I’m hoping to keep this brief so I don’t lose your attention. My husband and I were both lucky enough to be born in the beautiful state of Montana. Both of our families enjoy the wonderful things this state has to offer. We raft, ski, visit Glacier National Park regularly in the summer, camp, and hike. Our family loves Montana! We were taught early that things aren’t free, that you work hard, you take care of the things you’ve been given and we do our best to teach our kids that too. My husband’s father, my grandpa, my dad, my uncle, and my husband are all proud stewards of the forest.
Every year during spring breakup the logging contractors take class after class to ensure they have the proper knowledge of the streambeds, snags for wildlife to find refuge, and care for mature seed trees. My husband most recently went through the Accredited Loggers Course in Polson. He spent days in Yellow Bay learning how to better manage the forest, keep wildlife and their habitat healthy and happy. The Forest Service has strict guidelines and foresters out on the logging jobs daily making sure all jobs are done to high Forest Service standards. That consists of laws and rules that are too long to list. This has allowed for safer logging practices, cleaner logging, and even healthier forests. We consider loggers the true environmentalist of the forest.
Growing up, both of our families, along with hundreds of other families, displayed a bright green neon sign in the window “Our Family is Proudly Supported by Montana Timber Dollars.” Slowly through the ‘90s those signs began to disappear. People in Montana were faced with mills closing, logging companies that could no longer pay bills, and workers with nowhere to go but to the oil fields and the construction industry. Last year I quickly, in hopes of securing a job, submitted the paperwork to the Forest Service to fight the never-ending summer fires with our logging equipment. Logging was shut down due to fires that consumed nearly 107,000 acres and cost the government $10.9 million. So instead of managing our overgrown, dying forests, because of years of lawsuits and litigation, we have allowed ourselves to think it’s OK to watch our uncared-for forests burn.
Recently a job in the Kootenai has left me stunned. A mill in Montana that employs numerous people and has fronted hundreds of thousands of dollars for a Forest Service sale, was told their contract was postponed by an extremist group. The extremist group was making logging seem as if we, the loggers and the Forest Service, were straight out of the movie “Lorax” and people were actually falling for it. I realize most people have probably never had the opportunity to set foot on or near a Montana logging job and couldn’t possibly understand the truth. Most of us are just following what we assume the truth is.
The extremist group stated the lawsuit was filed to protect fish, bears and Canadian lynx. Something I’ve learned from being present at logging camps for over 33 years is that man can be productive in the forest and that animals will still live and thrive. My children and I have seen numerous bears, a baby mountain lion and his mother, and this spring on-site, my husband sent me a picture of a cow elk that had just birthed her calf right next to where he was sitting in the yarder. Loggers do their very best to open up our forests. They cut out dead and dying timber, clear overgrown forest floors, and that allows the land, animals, and vegetation to breathe and grow.
Our current job is on the Montana-Idaho border. The Forest Service years ago planted Douglas fir, a fast-growing evergreen, to allow the white pine (a vanishing species) and cedar trees (a shade-tolerant tree) to get a healthy start. Now that these beautiful shade tolerant trees have started to grow and are healthy, our contract is to take out the Douglas fir so the shade trees have a chance to grow and get sunlight. This is just one example of the way loggers and the Forest Service are working together to ensure that all trees will be around for future generations to enjoy.
After posting my opinion on the extremist group’s Facebook page I was deleted and blocked. I tried calling directly to ask if possibly they had made a mistake. Maybe they hadn’t wanted to delete me just because what I believed wasn’t in line with what they believed. They are allowed to file lawsuit after lawsuit stalling contracts, employees are then laid off, and mills run short on money and lumber because of their beliefs. If we are intended to coexist and make our forest better for future generations, it seems to me it’s not happening. It’s their way or the highway!
Don’t we need and want jobs that center around this amazing renewable resource that God has given us? In an age when we have so much information and knowledge on how to care for our natural resources shouldn’t we be taking care of them?
When so many hard working American jobs are being taken, doesn’t it also seem foolish to take yet more jobs and make making a living even more complicated?
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