In 1963, I came to Missoula from an area in west central Wisconsin that once had one of the country’s largest white pine forests that was cut with abandon. The thinking was the supply was inexhaustible. Today the only knowledge I have of Wisconsin’s timber industry is from history books.
After attending the University of Montana and studying forestry practices, I became a timber cruiser at the Kootenai National Forest Sylvanite Ranger Station in the Yaak. The 13-mile trek in was a one-lane gravel road with turnouts. The Yaak had trees bigger in diameter and taller than I had ever seen with seven or eight 16-foot logs. Roads were scarce. With permission from the Canadian government to cut out the old logging road into Fernie, Canada, we would drive 10 miles east in Canada and then walk back across the border to get to the area we were preparing for a timber sale.
Look at it now, roaded and clear cut. Just like Wisconsin, this beautiful forested area has been decimated. This is the reason we need Sen. Jon Tester’s forest bill to pass now. It reaches a compromise that protects the different interests in Montana and will preserve our forests for future generations. The time for passage of this bill is now.
I just want you to know that the “last” wild horse on Wild Horse Island is alive and well (see “Alone on the Range,” Oct. 8, 2009). I saw the horse that we named “Blackie” on Tuesday. We named all of them maybe 10 years ago but now Blackie is the only old horse left. Fortunately, Blackie now has five other friends to kick it with, and it appears that the other horses are helping him move around from his normal place. He seems to have been sedentary for the last three years at least; I always found him in the same spot. But now that there are new horses it took me three long days of walking to find them right on the interpretive trail where I figured they would not want to be. I guess for wild horses they are not so shy.
As soon as the first new horse was released it found Blackie and stayed by his side all spring (I found them in April, May and June). But now they have a full-on band, which is a great thing for them. They were whinnying and moving around on the Palouse prairie and seemed to be doing well. I just thought you might want to know since you wrote that long article last fall and never saw the last horse.
Awesome story, by the way. Just re-read it. Thanks for writing it.
Lets look at some facts and numbers that deal with Sen. Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act (FJRA). It covers three national forests, all with high percentages of roadless acreage. (The Beaverhead-Deerlodge has 1.8 million roadless acres, the most in the state.) On the three national forests—the Kootenai, Lolo and Beaverhead-Deerlodge—there is approximately 3.3 million acres of roadless lands. Under the FJRA, approximately 600,000 acres would be designated “wilderness,” while approximately 2.4 million acres of mostly low-elevation, diverse roadless lands would be designated yellow or “open to timber harvest.” The new wilderness is mostly disconnected high elevation country with little timber value.
Perhaps the most eye-catching trend with the FJRA is that this bill consistently reduces roadless acreage. The West Big Hole Inventoried Roadless Area would be reduced from 133,562 acres into two separate 20,000-plus-acre tracts, with a new ATV road separating the areas for a total of 44,000-plus-acres of “wilderness” accessible only by hiking or riding for miles on ATV road. To make matters worse, hikers and stock users would have to hike and ride on an ATV road to even access the reduced roadless lands. Tester was the one who decided the amount of wilderness acreage, not some “collaborative process.” The corrupt Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership suggested a paltry offering of wilderness that Tester the politician reduced to the current proposals.
The reason this bill is supported by the timber industry is because they never dreamed they would be able to cut in low elevation roadless lands again. Tester is working hard to make their dream a reality. Apparently his administration believes if they flood the Montana media with letters of support for this logging bill, it will pass. You may have fooled some impressionable college students, but those of us who work on and know the land, we know you’re full of it, Jon.
Tester’s FJRA eliminates public involvement, the Forest Service and environmental laws and policies.
As someone who was born and raised in Montana, I am writing to express my concern and outrage over the proposed “high-and-wide corridor” currently being considered by Gov. Brian Schweitzer and Montana Department of Transportation (MDT).
According to the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, one of the biggest reasons tourists come to our state is “To relax in a slower paced environment with lots of open space, a feeling of freedom, awe inspiring scenery and a multitude of animals.” Tourism for the Missoula area alone saw 1.2 million visitors generating 317 million dollars. Somehow I don’t think their idea of open space and awe inspiring scenery is to follow a 24 feet wide, 30 feet tall, 220 feet long truck—pullouts or no pullouts.
For as long as I can remember, local chambers of commerce, the state tourism industry and local business owners have worked hard to develop a brand for our state as “The Last Best Place.” Where does an industrial corridor fit into that ideal? With the decline of the wood product industry—resulting in the closure of Smurfit-Stone—Missoula is already struggling to maintain its economy. A disruption of this magnitude could cause damage the tourism industry will never recover from.
Even though personnel from International Oil and ExxonMobil’s public relation group are saying these trucks will have positive economic effects on our area, I fail to see how equipment manufactured in Korea being shipped here by Sungjin and Dong Bang and moved along U.S. 12 by Mammoet of Holland for mining in Canada, is supposed to accomplish that. As far as I can see, we have contracted all the jobs for this project to other countries and have decided to sacrifice current jobs for Montanans in the bargain.
It’s time all of us stood up and said loudly and clearly, “Montana is not for sale!”
As a restoration ecology student at the University of Montana, I’ve been following the statewide discussion over forest management issues very closely.
I was born and raised in Carson City, Nev., and I’ve been a wilderness enthusiast all my life. Since 1999, Nevada has successfully protected over three million acres of land as wilderness and national conservation areas. In the last 27 years, Montana has successfully protected exactly zero acres.
The reason Nevada has been so successful is because wilderness groups don’t work alone. They partner with other private interests and they work with local and federal decision makers to make sure they’re representing a set of management concerns that includes the concerns of local communities.
The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act is a bill that is being advanced with similar intentions. The groups backing it aren’t looking narrowly at singular management concerns. They’re looking at the whole forest and as a result they have the strong backing of two powerful senators—Sens. Baucus and Tester. It’s nice to see that you still get rewarded for playing well with others. I hope Montana soon joins Nevada and other states that are passing bills and protecting wild places.
If there is one common ground all Montanans share it is that everyone values wilderness for various reasons. As an avid recreator, I also appreciate the magnificence that is wilderness. I have traveled extensively throughout the West and have noticed the devastating effects that development and mismanagment can have on national forests. Therefore, I realize there is far too much at stake if Montana’s national forests remain unregulated. Those in opposition to Sen. Tester’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act believe it falls short of achieving proper management, and some in favor admit they wish it managed some areas differently. Nevertheless, this bill accomplishes much more than the alternative of the past 27 years—that of the status quo of mismanagement.
The prospect that areas will be designated as wilderness preservation for wildlife, that folks who are accustomed to recreating in certain areas can rely on continuing to do so, and that others concerned about impending beetle kill spread or in dire need of employment will find some relief inspires me. I only hope this bill will pass out of committee and see its day on the House floor. It deserves a chance to prove its worth to all Montanans.
It’s been a full 11 months since Sen. Tester introduced the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act and it seems as if the discussion has hardly died down for even a moment. That’s a good sign. It’s an even better sign that this dialogue has not been for nothing.
The latest version of Tester’s bill includes several of the changes that were originally proposed by Tester back in February, including weighted preference for local contractors on timber projects. It also includes changes proposed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, including the removal of language that would have required NEPA processes to finish on a tight timeline. That is proof—unequivocal—that Tester is listening to all parties.
What is even more impressive is that he’s made these changes without abandoning the principles that informed the partnership of timber mills and wilderness groups that inspired the original proposal. The same exact number of acres of wilderness will be designated and the same number of acres of timberland will be treated, albeit with a longer timeframe. As someone who loves the outdoor opportunities we have in Montana, that many others don’t, I thank Sen. Tester for his work. This bill still deserves enthusiastic support from Montana.