Monday, October 25, 2021

Sen. Daines pushes for increased logging and mining

by Clark Fork Valley Press
| October 13, 2021 12:00 AM

U.S. Senator Steve Daines is calling on the U.S. Forest Service to do more to reach its timber harvest goals in Montana after falling short by 30% in fiscal year 2021, due in large part to increased litigation and red tape following the Cottonwood decision.

Daines stressed that Montana communities rely on the USFS to reach these goals in order to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, protect families from fires and support their economies.

“I understand the backlog of consultation due in large to the precedent set by the Cottonwood decision has contributed to the shortfall in volume and that the board feet encumbered in litigation now exceeds sale volume in Region 1,” Daines writes. “…making up the volume lost in fiscal year 2022 would provide significant relief to Montanans and ensure needed hazardous fuel reduction projects move forward before it is too late.”

Daines recently highlighted this shortfall at a press conference on Montana’s wildfire season.

So far this Congress, Daines has introduced several bills to improve forest management in Montana:

  • A bill to fix the 9th Circuit Court’s Cottonwood decision and help end help end frivolous litigation by codifying the position of the Obama Administration. Since January 2016, there have been at least 24 lawsuits in nine states and 44 notices of intent to sue using the precedent of this decision.
  • The “Protect Collaboration for Healthier Forests Act” to protect much needed and collaboratively-developed forest management projects that reduce the risk of wildfire in our National Forests from court room obstructionists.
  • The “FIRESHEDS Act,” which allow Governors to work with the Forest Service on prioritizing areas at the highest risk of wildfire and expediting treatment to reduce this risk.

In February, Daines and Congressman Matt Rosendale sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service urging the agencies to address the Cottonwood decision that hurts Montana timber jobs and forest management projects in Montana and across the country.

Tuesday at a U.S. Senate Committee hearing, Senator Steve Daines stressed how the Democrats’ reckless, multitrillion tax and spending spree bill will kill Montana mining jobs by imposing burdensome new taxes and fees on small businesses.

To begin the hearing, Daines introduced David Brown, President and CEO of WYO-BEN, which is headquartered in Billings and mines bentonite. He asked for Brown’s input on the impact that Democrats’ tax proposals could have on his business and the nation’s supply of bentonite.

“WYO-BEN is a family-owned bentonite mining and manufacturing business that supports nearly 200 indirect and direct jobs in Montana and Wyoming,” Daines said. “Mining provides high-paying jobs and provides much needed local and state revenue for schools and emergency services.”

Daines then discussed America’s dependence on China for critical minerals, which are used in everything from smart phones to cars to solar panels. Daines stressed that Democrat proposals would take us in the wrong direction by increasing U.S. reliance on China for these minerals rather than supporting mining in states like Montana.

“Of the 35 minerals that are considered ‘critical’ for our national security and domestic use, 17 of them come from China. These numbers are only going to get worse as demand for critical minerals and materials increases. If the United States is serious about building more renewable energy, then we must be serious about increasing domestic mining,” Daines said.