26 Feb 2008, 10:04pm
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by admin

Compromise with environmentalists hurts forests

A Total Disregard for the Care of Our Forests

By LARRY MAHE, published in the Missoulian [here]

I remember that while growing up, the Bitterroot Valley was not filled with smoke month after month in the summer.

In those years logging was a strong industry in the Bitterroot, western Montana and Idaho. Now, because of environmental pressure, logging has all but stopped and the fires have begun.

The environmentalist agenda is not about holding loggers or the Forest Service to a higher standard. It is not about an exciting future of innovation, new machinery and technology, education and promoting a renewable resource into the future. It is certainly not about jobs, common sense or money going into our education system. Their agenda is about roadblocks and stopping all logging and forest management.

Some years ago I went on a “show-me trip” on a proposed timber sale. I was standing in a circle of Forest Service personnel and environmentalists. An environmentalist had listed elk habitat as one of the problem issues with this sale. I asked what damage we were doing by harvesting dead and dying mistletoe fir. He blurted out without thinking that he did not know because he was in a hurry the day he signed the appeal and had signed it without reading it.

I believe that most of the “roadblock” environmental issues on timber sales can be mitigated. The spotted owl and all the rest are simply vehicles to stop forest management. Their motto should be: I have moved here. I have my bridge across the creek, my log house, my log fence, my sewer in the ground, my no-trespassing signs posted, my unobstructed view of the mountains and now nobody can do anything without me appealing it.

There are designated wildernesses and they are wonderful, necessary places, but to let the rest of our forests go to waste is unconscionable.

The proof lies in the smoke you have been inhaling this last summer. The same smoke we inhaled in 2006, 2003 and 2000, as millions of board feet of timber become worthless. There is total disregard for timber, wildlife, livestock, homes and people’s lives and property. These same environmentalists have applauded their agenda as sawmills have closed, loggers and mill workers became unemployed, secondary businesses are affected and one more segment of our economy ceases to produce anything. This is a dangerous time in America when we are not allowed to produce a raw material.

Politicians have signed on to the program as they worry about their environmental record. I am sure they enjoy the votes and the money. Instead of showing up in Missoula when a sawmill laid off hundreds to help get federal unemployment, the same politician should have shown up to help them keep their jobs.

I have watched the Forest Service and the timber industry compromise for years. If the timber sale is 200 truckloads, we will settle for 100. If it is 100 we settle for 50. If it is 50 we settle for 10. Soon it will be zero. We have been stepping backward for years trying to please an elite few.

Loggers and forest managers should be held accountable. There are now stewardship programs, best management procedures, streamside zones, certified loggers programs and education programs, but above all there are people who care. People who have a vested interest in the outcome and are willing to work their hardest to do a good job.

The Forest Service has a mandate to care for our national forests. Many times the Forest Service is made out to be the big bad wolf, but they are local people trying to do the best they can. We need to stand behind them, support their efforts and allow them to work.

The environmentalist agenda places no value on the raw material they are wasting. We no longer manage our timber on the front side, and after it burns we don’t even salvage it. We let it rot, become infested with bugs, and fuel for future fires. All of this thanks to the environmentalists, their lawyers and the appeal process, and many times taxpayers cover their court costs.

Environmentalists provide checks and balances to the forest industry, which is good. However, they should have been called preservationists instead of environmentalists, and therein lies their fundamental flaw. You cannot preserve a forest. A forest is a living, changing, growing and eventually dying entity. In trying to preserve the forest, they sentence it to disease, overgrowth, fire, erosion from fire, waste and eventually fire-sterilized ground that produces nothing but brush.

The environmental community is now 100 percent guilty of what they so pompously accused the logging industry of: a total disregard for the care of our forests.

I believe the loggers and forest managers that I have spent my life with in the forests of Montana are the true environmentalists and stewards of the land.

Larry Mahe is a long-time logger who lives in Stevensville.



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