Building bridges to protect public lands and our way of life
| October 18, 2020 12:00 AM
One month has passed since the Bridger Foothills Fire started three miles away from my hometown of Bozeman.
The fire grew to 400 acres in just a few hours, and to over 7,000 acres in one day, destroying 28 homes and threatening the Lyman Creek Watershed. This grueling development of the fire is evidence that the condition of our forests is ripe for these catastrophes and every year we delay enacting forest management reform, we risk Montana lives. While the wildfire is mostly contained, and the 250 families forced to evacuate have returned, the devastation will last a lifetime.
Unfortunately, millions of acres of our national forests in Montana are at high risk of wildfire. Our timber jobs have been crippled due to decades of excessive red tape and litigation from fringe groups. In fact, when I was growing up in Bozeman back in the 60’s and 70’s, we had over thirty sawmills in Montana. Today we have just seven.
Like most Montanans, I believe we should have more forest jobs and fewer catastrophic wildfires, just the opposite of today’s unacceptable reality. And that’s why I’m fighting for meaningful, bold and bipartisan solutions.
I’m especially proud to have worked with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA) to introduce a bipartisan forest management bill to increase logging and sawmill jobs in Montana and protect our communities from deadly wildfires.
You don’t often see a Democrat from California and a Republican from Montana working together, but that didn’t stop me from working to strike this bold, bipartisan compromise with her. Our bill prioritizes wildfire mitigation projects, curbs frivolous litigation, and invests in forest jobs, biomass, and fire-resilient communities—right here in Montana and across the west.
I’m happy to report that California’s Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has endorsed this breakthrough bipartisan legislation. I’d like to see Montana’s governor do the same.
Our bipartisan forest management bill focuses on increasing science-driven management surrounding at-risk communities. It streamlines critical projects without circumventing public input or environmental review. It is exactly what Montana needs to address our wildfire crisis and to grow jobs. I will continue to work tirelessly to get our bipartisan legislation to the President’s desk this year.
Working across the aisle on forest management builds on another bipartisan accomplishment to protect Montana’s public lands – the Great American Outdoors Act. This historic new law permanently and fully funds a conservation program critical for Montana known as the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addresses the maintenance backlog of our national parks. This legislation is the biggest conservation win we’ve seen in a half century, and I’m proud to have championed it every step of the way.
I attended schools in Bozeman from kindergarten through college. I want my grandchildren to enjoy the same pristine air, water, wildlife, and landscapes in Montana that I enjoyed growing up in Montana. That is why I will always fight to protect and increase public access to public lands, oppose the mass transfer of federal lands, and cut red tape and obstructionist litigation that is blocking responsible forest management today.
My love for Montana’s public lands and our forested communities is why I will always work across the aisle in the United States Senate to protect Montana’s way of life for future generations.
I’m proud to have helped secure major public lands achievements since Montanans first entrusted me to serve them in Congress in 2012. But we have much more work to do.
You can be sure my sleeves will remain rolled up, and I’ll continue working across the aisle on important priorities for Montanans, to protect our Montana way of life for generations to come.
— U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., is seeking a second term in the upcoming election. He lives in Bozeman.