US Sen. Tester co-sponsors bill to give US Forest Service, BLM more flexibility in handling of stewardship contracts, says legislation would improve forest management, create jobs through responsible logging

WASHINGTON , September 25, 2013 (press release) – Senator Jon Tester is teaming up with his fellow western Senators to improve forest management and create jobs in states like Montana.

Tester is co-sponsoring the bipartisan Stewardship Contracting Reauthorization and Improvement Act. The bill will let the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management continue to improve forest health and support local communities by responsibly logging forests.

Stewardship contracting requires workers to assess the needs of a national forest, from harvesting trees to watershed restoration work, such as repairing culverts and roads. Stewardship contracting lowers the risk of devastating wildfire, restores watersheds and guarantees jobs and supply for local timber mills.

"Responsible logging that improves forest health makes Montana communities safer from the threat of wildfire while creating Montana jobs," Tester said. "It's good to see support building for common-sense measures that put Montanans to work in the woods and drive our economy forward."

Tester's reauthorization bill, which is co-sponsored by fellow Montana Senator Max Baucus, makes two widely supported changes to stewardship contracting. The first provides the Forest Service with more flexibility in how it handles stewardship contracts, while the second improves the balance between timber and stewardship service contracts.

Tester's bipartisan measure, which is supported by the Montana Wood Products Association, received a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July.

Tester is also the main force behind another measure to put more Montanans to work in the woods and improve forest health: his Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. His bill, of which Baucus is also a co-sponsor, was heard at the same July hearing as the Senators' stewardship bill.

The Stewardship Contracting Reauthorization and Improvement Act is also supported by Wyoming Senators John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Idaho Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo.

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