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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

House Committee Endorses Bonding Requirement For Logging Lawsuits

Weyerhaeuser closed its lumber and plywood mills in Columbia Falls last week.
Eric Whitney
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An attempt to strip a bonding provision from a new forest management bill failed Thursday on Capitol Hill.

The bill, co-authored by Montana Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke, would require people who aren’t part of collaborative timber projects to post a bond before they could sue over over the projects.If they lose they'd be required to pay the federal government's legal tab.

Colorado Democrat Jared Polis today tried to amend that bonding requirement out of the bill. Polis told the House Natural Resources Committee that it robs people of the right to challenge illegal or improper projects.

"My amendment favors not only local management and input, but really essential American values regarding equal access to speech and justice."

Zinke's forest reform bill this week was folded into a larger congressional forestry package. He says the bonding proposal doesn’t shortchange any environmental regulations and only encourages collaboration.

"First of all, it doesn't prevent anything. Anyone can sue, you just can't have the government pay for it."

The committee agreed with Zinke and defeated the Polis amendment on a 16 to 22 vote.

The full measure advanced out of committee.

A floor vote is expected sometime after the July 4 holiday.

O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the University of Montana School of Journalism. His first career job out of school was covering the 1995 Montana Legislature. When the session wrapped up, O’Brien was fortunate enough to land a full-time position at the station as a general assignment reporter. Feel free to drop him a line at edward.obrien@umt.edu.
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