Collaboration now


I appreciate Matthew Koehler's contribution to "Writers on the Range" (see "Prescribed Burn," Feb. 5, 2009). It seems Koehler has toned down his rhetoric, coinciding with most of industrial timber leaving the area. Past newsletters from the WildWest Institute, Koehler's organization, have stressed collaboration between the institute and communities in the region to achieve thinning objectives in a responsible way. Then the local newspapers report on the WildWest Institute's litigious tendencies; court judgments seem to be appealed over and over.

Speaking for myself, I am glad organizations like the WildWest Institute exist. Surely such a growth-obsessed and powerful force as big timber can stand for counterbalances like Koehler's organization as a voice of reason. I appreciate Koehler et al's efforts to counter such misguided timber sales as in a recent and irregular burn. But too many times in the past have I wondered whether organizations like WildWest take advantage of Equal Access to Justice (where environmental groups have legal fees paid for) in the name of personal vendettas.

As a timber professional (or former professional at this point), environmentalist and general moderate, Koehler's antics have left me wondering where his personal agenda and ego lie. I'm glad Koehler has gained such a holistic view through hunting, and I'm glad he has the perspective to realize that the rifle and the roads he uses to hunt were produced through logging, mining and even a little drilling.

The good news is most of industrial-scale logging is going or gone. And it has taken with it a global market economy that was more like mining than renewable resource harvest. The bad news is that same equipment will no longer be operating, and no longer be available for firefighting infrastructure where people live and work. Never mind the lost jobs—the rare high paying, blue collar jobs so crucial to the uneducated. I think Koehler's point for his recent article was that we must recognize where to apply our politically driven logging. Point well taken.

So in light of all the economic turmoil, I'm glad we can all move on from the big business versus obstructionist conflicts that have held us back for so long. Now the burden is to find true value-added uses for trees previously considered "junk," so that we can reap economic benefit while we restore overcrowded forests. Now is a golden opportunity for such grassroots organizations as Koehler's to take a deep breath and truly collaborate with local communities and cottage industry. Human interaction has been part of nature for quite some time now, and now is the time to direct our activities in a holistic way.

Greg Seitz

East Missoula

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