Perhaps the timber industry in Montana will arrive at a dependable timber base on public lands when it quits bullying the land managers into promising what they can’t deliver. In 1974, the Flathead National Forest tried to reduce its timber base to better protect its watersheds and the public, concluding “taxpayers couldn’t afford road building costs necessary to cut old growth” forests.
Stoltze and a number of other sawmills sued the Flathead to keep the suitable timber base inflated and keep the taxpayer subsidies flowing. That’s right, even in logging’s hey-day of cutting the biggest of trees, timber sales weren’t paying for the costs to build the roads.
The 1986 Flathead Forest Plan still in effect has a timber base of about 670,000 acres. In 2006, the Flathead proposed to reduce that to 328,000 acres to be more realistic about where it could log and still protect fish and wildlife. But Stoltze and others are now urging the Flathead to re-inflate its suitable timber base to 509,000 acres by allowing more logging in grizzly bear security core habitats and by challenging “existing lynx management strategies.”
Pushing the agencies to log more in the last secure wildlife habitats remaining on public lands is a risky way for the timber industry to arrive at reliable log supplies. This is a lesson recently learned the hard way when attempts to log the last remaining block of secure grizzly bear habitat on the Stillwater State Forest were blocked by a judge.
It’s time for industry to quit crawling too far out on a limb and then trying to blame someone else when it breaks.
Keith Hammer, chair
Swan View Coalition
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