Former Congressman Pat Williams said it well at the panel discussion concerning Sen. Jon Tester's forest bill on April 8: "This is the first (wilderness) meeting in 30 years where there weren't pickets outside and 400 people in the room" (Missoulian, April 9).
The fact that this bill creates new political space for Montanans to converse, and more important, to advance actual solutions for public land management, is reason enough for some people to get behind Tester. Others, however, have needed some assurance that logging measures won't have negative consequences on the ground or that the Forest Service won't be trumped by local initiatives.
Those assurances are arriving. At the panel discussion on April 8, Tracy Stone-Manning made it clear that "mechanical treatment" would be defined in the legislation before it passed. That's been a major concern of some critics and a small stumbling block in the way of progress. Thank goodness it's being addressed alongside other concerns.
All Montanans should recognize that we can ill afford to fail on this one. A collaborative effort like this one is uncommon and may not be easy to conjure again if this bill is stalled.
Sincerely, Nathan Kimpell, Missoula