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Opposition to timber cutting is not environmentalism

Portions of the south-facing slopes above Thompson Falls lie in a designated roadless area. For five years, the USFS Plains District has been working on a proposal to enhance winter range and remove fuels in this urban/forest interface. This proposal calls for helicopter logging and thinning. It will provide employment, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce wild fire danger.

     The Plains District worked with members of the public to find a consensus. After studying the documents, meeting with the project designers, and hiking the mountainsides, members of both a local environmental organization, Cabinet Resource Group, and a statewide group, Montana Wilderness Association, supported the project. It was appealed two weeks ago by Alliance for Wild Rockies and The Ecology Center.

    These appellants refused to meet with the Plains District foresters. They turned down repeated invitations to walk the slopes of the project. They repudiated the endorsements of the grassroots organization and the venerable wilderness group. Even when beseeched by locals to at least visit the site before appealing, the Ecology Center intern in charge of the appeal would not leave his Missoula desk.      The Ecology Center staff is committed to zero cut on National Forest. If a tree is being cut, no matter how praiseworthy the proposal might be, a staffer fills in the blanks on an appeal form and off to court they trot. Generally, they lose. All that counts, apparently, is building a mountain of paperwork that proves they protest logging.

    This is not the brand of Montana environmentalism that brought forth our Constitution guaranteeing a clean and healthy environment, Best Management Practices, or the Montana Environmental Policy Act. This is not the brand that Montana environmentalists should have burned into their hides.

    The Ecology Center staff may have their hearts in the right place, but their heads are up that dark, humid tunnel. Their pointless appeals have damaged local economies, splintered communities, alienated environmentalists, and thrashed public process. Our environmental safeguards are on the chopping block. The actions of these arrogant serial appellants are bringing down the axe.

Lou Springer, a columnist for the Sanders County Ledger and a valued contributor to The River Journal, has been writing about natural resource issues for 12 years.


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Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

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