HELENA – The Washington Post “fact checker” column Wednesday chastised U.S. Sen. Jon Tester for misstating facts last week about the impact of lawsuits on timber harvests in Montana.
Tester, D-Mont., corrected his initial statement within 24 hours of making it last week and apologized, his spokeswoman said.
“Jon made a mistake (and) we apologized for the error last week,” she said. “The bottom line is that there is a huge problem with forest management and Jon Tester is working hard to bring folks together to fix it in a way that increases timber cut while protecting Montana’s outdoor heritage.”
One critic of Tester, however, said Wednesday he’s not satisfied with the senator’s follow-up, and that Tester and others are continuing to foster the myth that lawsuits are to blame for obstructing timber harvests from federal forests.
The media, leading politicians of both parties and mainstream environmental groups have been “spreading misinformation and outright lies for years in their attempt to dramatically increase logging in this state,” said Matthew Koehler, director of the WildWest Institute, a small, Missoula-based environmental group.
Koehler has been using social media to publicize Tester’s initial misstatement.
The Post column, written by Glenn Kessler, examined Tester statements made last week to Montana Public Radio, first in an interview and then in a later statement correcting an earlier error.
Tester initially said every logging sale in Montana is under litigation, and then his office later said that nearly half the “awarded timber volume in fiscal 2014” in the Forest Service Northern Region is under litigation. The Northern Region includes Montana and north Idaho.
Kessler’s column noted that the volume of sales under litigation – 69 million board feet – is about half of the 2014 annual awarded timber volume of 145 million board feet.
However, it then said that comparison isn’t valid, and that an even lower amount of board feet of timber are being blocked from logging by litigation, compared to an even larger figure of board feet under contract on all forests in the region.
The Northern Region headquarters in Missoula on Wednesday issued a statement in response to the column, saying that litigation does impact its operations, “regardless of how the numbers of projects and timber volumes are sliced.”
However, it also said litigation is “part of the public process,” and that it’s a necessary check and balance on forest management. The region’s goal is to have healthy forests and “resilient communities,” and that solutions require “enhanced collaboration,” the statement said.