Let me begin by stating that I am not a Montanan. I wasn’t born there, haven’t made it my home, yet the Flathead National Forest is dear to my heart. It was there that I learned to work a crosscut saw, to fall a tree with an axe, and to build trails with a shovel and pulaski. It’s where I caught my first trout with a fly rod, sat with mountain goats on alpine ridges, and learned that if one climbs high enough in this place you will see the mountains stretch to every horizon. It is my experiences in this place that led me to understand why the Flathead and surrounding areas are so special – the vast wilderness, excellent wildlife habitat, and opportunities for primitive recreation that surpass so many other places.
There are millions of acres of public land in my home state of Oregon, so you may wonder why I concern myself with the fate of the Flathead. The reasons are simple – because I love the wild country, rugged topography, amazing fisheries, abundant wildlife, and incredible opportunities for primitive recreation found there. There are few places today that contain mountains as wild, wilderness as vast, and where Grizzly and Lynx still roam. I delight in this piece of our public heritage, and I desire to see the wilderness quality of the Flathead protected, its wildlife habitat and watersheds kept intact, its rivers flowing wild and free. I hope that forest managers will adopt a new forest management plan emphasizing those values.
I want to see a Flathead National Forest management plan that conserves key fish and wildlife habitat, improves habitat connectivity, and recommends substantial wilderness additions. I also hope this plan restores fire-resistant forests, reduces wildfire risks in the wildland-urban interface, and limits motorized travel when it conflicts with wildlife and non-motorized recreation opportunities. I believe the Flathead is one of the crown jewels of our national forest system, and I hope that forest managers will adopt a management plan that treats it as such, one which puts wilderness and wildlife first.