The logging industry in Montana is dying, and HB 441 is a misguided, taxpayer-funded battle against basic economics. As evidence, Plum Creek Timber Co., long a timber industry mainstay in this area, is now a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Corp. and bills itself as a “Real Estate Investment Trust Company.” Weyerhaeuser has extensive private timber holdings in the Southeastern U.S., where trees can reach maturity 25 years after a harvest—compared to 90 to 100 years for regeneration of forests cut in this area. Even logging wet, lower-elevation forests in Northwestern Montana isn’t competitive with that in the Southeast. According to the Southern Loggin’ Times website, “Southern timber reaches the mill at less than half the cost of Pacific Northwest timber.” Under HB 441, non-timber entities, like the citizen group, Save Our Gallatin Front, which recently won the local timber sale bid for a Conservation License and which values our forests for their ecological, recreational, and aesthetic value, would no longer be able to bid on state timber sales, lowering bids and thus lowering revenue for our state due to lost competition. In addition, repealing the option for citizens to purchase conservation licenses would be detrimental to our burgeoning local industry. For example, Blackmore Sensors, a local startup which develops LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) systems for driverless cars, recently raised $18 million in venture capital from a group that includes BMW and Toyota, substantially increasing our tax base. Blackmore and other new businesses can’t offer salaries that are competitive, say, with those in Silicon Valley. Rather, their employees are drawn here by the quality of life Montana offers, especially its recreational opportunities. In short, Montana scenery trumps salary and Gallatin Valley’s growing tax base trumps logging.

Curtis Vogel