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Swan Lake

A boat streaks across Swan Lake at sunset on July 23, 2015.

We greatly appreciate Perry Backus’ (Nov. 19) article about the Flathead National Forest’s failure to annually inspect stream-bearing culverts in its logging roads so they don’t blow out and dump sediment into bull trout streams. Forest Supervisor Chip Weber, however, makes a false claim in the article: "Weber said the Flathead National Forest has been proactive in its restoration efforts, which is reflected in the fact that there are no impaired watersheds on the forest."

In fact there are quite a few watersheds on the Flathead listed by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality as "impaired." Among them and relative to bull trout are Big Creek, Coal Creek, Jim Creek, Goat Creek and Swan Lake — and they are impaired in part by logging and/or logging roads. Other watersheds important to aquatic life, like Sheppard and Logan creeks, are similarly impaired.

Had the Flathead National Forest and logging companies like Plum Creek been proactive, these watersheds wouldn’t have needed to be listed as "impaired" in the first place. The Flathead fortunately does have remaining strongholds of bull trout, largely because significant portions of the Flathead have remained roadless, unlogged and protected as wilderness.

This isn’t the first time we’ve had to put the Flathead on notice that it isn’t following its promises. As reported in the Missoulian on Nov. 24, 1999, we had to challenge the Flathead’s attempts to ignore its own forest plan requirement that culverts be removed from decommissioned roads. According to Flathead spokesman Allen Rowley, “we talked it over with our attorney and we decided they (conservation groups) were right.”

If you want to read up on how the Flathead has failed to abide by its road management rules and see photos of some of the damage, simply search online for Swan View Coalition’s “Roads to Ruin” report.

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Keith J. Hammer is chair of the Swan View Coalition. 

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