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Shovels are Ready for $100 Million in Forest Work

January 5, 2009

Seeley Lake, MT – A request for economic stimulus in rural Montana has been sent to the state's congressional delegation. The Montana Forest Restoration Steering Committee is asking them to help secure federal dollars to fund an estimated $100 million worth of pending restoration projects on 13 regional forests, nine of them in Montana.

An analysis by The Wilderness Society of how funding "shovel ready" forest restoration would benefit Montana found that more than 1,300 full- and part-time jobs would be created.

That would be good news for companies like Pyramid Mountain Lumber. Its resource manager, Gordy Sanders, says they are ready to get to work on the forest cleanup backlog by hiring locals and small companies for the projects.

"We can improve fisheries and wildlife habitat, make campground improvements -– multiple benefits for a wide variety of interests."

Sanders says many of the projects on the list already have been reviewed and have received a "stamp of approval" to move ahead, but they've been sitting on the shelf because of a lack of funding.

"The resources weren't there to get those projects done. Having these additional funds available would be hugely beneficial."

The letter also requests guaranteed loans for qualifying forest products businesses that work on forest restoration, citing those companies as important employers in rural Montana.

Foes of the stimulus package point out that it will increase the federal deficit, which could lead to higher taxes. And some critics say too many special interests have their hands out, hoping for some of the cash.

Deborah Smith/Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT