Saturday, April 19, 2014

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

The following public opinion article by Howie Wolke is in reference to the forest proposal actions, involving over 5 million acres, reported by John Adams. Critics decry lack of public input on forest proposal

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?
by Howie Wolke
    As many of you know by now, Governor Bullock's office recently convened a secretive "collaborative" of 5 conference calls with handpicked "conservationists" and representatives of the timber industry. Former Montana Wilderness Association Executive Director Tim Baker, now working for Bullock, helped to organize this. The group selected over 5 million acres (!!!) of Montana national forest to be logged for "restoration" purposes. These lands would be exempt from normal NEPA environmental review under the provisions of the recently enacted Farm Bill.

Of course, any areas proposed for logging even under the streamlined Farm Bill guidelines, are still subject to existing environmental laws and lawsuits. But the guidelines reduce opportunities for public input and increase the likelihood that damaging timber sales will sail through. In many cases, lawsuits will be the only option.

     Aside from the obvious scientific folly (logging is NOT restoration), these "conservation" groups have egregiously undercut the efforts of other conservationists who are working to protect many of these lands. To me, this is unconscionable. Although most of the lands selected for fast-track logging are outside of inventoried roadless areas, some are within un-inventoried roadless areas. Other selected areas are environmentally sensitive for various reasons. For example, the selected lands include plenty of old growth, and also large areas that have already been severely over-cut. Moreover, the entire program is based upon the false supposition that logging remote terrain helps to control wildfire and that beetle-killed trees need to logged to “restore” the forest. In other words, science be damned, full speed ahead.

    Secret meetings like this that utilize public funding appear to be illegal in Montana, and fortunately, there are some good conservation colleagues of ours taking this "collaborative" to task. But these groups have already done much damage by equating logging with restoration in the eyes of the public. Although I really don't want to give any more of my energy to the follies of groups like GYC, it is important to make sure folks understand the serious depravity of what's happened. This is yet another example of a very long list of instances in which the Greater Yellowstone Coalition -- and a handful of other groups -- has actually worked against conservation and against the efforts of smaller grassroots groups with considerable less funding.
    It's also why I think blind loyalty to the Montana Democratic Party is misplaced, but that's another subject. Suffice it to say that in my opinion groups such as GYC and Montana Trout Unlimited are conservation groups in name only. But it is probably fair to say that they are in fact cheerleaders for the Democratic Party, no matter how poorly the Democratic politicians behave. 
In the past, I’ve argued against going public with the obvious philosophical rift in the conservation movement. But no more. With the exception of a small number of people in their organization who still try to do the right thing, GYC nowadays does more harm than good. It’s time to stop pretending that these problems simply reflect strategic differences within the conservation movement and to expose these organizations for what they really are.

Howie Wolke

Howie Wolke is a founding member of Montanans for Gallatin Wilderness, the Vice President of Wilderness Watch, and a co-owner of Big Wild Adventures, though in this essay he is speaking for himself.

Some suggested wilderness and habitat advocacy groups in this issue are: click links below


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