It is truly disappointing to watch the Flathead National Forest make a mockery out of the Whitefish Range Partnership collaborative and its Forest Plan revision public involvement process. In local newspapers the past week, the Forest Service demonstrated its utter lack of objectivity and fairness when it comes to public input.
The Flathead National Forest supervisor told the WRP “This may be very close to, if not exactly what we end up doing,” praising them also for being “first out of the chute.” This even though he has not yet had his staff or the general public assess the environmental impacts and merits of the proposal.
The supervisor’s right-hand man made things even worse when he said that those folks that weren’t invited to be a part of the WRP could later “take pot shots at it.” What better way to disenfranchise an American public only recently invited by the Flathead to participate in revising its Forest Plan through both a collaborative and a broader public review and comment process?
Ethics, common sense and the law require that the Forest Service not play favorites. The forest supervisor and his staff should have thanked the WRP for its proposal and said it would be considered right alongside the many other proposals it will be receiving during the Forest Plan revision process.
The Flathead National Forest belongs to all Americans, not just those who live locally or are able to participate in a lengthy collaborative process. That is why the law requires that all proposals be submitted to the entire public for comment – and that those comments be regarded as something more than just “pot shots.”
Chair, Swan View Coalition
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