by Michael Garrity, Guest Opinion
I enjoyed John Adam’s excellent article on Sen. Jon Tester’s logging and wilderness bill. This is the first time a reporter has done an in-depth article on Tester’s bill and explained why many Montanans are opposed to his mandated logging proposal.
However, Adam’s in-depth article did leave out two important reasons why people are opposed to Tester’s bill: science and economics.
While Congress wrestles with budgetary priorities, Tester’s mandated logging would cost taxpayers more than $140 million since almost all Forest Service logging in Montana loses money. Mandating more logging simply means mandating more money-losing logging. Given that the price of timber is recovering fine on its own, there is no reason that taxpayers should allow Tester to spend millions more of their tax dollars on welfare for timber corporations.
Then there’s the environmental costs of Tester’s mandated logging of 100,000 acres in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Kootenai national forests.
In Montana, the main cause of declining lynx numbers is logging. In the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, with its lodgepole pine forests, most of the logging is clear-cutting.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies has successfully stopped many proposed Forest Service clear-cut projects for the simple reason that clear-cutting and lynx don’t mix. Lynx mainly eat showshoe hares, and when a forest is clear-cut, or even thinned, the Forest Service’s own research shows that the hares leave and the lynx do, too.
The Kootenai National Forest is home to the most endangered population of grizzly bears in the nation, as well as being federally-designated lynx critical habitat. The grim reality is that grizzly bear numbers in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem continue to decline every year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that the Cabinet-Yaak population is “in danger of extinction” due in part to the habitat alteration and human intrusion related to the cumulative impacts of logging and associated road construction.
Most grizzly bears are killed near roads and more mandated logging inevitably means more logging roads and more dead grizzly bears.
If Tester’s bill passes, taxpayers will be mandated to pay for more corporate welfare for the timber industry so they can clear-cut more lynx habitat and build more logging roads.
Ultimately, that will lead to fewer lynx and the extinction of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yack ecosystem. Alternatively, we could acknowledge that the timber industry already gets enough corporate welfare and instead focus limited funds and personnel on recovering lynx and grizzly bear populations so they can eventually be removed from the endangered species list.
It’s also worth questioning why Tester wants to mandate more logging when the Forest Service continues to be a serial law breaker while trying to “get out the cut” for the timber industry.
The Forest Service doesn’t lose court cases because they’re frivolous; they lose because the agency doesn’t follow the law. Yet, Congress, which is cutting funding for food stamps, unemployment compensation and Head Start, refuses its constitutional duty to oversee the agency’s money-losing practices.
The Tribune’s readers would undoubtedly benefit from an in-depth analysis of the other wilderness bill for our region before Congress, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act (NREPA).
Montanans deserve an opportunity to compare NREPA, a bill that would formally protect all roadless areas and wilderness study areas in the northern Rockies as wilderness and was written by Montana scientists such as Dr. John Craighead, to Tester’s mandated logging bill.
NREPA saves taxpayers money by reducing corporate welfare for the timber industry and creates jobs by recovering habitat for threatened and endangered species.
Tester’s bill, written by timber corporations and their collaborative partners, costs taxpayers millions, increases corporate welfare, and opens one million acres of roadless areas — including significant parts of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness Study Area — to clear-cutting.
The choice is clear. We need a wilderness bill based on sound science and economics not corporate welfare and big government.
Mike Garrity is executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies based in Helena.