LETTER: Environmental Mandates a Grave Injustice

By Beacon Staff

Using the Endangered Species Act and other environmental mandates as justification, environmentalists, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, District Court Judge Molloy and the U.S. Forest Service have essentially destroyed the lumber industry in northwest Montana as well as other places and have denied the permitting of mine development. Large areas have been designated “wilderness” and more are being considered. Public access to most of the forest has been denied using road gates and more of these gates are added each year.

These actions may be the result of genuine concerns for endangered species and the environment, but they might also be an as yet disclosed political agenda. I suspect the latter because there already exists adequate territory in the form of national parks to serve as sanctuaries for endangered species.

Either way, I believe a grave injustice is being committed against the people who have lost their means of livelihood as a result of the locked up resources. The employees in the state and federal agencies involved suffer no ill effects. Their lives go on as before, but for those in the industries affected it’s a different story. Many (some of whose families have been in Montana for five generations) have been forced to leave in order to find work elsewhere. Some were forced to close once-prosperous business ventures and auction off the pieces.

Perhaps an egregious betrayal would be a better term than mere injustice to describe what is being committed here. Would anyone have come here and tried to build a home for their families, knowing that resource development would be disallowed at some point? I think not. I certainly would not have invested 55 years in the Kootenai Valley had I known the welfare of the grizzly bear would eventually take precedence over the people living here.

Bill Payne