jon Tester owes Montanans and the nation an apology and a clear presentation of the truth to reset the national forest logging debate on a more factual basis. Anything less will be just another example of a politician trying to spin his way out of a hole he dug with his own words.

George Ochenski is a long-time Montana columnist and journalist whose work has appeared in Counterpunch over many years. This column is updated from the original, which was published in the Missoulian 2-23-15 to include the comments and statistics from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker article.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
May 24, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Iran, Venezuela and the Throes of Empire
Melvin Goodman
The Dangerous Demise of Disarmament
Jeffrey St. Clair
“The Army Ain’t No Place for a Black Man:” How the Wolf Got Caged
Richard Moser
War is War on Mother Earth
Andrew Levine
The (Small-d) Democrat’s Dilemma
Russell Mokhiber
The Boeing Way: Blaming Dead Pilots
Rev. William Alberts
Gaslighters of God
Phyllis Bennis
The Amputation Crisis in Gaza: a US-Funded Atrocity
David Rosen
21st Century Conglomerate Trusts 
Jonathan Latham
As a GMO Stunt, Professor Tasted a Pesticide and Gave It to Students
Binoy Kampmark
The Espionage Act and Julian Assange
Kathy Deacon
Liberals Fall Into Line: a Recurring Phenomenon
Jill Richardson
The Disparity Behind Anti-Abortion Laws
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Chelsea Manning is Showing Us What Real Resistance Looks Like
Zhivko Illeieff
Russiagate and the Dry Rot in American Journalism
Norman Solomon
Will Biden’s Dog Whistles for Racism Catch Up with Him?
Yanis Varoufakis
The Left Refuses to Get Its Act Together in the Face of Neofascism
Lawrence Davidson
Senator Schumer’s Divine Mission
Thomas Knapp
War Crimes Pardons: A Terrible Memorial Day Idea
Renee Parsons
Dump Bolton before He Starts the Next War
Yves Engler
Canada’s Meddling in Venezuela
Katie Singer
Controlling 5G: A Course in Obstacles
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Beauty of Trees
Jesse Jackson
Extremist Laws, Like Alabama’s, Will Hit Poor Women the Hardest
Andrew Bacevich
The “Forever Wars” Enshrined
Ron Jacobs
Another One Moves On: Roz Payne, Presente!
Christopher Brauchli
The Offal Office
Daniel Falcone
Where the ‘Democratic Left’ Goes to Die: Staten Island NYC and the Forgotten Primaries   
Julia Paley
Life After Deportation
Sarah Anderson
America Needs a Long-Term Care Program for Seniors
Seiji Yamada – John Witeck
Stop U.S. Funding for Human Rights Abuses in the Philippines
Shane Doyle, A.J. Not Afraid and Adrian Bird, Jr.
The Crazy Mountains Deserve Preservation
Charlie Nash
Will Generation Z Introduce a Wizard Renaissance?
Ron Ridenour
Denmark Peace-Justice Conference Based on Activism in Many Countries
Douglas Bevington
Why California’s Costly (and Destructive) Logging Plan for Wildfires Will Fail
Gary Leupp
“Escalating Tensions” with Iran
Jonathan Power
Making the World More Equal
Cesar Chelala
The Social Burden of Depression in Japan
Stephen Cooper
Imbibe Culture and Consciousness with Cocoa Tea (The Interview)
Stacy Bannerman
End This Hidden Threat to Military Families
Kevin Basl
Time to Rethink That POW/MIA Flag
Nicky Reid
Pledging Allegiance to the Divided States of America
Louis Proyect
A Second Look at Neflix
Martin Billheimer
Closed Shave: T. O. Bobe, the Girl and Curl
David Yearsley
Hard Bop and Bezos’ Balls
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail