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
November 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Meet Ukraine: America’s Newest “Strategic Ally”
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Frankenstein Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Ukraine in the Membrane
Jonathan Steele
The OPCW and Douma: Chemical Weapons Watchdog Accused of Evidence-Tampering by Its Own Inspectors
Kathleen Wallace
A Gangster for Capitalism: Next Up, Bolivia
Andrew Levine
Get Trump First, But Then…
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s Democratic Critics Want it Both Ways on Biden, Clinton
Ipek S. Burnett
The United States Needs Citizens Like You, Dreamer
Michael Welton
Fundamentalism as Speechlessness
David Rosen
A Century of Prohibition
Nino Pagliccia
Morales: Bolivia Suffers an Assault on the Power of the People
Dave Lindorff
When an Elected Government Falls in South America, as in Bolivia, Look For a US Role
John Grant
Drones, Guns and Abject Heroes in America
Clark T. Scott
Bolivia and the Loud Silence
Manuel García, Jr.
The Truthiest Reality of Global Warming
Ramzy Baroud
A Lesson for the Palestinian Leadership: Real Reasons behind Israel’s Arrest and Release of Labadi, Mi’ri
Charles McKelvey
The USA “Defends” Its Blockade, and Cuba Responds
Louis Proyect
Noel Ignatiev: Remembering a Comrade and a Friend
John W. Whitehead
Casualties of War: Military Veterans Have Become America’s Walking Wounded
Patrick Bond
As Brazil’s ex-President Lula is Set Free and BRICS Leaders Summit, What Lessons From the Workers Party for Fighting Global Neoliberalism?
Alexandra Early
Labor Opponents of Single Payer Don’t  Speak For Low Wage Union Members
Pete Dolack
Resisting Misleading Narratives About Pacifica Radio
Edward Hunt
It’s Still Not Too Late for Rojava
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
Why Aren’t Americans Rising up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?
Nicolas Lalaguna
Voting on the Future of Life on Earth
Jill Richardson
The EPA’s War on Science Continues
Lawrence Davidson
The Problem of Localized Ethics
Richard Hardigan
Europe’s Shameful Treatment of Refugees: Fire in Greek Camp Highlights Appalling Conditions
Judith Deutsch
Permanent War: the Drive to Emasculate
David Swanson
Why War Deaths Increase After Wars
Raouf Halaby
94 Well-Lived Years and the $27 Traffic Fine
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Coups-for-Green-Energy Added to Wars-For-Oil
Andrea Flynn
What Breast Cancer Taught Me About Health Care
Negin Owliaei
Time for a Billionaire Ban
Binoy Kampmark
Business as Usual: Evo Morales and the Coup Condition
Bernard Marszalek
Toward a Counterculture of Rebellion
Brian Horejsi
The Benefits of Environmental Citizenship
Brian Cloughley
All That Gunsmoke
Graham Peebles
Why is there so Much Wrong in Our Society?
Jonah Raskin
Black, Blue, Jazzy and Beat Down to His Bones: Being Bob Kaufman
John Kendall Hawkins
Treason as a Lifestyle: I’ll Drink to That
Manuel García, Jr.
Heartrending Antiwar Songs
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Poetry and Political Struggle: The Dialectics of Rhyme
Ben Terrall
The Rise of Silicon Valley
David Yearsley
Performance Anxiety
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail