A new omnibus bill is working its way through congress and includes changes to forest management that have been pushed by Montana’s congressional delegation. Montana Senator Steve Daines says he expects a bill before the end of the week and explains some of the elements in it.

"I just, literally, got out of a meeting here with leader McConnell as he provided us an update around what is currently in the deal. First and foremost is an update on the Cottonwood Agreement: this is a decision that has been devastating for the timber industry in Montana. By passing this bill, it reverses that decision."

The Cottonwood Decision primarily impacts lands that provide or could provide habitat to endangered species, and began with an argument over the Canadian Lynx. Opponents argue that it stymies timber projects with unnecessary lawsuits. Two other elements Daines touted involve hazardous fuel reduction in a faster way."

"This package would streamline implementation of projects to reduce hazardous fuels and establish fire breaks, resulting in healthier forests and more wood products jobs. Third, this will streamline the ability to manage vegetation, timber particularly around power lines so we can protect infrastructure and protect the grid."

One of the biggest impacts of the bill for rural communities may be the approval of Secure Rural Schools funding that is retroactive for the past two years and will continue for another two. Another major element is a change in how wildfire fighting is funded, bringing it more in line with the funding to respond with other natural disasters. The final language of the bill has not yet been released.