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Logging vs. destructive fires

Logging vs. destructive fires

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Recently in the Missoulian was a Letter to the Editor from Mike Garrity crowing about the fact that The Alliance for the Wild Rockies along with the Friends of the Bitterroot filed a lawsuit against the Bitteroot National Forest which caused them to withdraw the decision on the Gold Butterfly Project. According to Mr. Garrity this project was proposing to log 5,461 acres including 750 acres of increasingly rare old-growth. He talked about the destruction of wildlife habitat, the degradation of spawning streams and the loss of elk security cover with this project.

I never understood the hypocrisy of Mr. Garrity and others in the environmental community that feel that any logging on public lands is bad and needs to be stopped at all costs. But yet large, destructive fires that burn thousands of acres, removing all cover, silting streams and changing the landscape for a generation to come is OK. You don’t have to travel far to see what these landscape altering fires look like. In 2017, not far from Missoula was the Lolo Peak Fire(53,902 acres) and the Rice Ridge Fire (155,900 acres). In fact in the Sapphires that Mr. Garrity is so concerned about, I would ask you to take a drive south from the Skalkaho highway to Sula and see what a fire from 2000 that burned some 365,000 acres, much of it in the Sapphires, looks like. The idea that this is a better result than the result of sound Forest Management defies belief.

As an example, just imagine that you had 100,000 acres of Lodgepole Forest. In a simplistic way you wanted to remove the timber from this acreage over a 100 year term. Therefore you would log 1,000 acres per year resulting in a forest with age classes from 0-100 years old in a patchwork network. The other option would be to do nothing. Let an insect like the mountain pine beetle kill a substantial portion of the stand. Let the dead trees fall to the ground and stack up on top of each other. Then during a hot, dry year watch a fire burn your whole forest up leaving a sea of dead charred snags and blackened dirt. My bet is that most people would choose the forest management option if it was your land. Oh wait it is your land.

Unfortunately a small group of obstructionists of which the Alliance for the Wild Rockies is one, has successfully subverted the intent of two primary laws (The National Forest Management Act and the Endangered Species Act) to stop management of your forested public lands. Instead of crowing about successfully stopping a project to manage some 5,000 acres of your land, they should be apologizing for being complicit in the degradation of your land that has occurred from large fires over the last 20 years.

Bill Sprauer,

Philipsburg

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