LETTER: What the Environmental Movement Left Libby

By Beacon Staff

Until about 1990, the development of timber and mineral resources on federal lands had sustained the economy of Libby and the surrounding areas for over 100 years. Mineral royalties and timber sale receipts paid resource management costs and helped support school districts and county road developments. Then suddenly, we began to hear about environmental concerns. Seemingly from out of nowhere, the so-called environmental movement materialized. At first it did not look like much of a threat. Had anyone suggested then that this movement would cause the ruin of the lumber industry and stop new mine development; they would have been deemed crazy. But now, just 20 years later in Libby, lumber is gone, logging is about to follow and only one mine is in production. Just in that time, the U.S. Forest Service has gone from timber management to animal preservation.

Similar impediments to resource development are in place in the rest of Montana and across the nation. For a country desperate for economic recovery, these impediments are curious to say the least. A recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce identified stalled projects just in the energy industry that are costing our country $1 trillion in lost GDP.

Although concern for the environment is cited as the reason for the moratorium on resource developments, I believe it is being used as justification rather than the real determinant. If the environment was the real concern, the focus of the world environmental movement would be on the areas of our planet where the environment is in real peril: The rain forests of the equatorial belt; the oceans where the tuna is being fished to extinction; the savannas of Africa where the elephant, lion and rhino are being slaughtered out of existence. It would not be here where grizzlies are used to justify locking up the forest after first trucking them here from outside the area.

Bill Payne

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