It was a pleasure to attend the public meeting in Deer Lodge on March 6 with Sen. Jon Tester and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in reference to the Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill. It isn’t often that we get a U.S. Cabinet member coming to Montana, and I believe it was a show of great respect for our senator.
Vilsack stated that he is impressed with the collaborative effort by Montanans in developing the Forest Jobs and Recreation Bill and stated that we need to replicate that kind of effort across rural America. He certainly understands the need for more timber jobs in Montana as well as keeping that traditional industry alive. He also recognizes that without clean water (protected by this bill), our way of life would be in dire straits. He was very supportive of the Forest Service and intends to increase its budget in order to provide separate fire fighting funds while protecting its management funds.
Most of the meeting was devoted to attendees’ comments and questions, which were answered straightforwardly. All in all it was an interesting and worthwhile gathering.