Montana Senator Steve Daines toured a beetle-infested area of the Helena National Forest Tuesday, and praised a joint federal-state effort to reduce fire danger.
At Chessman Reservoir above Helena, Daines surveyed acres of dead trees and said Congress should encourage more salvage logging.
"We need to continue to ensure that we are actively managing our forests to reduce the wildfire risk. It creates jobs, it reduces the wildfire risk. It also protects our environment as you see behind me here with the watershed for Helena."
But the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies says salvage logging actually has no effect on fire danger. Mike Garrity cites research from the Intermountain Fire Science Lab in Missoula which found that logging often leaves behind the most flammable parts of the trees.
"When they log they remove the big tree trunks, not the finer fuels, the limbs, the branches, and those are the parts of the tree that burn."
The Forest Service, the State of Montana, and the city of Helena are working together to reduce the effects of the pine-tree die-off in the watershed that serves the Helena Valley. Mountain pine beetles, insects the size of a grain of rice, have been blamed for destroying more than 60 million acres of forest since the 1990s.