by Michael Garrity, Opinion, IR Your Turn
A Nov. 1 article in the Independent Record reported that a “collaborative” group developed and submitted to the Forest Service a proposal to log thousands of acres in and around an inventoried roadless area southwest of Lincoln. The article neglected to mention that the Forest Service proposed a similar timber sale called “Nevada Dalton” in the late 1990s. That project was halted when President Clinton’s Roadless Rule went into effect in 2001. Since both the Roadless Rule and the reasons for initially halting the project are even more valid now, the project should be dropped once again.
Despite an attempt by the Bush administration and corporate logging and mining interests, the Clinton-era Roadless Rule remains in effect and has just been bolstered by a recent decision of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Now, both the 9th and 10th Circuit Courts of Appeal have found the Roadless Rule to be valid and carry the force of law.
“Collaboration” by a small group of people — including those with commercial interests in for-profit timber mills — does not make a timber sale in national forests on inventoried roadless lands legal. These lands belong to all Americans, not just a handful of local Montanans, and the manner in which activities on these lands are conducted must therefore follow federal law.
But there are more problems with this proposal than just its intrusion into roadless lands.
According to a quote from one of the collaborators, this logging proposal will fix “… a forest that, because of 100 years of fire control and logging, is out of sync.” Yet, the article doesn’t explain how more logging will fix the problems caused by previous logging. Nor did it explain how a natural forest ecosystem can be “out of sync” with anything except the traditional Forest Service goals of “getting out the cut” to benefit the timber industry. Quite frankly, the public is being asked to simply accept the Bush-era political propaganda that we can make forests “healthy” by cutting them down.
Neither the collaborators nor the Forest Service explained how and what wildlife will supposedly benefit from more multimillion-dollar timber sales or the 6.5 miles of new logging roads and new noxious weed infestations that go with them.
The IR’s readers deserve to know what’s at stake here.
Lynx: The area proposed for logging is in federally designated critical habitat for lynx, currently listed as threatened and, thus, protected under the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, the article neglected to mention that logging destroys lynx habitat since it drives out the snowshoe hare and ground squirrels upon which lynx prey. The Forest Service’s own research shows that forests that have been logged are avoided by lynx.
Grizzly bears: The Forest Service admits that logging and the new roads that go with it will reduce important wildlife hiding cover and that similar logging on similar private lands has harmed big game and grizzly bear habitat. Yet, the agency and the collaborators who support the logging plan have not explained how reduction of existing cover levels on our national forests can possibly be called restoration.
Cost: The huge cost to taxpayers for this timber sale is glaringly omitted. A look at the Helena National Forest’s budget reveals that taxpayers lose over $2,000 an acre on commercial timber sales, so this 2,182-acre timber sale, including over 400 acres of clearcuts, could cost taxpayers over $4 million with little in return except the destruction of critical wildlife habitat.
Given the current national debate over government spending, we want to know why taxpayers are being asked to fund an expensive and destructive timber sale to marginally benefit logging companies.
And finally, after logging destroys the forest and stream habitat, will the Forest Service and collaborators then ask taxpayers for even more money to restore the habitat for lynx and grizzly bears?
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies will fully participate in the Dalton timber sale public process, and we encourage others who are concerned about the viability of native species and responsible federal spending to participate as well. We hope the Forest Service will answer our and all of the public’s questions and make a decision based on facts, science and the law, not political pressure to subsidize timber corporations.
Mike Garrity is executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.