Sen. Jon Tester of Montana continues to make big strides for the conservation community while maintaining the trademark down-to-earth personality so common among sportsmen. Tester took some time out from tending his farm and working in the halls of Congress to answer a few questions for the TRCP.
The TRCP is set to honor Tester at the 2013 Capital Conservation Awards Dinner held April 18.
Name: Jon Tester
Occupation: U.S. Senator/Organic Farmer
Location: Big Sandy, Mont.
How did you become passionate about the outdoors? I grew up fishing and riding horse in the Bear Paw Mountains in north-central Montana with my dad and two older brothers. We learned that enjoying Montana’s treasured outdoors comes with the responsibility of preserving our lands and waters for future generations to enjoy as well.
What is a favorite memory of a trip afield? Stream fishing in the Bear Paw mountains with my folks.
What is your go-to piece of hunting or fishing gear? It depends on the time of year, but right now my .218 Bee that I use to shoot gophers on the farm.
What led you to a career in Congress? I ran for the Montana State Senate in 1998 after the State Legislature deregulated Montana’s power industry, resulting in higher power costs. This change put an unfair financial burden on average Montanans. After serving as the president of the State Senate in 2005, Montanans elected me to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
What role do you see sportsmen playing in the conservation arena? Sportsmen and women know our lands as well as anyone, and they know what it will take to preserve our outdoor heritage. Sportsmen and women provide me with some of the best conservation ideas and the best ways to increase access to public lands because they use it. Lawmakers do their best work when they get good ideas from the ground and the sportsmen’s community will be critical to making sure we can preserve our lands and pass our outdoor traditions down to our kids and grandkids.
What are some ways sportsmen can become involved in public policy? Building coalitions that put forward good ideas will make sure sportsmen and women have a seat at the table. It’s also important to reach out to folks that you normally wouldn’t work with in order to find common ground. My Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is the product of conservationists and folks in the timber industry sitting down at the table to improve how we manage our forests. Each group gave a little but in the end they got a lot more. All Montanans will benefit from this legislation, whether they rely on our forests for work or recreation.
What do you think are the most important issues facing sportsmen today, and how do you hope your work in Congress will resolve these issues? Sportsmen and women tell me that their No. 1 issue is access to public lands. That’s why I’ve pushed for my Making Public Lands Public Act that will increase access to public lands. Sportsmen and women are also concerned about land and species conservation, which is why stronger protections were a major part of my Sportsmen’s Act last year.
In the simplest of terms, why do you care about conservation? As someone who works and plays outdoors, I know the importance of preserving our lands and water for future generations to enjoy. Montana’s outdoor economy is also a nearly $6 billion industry that creates jobs and strengthens our state’s economy. But more importantly, our outdoors are why we live here.
Any conservation leaders or heroes you look up to? There are many conservation heroes, including those who use our lands wisely today, but you named your organization after one of my favorites: Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was a visionary. He pioneered our earliest conservation efforts and fought to change Americans’ perceptions about the land. His commitment to responsible stewardship of our lands and water is something for all of us to aspire to.