Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bigger picture

Posted on Wed, Dec 30, 2009 at 1:54 PM

It can be difficult to see the bigger picture when our immediate needs and wants are at stake. Ask a first grader this holiday season if they would rather have a new toy or the cash equivalent put into a retirement fund. The answer will undoubtedly be the toy. That's a first grader, though. As adults we would have really appreciated that retirement fund. This type of foresight is something that is sorely missing in legislation these days, and this is why the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is so important.

This bill tries to keep afloat a dying Montana logging industry and the infrastructure to continue these important economic activities in the future. Keep in mind that the bill only mandates acreage, not board feet cut. This is an important distinction. Furthermore, these mandated cuts are legally bonded to restoration projects that are aimed at healing a forest devastated by years of neglect. This not only addresses watershed and beetle kill problems, but it keeps the sale of the timber here in Montana rather than nationalizing it.

Another lasting legacy of this bill is the recognition that local community based organization is sometimes better at solving conflicts of public land management than broader national legislation. It has been 25 years since the last wilderness designation in Montana, and not because of a lack of want. I am a wilderness advocate to the bone, and I am disappointed to see some of the concessions that must be made. What this bill does do, however, is combine efforts of local engagement that have finally broke through years of gridlock to protect areas that are under significant risk. If we don't act now, wilderness designation will become more and more difficult.

This bill is an investment in our public land's future that walks straight down the middle of the aisle while humbly refusing the toy for the greater good.

Aaron Olsen

Missoula

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