Opinion

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Letter

The Path Ahead

The Kootenai National Forest has been a tough place to find agreement

The Kootenai National Forest is one of Montana’s hidden secrets. Productive forests, soaring peaks, rushing water, and small communities are around each bend in the road.

Even with so much going on to support communities and the land in our area, there’s a lot that is still as it should be. Folks still cut their own wood to heat their homes each winter. They fill their freezers every fall with venison or elk, and they prefer to work out their differences together instead of in the courtroom.

It’s in this spirit that a group of business owners, community leaders, mill operators, and conservationists hashed out a plan over time that will provide a more predictable flow of timber, protect access for recreationists, and secure some of the best big game habitat for future generations. Through the better part of a decade, the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition remained dedicated to finding a unique, Montana-made solution to our public land challenges by focusing on a better future for the Kootenai.

It’s no secret; the Kootenai National Forest has been a tough place to find agreement, but we’ve worked through the toughest times and our public lands don’t have to be a place of winners and losers. We don’t have to choose between harvesting trees and harvesting elk. It’s not a choice to have wilderness areas or snowmobile trails. Instead, we agree that the 2.2-million acre Kootenai Forest is big enough for each of us – where others see impossibility, we see potential.

That’s why we worked together to draft guidelines outlining common ground to improve timber management that bring economic and forest restoration benefits to our communities. Our common ground agreement is our vision for how the current forest plan can be implemented on the Kootenai National Forest and informs how we participate in the public comment process.

We worked together to ensure motorized and non-motorized recreation has a place in the forest sand we agreed to set aside some areas like the Scotchman Peaks, Roderick Mountain and Canyon Peak as wilderness so that places in the Kootenai stay just the way they are today.

Our plan is an investment in jobs. It’s an investment in the forest. It’s an investment in adventure. It’s an investment in our future. It also has the support and endorsement of groups and individuals from the forest industry, local and regional conservation groups, local elected officials and outdoor motorized recreational groups.

Now we would like to hear from you.

Join the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition at one of our open house meetings near you to discuss a vision of community-based stewardship for our national forest. These meetings are open to the public and will be held around northwestern Montana in Troy, Noxon, Libby and Eureka. You can visit kooenaifuture.org for details and to learn more about our ongoing work together.

The Kootenai Forest belongs to all of us. A love of our public lands and respect for one another brought us together. Please join us.

Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition Executive Board:
Ed Levert, Lincoln County Forester
Robyn King, Yaak Valley Forest Council
Paul McKenzie, F.H. Stoltze
Tim Dougherty, Idaho Forest Group
Amy Robinson, Montana Wilderness Association

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