Montana: Yaak enviros ‘save’ wilderness by keeping bankrupt forest-ruin in business

The era of win-win forest agreements where loggers get lots of
destroyed forest and enviros get a pittance of protected forest is
fast becoming recognized for the fraud that it really is! In the near
future the needs of the timber industry will no longer be part of the
long-term multiple land-use planning discussion! And it’s their own
fault! The amount of forestland that no longer has merchantable timber
on it because of their unsustainable practices has made their demise
inevitable! The abuses of the industry are no longer the bases of
modern day peer reviewed biological science. Industrial science has
lost it’s credibility! And environmentalist who value how loggers
destroy the forest are also rapidly losing credibility. The days of
these win-win losers’ exploitation and manipulations are finally
ending! –Editor, Forest Policy Research

In Montana, large wilderness-and-timber projects such as the
Beaverhead-Deerlodge proposal and Blackfoot Challenge have been in the
news, but I feel it’s important to remind legislators that for many
years, a much smaller proposal has been every bit as much at the
ready, up in the Yaak. It’s a proposal which, though smaller and more
contained than the others, assembles the widest representation yet of
diverse user groups: not just timber-and-wilderness interests, but
snowmobile clubs, ATV clubs, hunting and fishing guides, a rod and gun
club, local businesspeople, loggers (what few remain), and, perhaps
most significantly, the last independent mill in Lincoln County,
Chapel Cedar, which specializes in value-added products, and which is
keen to be able to purchase and advertise fiber gotten from this
legislation, marketing it as “wilderness wood.”

As with any community
or economic development project that includes wilderness, there will
be some reactionary extremists, but the truly affected parties– those
with the most at stake–support the measure wholeheartedly. The Yaak
proposal–the Three Rivers Challenge (3RC), named for the relatively
small portion of the Three Rivers District of the vast Kootenai
National Forest in which a map of common ground has been drafted,
across the years–is pretty much the result of the heroic and
ceaseless work of Robyn King, the executive director of a small
grassroots group in the Yaak, the Yaak Valley Forest Council, as well
as the work of her various aforementioned partners and user groups.
Every week, for years, she has driven down out of the mountains in
Yaak to meet with clubs and groups and individuals in Eureka, Troy,
and Libby, as well as to Missoula and Helena, building bridges and
seeking collaboration with all the different interests on the Kootenai
National Forest.

I suppose it sounds like hyperbole, but it’s my
opinion that the independent logger has no greater champion in Lincoln
County than Robyn King, with the possible exception of one of her
great partners, Wayne Hirst, who is the accountant for almost every
logger remaining in Lincoln Country. She’s been helping carry the
local independent timber industry’s water for a long time, telling
them not to give up hope or faith. The loss of one mill after another
in Lincoln County, and elsewhere in the region, has discouraged many,
but not those involved in the Three Rivers Challenge. “For forty years
now, we’ve been fighting in Lincoln County,” says Hirst. “What has it
gained us? Nothing.” The Three Rivers Challenge agreement proposes to
secure at a minimum 50 new jobs, which, as unemployment worsens and
the economy sags ever-further, doesn’t sound like much at first
(unless you’re one of those fifty). But that number is a minimum, and
if the project does a good job, providing showcase work–particularly
through stewardship contracting–then the project will have created an
infrastructure capable of expansion.

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