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Alternative Facts From Montana Senators Tester and Daines

The February 25, 2015 Washington Post gave Senator Tester four Pinocchios, the paper’s highest rating for politicians misrepresenting the truth, when Tester asserted that “every logging sale” in the state was “under litigation” and “nearly half of the awarded timber volume in Fiscal Year 2014 is currently under litigation.”

The Post’s renowned Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, found instead that “in 2014, the Forest Service’s Northern Region, which includes Montana, met its timber harvest goal for the first time in over 14 years. The region harvested 280 million board feet — enough to build nearly 10,000 homes.” Kessler added: “Given that Tester is the senior senator from Montana, his comments on litigation in Montana’s national forests are embarrassingly wrong. In both statements, he was wildly off the mark. He needs to brush up on his facts — and his math — before he opines again on the subject.”

The Forest Service also met its timber harvest target again in 2015. I have not seen the amount of logging reported yet for 2016, but the Great Falls Montana Tribune reported in February: “Logging in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest best in decades.”

Unfortunately for Montanans, Tester didn’t take Kessler’s advice and instead decided to emulate President Trump and douse us with “alternative facts.” In a press release, Tester, joined by Senator Daines, the National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, and a dozen logging and ranching groups, claimed that environmentalists have shut down logging not just in Montana but across the West.

As several Montana reported from Tester’s and Daines’ press release: “The Forest Service estimates 80 forest projects are on hold because of legal challenges based on the Cottonwood decision in Regions 1, 2 and 4. Region 1 challenges include the East Reservoir Restoration Project in the Kootenai National Forest and the Colt-Summit Restoration and Fuels Reduction Project in the Lolo National Forest.”

But once again the truth, not Tester and Daines’ “alternative facts,” tells a different story. A total of four logging projects in lynx critical habitat are on hold over concerns for lynx critical habitat – which is a long ways from the 80 projects the senators claim. These are the East Reservoir Timber sale in the Kootenai National Forest, and the Bozeman Watershed, East Boulder, and Greater Red Lodge timber sales in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest in Montana.

The Forest Service proposed clearcutting over 5,000 acres and bulldozing over 41 miles of new logging roads in lynx critical habitat with just these four timber sales, which is why they were challenged in court. The harsh reality, undeniably proven by all the best available science, is that more logging leads to less lynx. If we’re going to protect critical habitat and actually recover lynx as required by the Endangered Species Act, it’s time to say no more road building and clearcuts in lynx critical habitat.

Furthermore, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals only ordered clearcutting to be stopped in lynx critical habitat in Region One, not in Regions Four and Two as Tester and Daines claim. Our senators also fail to mention that the Forest Service already re-initiated consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service last November to comply with the Court Order, and assured the Court it would be done in a few months, thus completely mooting Tester’s and Daines’ “the sky is falling” scare tactic.

Americans deserve facts on public policy issues, not D.C. lies. That means Pinocchio Senators Tester and Daines must stop deceiving us with their “alternative facts” and start telling the truth.

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Mike Garrity is the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

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