Another invite-only “collaborative” leads to unprofessional Forest Service conduct
Yet another invite-only, exclusive “collaboration” involving public U.S. Forest Service land management has sprung up in Montana. This time the collaborative group is called the Whitefish Range Partnership (WRP), and they are focused on roughly 350,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest’s portion of the Whitefish Range above the cities of Columbia Falls and Whitefish.
As you will see below, the leaders of the Whitefish Range Partnership completely admit that they made a conscious decision to exclude certain members of the public. Notably, the WRP admits to purposely excluding any conservation organization that had worked within the established public participation processes outlined within the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in order to comment, appeal and, if necessary, file a lawsuit against a timber sale on the Flathead National Forest. It also appears that the WRP purposely excluded some of the “multiple-use” folks. Also of note is the fact that Flathead National Forest officials were invited to attend all the meetings of the WRP in an advisory capacity.
The WRP leaders conducted a media blitz last week, announcing an agreed upon deal that, among other things:
• Increases the “Suitable Timber Base” by 45% in order to supposedly achieve “commercial certainty for the timber industry” (in an era where lumber consumption and home construction are down more than 50% and not expected to rebound anytime soon).
• Decreases recommendations for areas protected as Wilderness.
• Increases motorcycle recreation in the southeast portion of the Whitefish Range.
• Provides a large increase in recreation opportunities for snowmobilers.
Q: Has there even been a public lands “collaborative” group that didn’t decide to increase logging, decrease Wilderness and increase motorized recreation?
RE: Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act
Below are some concerns regarding Senator Baucus' Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. Supporters of the bill aren't being totally honest or up-front with the public about what the actual bill language would mean for the Rocky Mountain Front.
Here are some facts and specifics based on the actual bill language:
• The 67, 000 acres of Wilderness designations along the Rocky Mountain Front proposed by Senator Baucus is a paltry sum, given the world-class, and largely unprotected wildlands and wildlife habitat, currently found along the Rocky Mountain Front. Even the Forest Service has recommended more Wilderness protections in their forest plans for the area than what Senator Baucus is proposing. Unfortunately, a few years ago supporters of Baucus’ bill dropped almost 30,000 acres of proposed Wilderness from this bill at the request of snowmobilers and those who oppose Wilderness. I strongly urge Senator Baucus to include Wilderness protections for all the inventoried roadless wildlands along the Rocky Mountain Front.
• The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act PRESERVES EXISTING motorized recreation, private grazing and logging on 208,160 acres of federal public land along the RMF. Sure, supporters of the bill have re-named this 208,160 acre area where motors, grazing and logging will continue as a nice sounding “Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Management Area.” However, a serious question that should be posed to Senator Baucus is: How does preserving existing motorized use, private grazing and logging on 208,160 acres along the Rocky Mountain Front actually result in protecting the area or eliminating the threats posed by motorized use, grazing and logging in these areas?
• Re: Grazing – This bill mandates and LOCKS-IN public lands grazing by private ranchers across the Front by stating that “The secretary SHALL permit grazing” where it currently exists. Under existing law, grazing may be allowed to continue, but it is not mandated that it must be allowed to continue. The current language of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act ties the hands of the Forest Service and it is worse than a bail-out, as it MANDATES the federal government to keep a private, commercial enterprise operating on public land, regardless of the ecological consequences, both now and into perpetuity. This public lands grazing mandate MUST be removed from the RMFHA.
• The bill language for maintaining existing facilities for livestock grazing is more liberal than previous Wilderness bills. The language incorporating State or local agencies for controlling fire, insects and disease promotes the trend toward devolution of federal public lands and is objectionable on that basis. This language should be removed from the RMFHA.
• Much of the noxious weed stuff in the bill is all about taxpayer funding for dropping tons of poisons on the ground while also MANDATING that all existing livestock grazing continue forever. If this were an effective strategy there wouldn’t be weeds in Montana. Given the complexities and unknowns of controlling weeds, especially with a rapidly changing climate and an escalating number of encroaching weed species, the called-for management strategy needs to focus on an assessment of existing weed infestations, the causes, potential controls, costs, likelihood of success, and clearly stated, measurable objectives to determine whether the controls are effective, and what will be done if they aren’t or if the funding doesn’t come through. At a minimum, this section of the bill should call for the plan to be written by an independent team of scientists.
Many of these substantive concerns regarding the actual language and specifics of the Rocky Mountain Heritage Act have been expressed by a number of organizations and many experienced, dedicated wilderness and forest activists. Many Montana wilderness supporters remain disappointed that the Act would only designate a small fraction of Wilderness-deserving lands on the Rocky Mountain Front as Wilderness, while leaving too much of the Front open to logging, grazing, motorized recreation and other forms of development.
We’ve tried to get the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front to listen to our concerns, make adjustments to the bill and add more protections to the unparalleled wildlife habitat and wildlands on the Rocky Mountain Front, but, unfortunately, they seem more concerned with politics and appeasing the opinions of the anti-wilderness crowd.
I would encourage those who value the Rocky Mountain Front for it's wildness and wildlife habitat, as I do, to read the actual bill. Then contact Senator Baucus and those pushing this bill and ask them to address many of the substantive, specific concerns with the actual language of the bill. Thank you.
RE: Senator Tester's mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act
Senator Tester wants to forever change the way America's national forests are managed by simply having Congressional politicians mandate a dramatic increase in logging levels, at a time when US lumber consumption is down nearly 50% and American's approval rating and trust in Congress is at an all time.
Tester claims "gridlock" prevents logging, but between 2008 and 2012 the US Forest Service sold enough timber sales in Montana and N. Idaho to fill over 239,000 logging trucks, which if lined up, would stretch for 2,048 miles. Why is Tester being dishonest about this fact?
The Forest Jobs and Recreation Act contains several major precedent-setting provisions potentially detrimental to America's national public lands legacy. These include:
1) Localizing of National Forest management by private, local entities for private profit. This could represent the fragmentation of National Forest system management and regulations to a serious degree and ignores the basic principle that national public lands belong to all Americans, not just those with political connections, lots of money or within the timber industry.
2) Mandated logging of National Forest land is an unscientific override of current forest planning by professional Forest Service staff.
3) Numerous unfunded mandates that allows funds to be drawn from other forests and Forest Service regions to implement FJRA, pitting forests against another for funding. This creates hard feelings and mistrust rather than cooperation. Make no mistake, if Tester's mandated logging bill passes, logging on the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest and Kootenia National Forest supersede any other Forest Service budget priorities. Money will be taken from Wilderness programs, trails, weed programs, monitoring programs, law enforcement programs....all to pay for more taxpayer subsidized logging for the timber industry.
4) Contains several provisions that abrogate the Wilderness Act by allowing non conforming uses including motorized access, and other intrusions.
5) Releases 76,000 acres that are currently protected as "Wilderness Study Areas" as a result of a late 1970s bill passed by the great Montana Senator Lee Metcalf. The Montana Wilderness Association's website fully admits that: "Currently those twelve Wilderness Study Areas are not official wilderness areas but have been managed as if they are wilderness. This proposal [Tester's FJRA] allows the lands not designated to be opened up to other uses, such as timber harvest and recreation." How in the world can the Montana Wilderness Association support opening up these Wilderness Study Areas to logging and motorized recreation?
For these and other reasons, over 50 forest and wilderness organizations around the country – including the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) – oppose Senator Tester's mandated logging bill, the FJRA.
Do we really want to open the door for politicians in the US Congress to simply just mandate resource extraction levels on America's public lands, to hell with science and public processes? If you answer "YES" to that question...the FJRA is for you.
You didn't say so but I assume your heart also breaks for the newborn calves and fawns surrounded by the pack. Wolf pups gotta eat and you do know what that means.
A word of warning to citizens in the Helena area: If you enjoy recreating on YOUR public lands--and particularly if you take pleasure in sharing Montana's Great Outdoors with your canine companion--be aware that a gun-wielding man named Joe is at large and is unable to distinguish the difference between a wild wolf and a groomed malamute wearing a collar with a light mounted on it. It's possible he will shoot first and determine his target later. Further, Joe advises that you keep your companion(s) on leash for a full six months of the year on YOUR public lands so as not to impede his quest for a wolf trophy.
"Hunter kills companion dog: I thought it was a wolf"
In reading these comments, I am so angered by the ignorance of some people. Come on hunting freaks! This person that was a so-called hunter was an obvious idiot who never attended a Hunters Safety Course a day in his life. He made a huge error and killed someone's dog - which is a BIG thing. It is not to be taken lightly. That's all that should be important in this case. The "hunter" was WRONG. PERIOD. He should have his license taken away permanently for the mere fact that he's too much of an idiot to own a gun. Who knows who or what he'll shoot next "by mistake" ... ooops!!!
Well stated Sandi and Jobs
I find your letter to forget coal a disservice to all of Montana. We all benefit from coal weather it is the coal tax or the jobs or the money the jobs bring back to Montana. What is your job is it 100 percent great for the environment? Are you a teacher I bet you use paper. Another resource we are pushing out of America and now get elsewhere how good was that for Montana and Missoula. Are you someone who doesn't live at work I bet you use a car to get to work once in a while or a bus which both burn fossil fuel should we forget gas and diesel also?
Claudia, John Roeber is one of those rare truly decent, heart-working, and totally selfless men. He does represent, and speak for, everything the AFL-CIO is working toward. He is a forward thinker, a well respected labor leader, and a Blue-Green believer and is working all opportunities to move a balanced agenda. Open your ears.
Supporting coal jobs and the responsible development of them has nothing to do with crazy Tea Party politics. This view almost makes you too absurd to take seriously and the issue of secure pensions and corporate sins is an issue for all workplaces. It is not unique to coal mining.
What is your job Claudia? How were your kids fed? What if we were wishing we had transitioned your job a decade ago? Opinions come easy from the cheap seats don't they?
I never considered myself anti-hunter, but I'm starting to feel that way due to the tendency for those same people who urge the public to consider them wise and responsible managers of our collective wildlife to defend to the death clear cases of hunter misconduct such as this. The dog had a flashing collar on, and there is no evidence whatsoever that this dog was a wolf hybrid - all the pictures I've seen look pure malamute to me. Talk about blaming the victim. Even if all that conjecture were true, it wouldn't change the fact that he was hunting in an area where it's illegal. Take responsibility and call out unethical members of your community instead of sticking by them.
MT FWP's 'hands off' position regarding this dog killing incident, brings into serious doubt the ethics of Montana's state wildlife agency. If a hunter shoots a cow or another person instead of a deer it is usually grounds for a charge of some sort. But kill a dog and it is okay? I guess a hunter only has to be sure of about certain game and not have to be a responsible hunter all the time! Of course some blame the dog owner. I guess public lands only belong to the hunter now????
Killing for pleasure or willingly inflicting pain is questionable behavior. An aberrant and deviant considered condition by most people. The hunter who fires away with total disregard of what is around him is a menace. I have had hunters in my family so I am not someone with a "knee jerk" reaction.
I do not live in Montana but I used to live in the mountains of Colorado along the Front Range. We lost our Malamute the same way, only the guy told us he was looking to make "Wolf gloves". We had Josh from 5 weeks old and it was absolutely heartbreaking to lose him that way. Unresponsible people with guns make this our public lands very unsafe.
Very well said Kathleen...my heart aches for Layne Spencer.
Thanks Missoula Independent. Your paper is the only one with a heart. The Missoulian has sunk so low a sink hole would cover it up. Thanks for helping to keep Missoulians sane.
Geez - you assume the dog owner is telling the truth - a very nebulous assumption. You also reveal an anti-hunting attitude, and your assertion that a dog caught in a trap cannot be removed by its owner seems absurd. Just go ahead and release your dog, in the extremely rare event that it's caught in a trap. Dogs are not designated fur bearers.
The fact that no state or local law enforcement agency finds anything wrong with pumping five or more bullets into a dog, after the owner, in full view, shouts NOOOO, is horrifying. In fact, the killer is being protected by our law enforcement. What? If your dog is caught in a trap, and you remove your dog or that trap YOU have broken the law. Your dog is the property of the trapper once caught in his trap. Whose public lands are these, anyway?
sad to see once again some anti hunter and trapper type get their knee jerk lopsided reaction printed in the Independent. The whole story hasn't even come out, assault rifle with silencer , come on dopey, I bet his dog was out of his control, way out in front, a sad situation yes, but a really stupid remark from the dog owner who has no blame in the world for what happened during a hunting season with a dog that closely resembles wolves, I have seen plenty in AK so I know they are not much different looking, this one was a wolf cross too most likely, and how dumb can you be to go out without orange on you and your dogs, heck I plaster my horses with blaze orange!!
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