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Recently, there have been several articles in Montana and Idaho papers regarding Imperial Oil's Kearl Module Transport Project (KMTP). The Lochsa River Conservancy would like state a few things for the record.

The Lochsa River Conservancy's cause is simple: We don't want the beautiful wild and scenic corridor of the Lochsa to be developed as an international truck route. The area was set aside as wild and scenic in order to keep it undeveloped, to allow tourists, locals, and others a beautiful experience along one of the most remarkable rivers in the Western U.S.

It makes no sense at all to have U.S. Highway 12 along the Clearwater and Lochsa serve as a heavily traveled truck corridor, and especially not with these massive rigs from the KMTP, and all the highway development and disruption that will come from it.

We want to make sure that the voices of individuals who depend on and/or live near the Wild and Scenic Lochsa River are heard and informed on matters that will affect the natural, community, and economic base of the Lochsa/Clearwater River Corridor.

Local residents, communities, and businesses along the route have been kept mostly in the dark. The KMTP claims it will increase capital in the area by purchasing fuel, lodging, and food - but these are tiny compared to the complete alteration of the place. Some of this alteration would come from the KMT project, and more would come from what follows. It would be the destruction of a unique area. There's a horrible irony here: the Lochsa was set aside and supposedly protected for its rugged appeal. Why are we now going to wreck it for this or future trucking project?

The initial KMTP rigs along with three pilot cars and two police escorts at all times would shut down the highway for local use. They also would require massive increases in shoulder space and building hundreds of additional turnouts.

Additionally, the rigs themselves are made in Korea, to be used by a non-U.S. company in Canada, so we basically are sacrificing a unique American wild place for the benefit of foreign countries.

Foreign-made materials and foreign-made equipment that are to be used in a foreign project. This will take food out of local hands and put it into the mouths of non-American corporations. Why should we sacrifice one of the premier wild and scenic places in the United States for that? We want alternatives, and there are alternatives. In August 2008 a 400-ton Japanese-made module was shipped to the oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta, via Thunder Bay and the St. Lawrence Seaway in Canada.

The Lochsa conservancy has been labeled "environmentalist" and tarred with a brush people aim at activist groups. This is false. We are not talking about global activist issues like climate change. The environmental activists with greater agendas can confuse the local issue.

We are locals who use the river and the area around it for our jobs, for recreation, hunting, fishing, backpacking, hiking, berry-picking and all the other things available in this beautiful place. Hunters, hikers, bikers, campers, motorcyclists, tourists, and Lewis and Clark aficionados also commonly visit throughout the year. A number of outfitters and small communities rely on these outdoor enthusiasts for their livelihoods.

As a born-and-bred Montanan, University of Montana alum, construction worker, long-time river user and whitewater river guide for Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures, I personally see how one such business, community and state will be negatively affected by the KMTP project and the precedent it sets.

We will fight to keep a fragile wild and scenic river corridor from becoming an international trucking corridor.

The Wild and Scenic Lochsa River Corridor was designated as such for a reason. Let's keep it that way and stay focused on the local issue.

Jim Hepburn founded the Lochsa River Conservancy, and writes from Missoula.

 

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