Public Land Belongs to all Americans

The majority have spoken, so why isn’t the SFI dead?

By Kari Gunderson

I am a third-generation Montanan, and a resident of Lake County for nearly four decades. This doesn’t mean that my comments on the Swan Forest Initiative (SFI) should have more weight than commenters who live outside of Lake County regarding their public lands. An ill-conceived 100-year lease proposal offered by the Lake County Conservation District (LCCD) directs management of 60,000 acres of Flathead National Forest be transferred to the state to conduct high yield, unsustainable logging to fill the coffers of the LCCD.

An open comment period gauging public opinion of the SFI recently closed yielding 75 percent of the public comments opposed to the proposal. Yet three of five LCCD members voted to move forward with the proposal and will now work to convince Daines and Gianforte to introduce a bill in Congress. Last December I attended a public meeting in Swan Lake where the LCCD Chair told us this would be a “transparent process” and if the majority of people didn’t want to see this proposal move forward he would drop it. The majority have spoken, so why isn’t the SFI dead? During his presentation he queued up a video of the Roaring Lion fire apparently to scare us into thinking the SFI would save us all from “catastrophic fires.” The best available science does not support this premise and the LCCD Chair used subterfuge to advance his agenda despite his promise to abide by the majority’s opinion.

This public land belongs to all Americans, not just Lake County residents and their wishes appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Kari Gunderson
Lake County

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