[MCN] Montana Wilderness Association working to triple industrial logging on Kootenai National Forest?

Matthew Koehler mattykoehler at gmail.com
Wed Oct 12 10:36:45 EDT 2016

It's worth remembering that the Kootenai National Forest belongs equally to
all Americans, not just a handful of local people in Montana. As you'll see
below the Montana Wilderness Association and Yaak Valley Forest Council are
part of a non-transparent, exclusive "collaborative" group that has
apparently developed a legislative plan to triple industrial logging on the
Kootenai National Forest by accessing the forest from different areas.  If
you care deeply about the future of America's public lands legacy this is
yet another recent example of where some 'collaborative' groups in Montana
are severely undermining that legacy. Please consider contacting Montana's
congressional delegation and let them know you oppose these efforts to
legislate huge increases in industrial logging on National Forests in
Montana. Thanks.

*Kootenai Stakeholders Coalition prepare for legislative campaign*


The Kootenai National Forest covers a vast majority of Lincoln County’s
natural resources, recreation and wilderness areas. Lincoln County
currently claims the second-highest unemployment rate in the state, *prompting
calls for the community to open up the forests for timber harvests*. Others
demand allocated wilderness areas, while another group maintains that
remains a right on public land*.

About 10 years ago, a group formed to bring those interests to one
conversation. After about a decade of developing collaborative goals
between groups of different interests, *the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders
Coalition is now working on getting those goals stamped with federal
legislative approval.*

“Without implementation, or the ability to implement what we’ve been
working on for the last seven years, it’s really just ink on paper,” said
State Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby, an associate at Environomics, a public
relations group focused on connecting government affairs and timber
management. “It’s everyone rolling up their sleeves, and saying there’s 2.2
million acres here; there’s something for everyone.”

The coalition formed in 2006, drawing from different groups whose interests
include timber harvest, wilderness and recreation. During the last seven of
those 10 years, the coalition has developed a list of guidelines that the
organization says can enhance all three while hurdling the endless advance
of environmental litigation in order to get Congressional approval.

Today, the coalition includes officials from lumber companies, Lincoln
County,* Montana Wilderness Association, the Yaak Valley Forest Council*;
even the Troy Snowmobile Club. Community members from Eureka, Troy, Libby,
Columbia Falls and Thompson Falls make up the organization.

*The current Forest Service plan expects that the Kootenai could produce
around 40 million board feet of timber, but Vincent said the coalition’s
plan could draw about 90-120 million board feet by accessing the forest
from different areas.*

But before the process goes into legislative form, Vincent said the
coalition needs public outreach to ensure that everyone’s concerns are
heard before the bill is brought to Washington, D.C.

“We need a process that recognizes that there are excellent, diverse people
working in a collaborative fashion with the agency that will manage the
watershed for future generations,” he said. “As a Kootenai pilot project,
we need all the communities supportive of that pilot. That’s what we’re
beginning to do.”

Amy Robinson, northwest region field director for the Montana Wilderness
Association and a member of the coalition, said the organization is
currently scheduling a lineup of public open houses expected to begin
sometime this month. The coalition’s website, kootenaifuture.org, went live
a few weeks ago and outlines the goals developed during the last 10 years.

“We no longer want to fight old battles because there’s an amazing amount
we already agree on,” Robinson said. “People really want to move forward in
the community. That comes from a lot of different interest groups and

Vincent said in order to best prepare for bringing the coalition’s plan to
Congress, members of the community have to be on board with the coalition’s

“We have to make sure we get those three legs of the stool attached
firmly,” Vincent said. “We have a lot of work to do before prime time. But
we’re getting close.”

Reporter Seaborn Larson may be reached at 758-4441 or by email at
slarson at dailyinterlake.com.
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