Friends of the Bitterroot (FOB), with over 700 members, has 21 years of blood, sweat and tears (not to mention many thousands of dollars) invested in protecting wildlands on the nearby Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. FOB and other local conservation groups were excluded from the self-selected Beaverhead-Deerlodge “partnership” and from the making of Sen. Jon Tester’s logging/recreation bill that adopts the exclusionary partnership proposal.
The wildlands we locals and others helped protect for years are being used as political trading-stock by a few, mostly more-distant, well-staffed collaborationist conservation groups and timber companies.
After trying to improve Tester’s bill through meeting with staff, there is no indication that any of the thoughtful comments have been heard let alone taken into consideration.
Disenfranchising stakeholders is unhealthy politics. But the main issue is Tester’s bill removes protections for far more wildland than it protects as wilderness.
Oddly, as a long-time critic, I find myself defending U.S. Forest Service management policy. They are tasked to use science and open public process that does not depend on who you are “friends of.” You just need to be a citizen of America.
Tester’s logging bill legislatively overrides the prerogatives of scientific management by the Forest Service. It does so primarily to advance the interests of local commercial and recreational interests. It mandates huge increases of taxpayer-subsidized, unsustainable logging, even when there is no market. It locks in motorized use permanently in some areas—no matter the costs to wildlife, land or water.
Is Montana so jaded with wildland we would trade Sen. Lee Metcalf’s Wilderness Study Area legacy for yet another motorized playground? Is military training helicopter landings and sheep-herding with ATVs in wilderness an oxymoron? Do we really want to promote the devolution of our national public forests into state or local fiefdoms managed differently all across America depending on local politics and commercial interests? Wilderness is an ancient, irreplaceable legacy far too valuable to trade for perishable pork sausage even when seasoned with a bit o’ wino (wilderness in name only).