U.S. Sen. Jon Tester's Forest Jobs and Restoration Act is included in the Senate's Interior Department appropriations bill, giving it a chance of passage in the 2012 federal budget.

The bill provides annual funding for the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Forest Service wildland fire management.

The 183-page bill was released Friday.

In addition to Tester's Montana legislation, the appropriations bill also includes a provision creating the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Historical Park in Rhode Island.

Tester's bill would create about 1 million acres of new wilderness and recreation areas in Montana. It would also require the Forest Service to open at least 100,000 acres of timber over 15 years to logging, thinning or other mechanical treatment in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, Lolo and Kootenai national forests.

Tester initially introduced his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act in 2009. He was able to attach it to two end-of-year spending bills in 2010, but both failed to pass Congress.

Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy said the latest version is unchanged from what was presented at a Senate Energy and National Resources Committee hearing in May.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.


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