National Forest Legal News Blog


Letter to the Editor

Posted by nationalforestlawblog on May 1, 2011 at 7:13 PM

Bill Payne, of Libby, MT, writes this letter to the Flathead Beacon about how the environmentals have essentially shut down the timber industry in Northern Montana. 


Using the Endangered Species Act and other environmental mandates as justification, environmentalists, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, District Court Judge Molloy and the U.S. Forest Service have essentially destroyed the lumber industry in northwest Montana as well as other places and have denied the permitting of mine development. Large areas have been designated “wilderness” and more are being considered. Public access to most of the forest has been denied using road gates and more of these gates are added each year.

These actions may be the result of genuine concerns for endangered species and the environment, but they might also be an as yet disclosed political agenda. I suspect the latter because there already exists adequate territory in the form of national parks to serve as sanctuaries for endangered species.

Either way, I believe a grave injustice is being committed against the people who have lost their means of livelihood as a result of the locked up resources. The employees in the state and federal agencies involved suffer no ill effects. Their lives go on as before, but for those in the industries affected it’s a different story. Many (some of whose families have been in Montana for five generations) have been forced to leave in order to find work elsewhere. Some were forced to close once-prosperous business ventures and auction off the pieces.

Perhaps an egregious betrayal would be a better term than mere injustice to describe what is being committed here. Would anyone have come here and tried to build a home for their families, knowing that resource development would be disallowed at some point? I think not. I certainly would not have invested 55 years in the Kootenai Valley had I known the welfare of the grizzly bear would eventually take precedence over the people living here.

Bill Payne


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Reply Timberati
12:46 PM on May 02, 2011 
The interdisciplinary approach to forest management has effectively stanched any forest management activities. The idea of "do nothing so as to do no harm" permeates most (if not all) of the ologist community. And, when the Forest Service or BLM do try to harvest and manage a stand, they are sued by the Center for Biological Diversity or their ilk.

As for gates, I i disagree slightly. I have been on the management side of this one. Gates protect roads. I closed the gates when large snow and rain event were coming to keep out people who wanted to use the road to muddy the side of their four-wheel trucks. Rutted roads do not channel water away but just make deeper ruts. Bogging is not forest use.
Reply John Persell
04:55 PM on July 11, 2011 
Does Mr. Payne have a scientific basis to support his assertion that national parks provide adequate territory for endangered species? Or is that conjecture? Isn't the agenda of most conservation groups quite clear from their mission statements, available on their webpages? Generally, most aim to sustain biodiversity and the habitats that support native plant and animal species, and the migration and dispersal corridors that interconnected places provide. Biologists generally agree connected landscapes of significant size are necessary to support the genetic diversity and interaction necessary for long-term viability of many, if not most, species.

Regional economies change over time. Stagnant economies will not sustain communities over time. There are many factors involved in any declines in timber harvest and mining activity on certain parcels of public lands, including nation-wide public values, actual demand for such products, and on-the-ground impacts to and degradation of water supplies and species populations. This editorial does not address all of them.