Meeting to Discuss Forest Designation for Lake County Conservation District

Swan View Coalition, a local environmental group, has raised opposition to the potential proposal

By Beacon Staff

The Lake County Commissioners and the Lake County Conservation District are hosting a public meeting Dec. 7 at the Swan Lake Community Center, 22778 Montana Highway 83 to discuss multi-year planning efforts centered on a 60,000-acre section of Flathead National Forest that could see increased commercial timber harvest.

Local environmental groups, residents, lawmakers and other stakeholders are invited to attend the meeting and discuss an ongoing study and whether it should progress or be terminated, according to the conservation district.

The conservation district has studied whether it should seek Congressional approval of a “conservation forest” in the Swan Valley, which would allow the state of Montana to manage a section of federal lands in trust for the conservation district. The Flathead National Forest would retain management for recreation, outfitters and grazing. The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation would manage timber harvest under the Montana Environmental Protection Act. “All net revenues generated from proactively managing the conservation forest would be invested in conservation work in Lake County,” the Lake County Conservation District states on its website.

Swan View Coalition, a local environmental group, has raised opposition to the potential proposal, saying the new designation would allow increased timber harvest and would amount to a “takeover of national forest lands.”

Curt Rosman and Susan Gardner, supervisors for the Lake County Conservation District, as well as Toni Burton, an associate supervisor, expressed their opposition to the proposal in a letter last month. They cited local opposition to transferring control of federal lands and said the proposal “is also a time consuming detour from our responsibilities as a conservation district and will ignite new controversies.”

The Dec. 7 meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.

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