Opinion

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Letter

Protect the Yaak’s Last Grizzlies

A “Jonkel alternative” was found to avoid grizzly core

I’m writing to support the formal complaint filed by the Yaak Valley Forest Council (YVFC) about the lack of a comprehensive management plan for the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). For 30 years, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) opposed the PNT due to the feasibility study that found it financially excessive as well as injurious to the threatened grizzly population. A “Jonkel alternative” was found to avoid grizzly core, but the USFS chose the “no trail alternative.” Nonetheless, in 2009, a Washington state hiker’s club succeeded in persuading their delegation to attach a single paragraph to a must-pass bill that authorized the PNT. Yet, this same enabling legislation also required the USFS to complete a management plan within two years. The trail and the agency are out of compliance. They have not determined carrying capacity, consequences to existing open road access, or effects on timber activities. It’s a train wreck.

Our hope is that this litigation may get the management process started, but management is just the tip of the iceberg. Legislation created the train wreck and legislation is required to correct it.

In positive, proactive fashion, the YVFC does support a modified Jonkel alternative. This would avoid designated core grizzly habitat, and utilizing the trail town opportunities of Libby and Troy. We remain committed to diversifying sustainable economic opportunities throughout Lincoln County, with this project and others. The Yaak’s last 25 grizzlies, and the threat of diminished local access/permit system, are not risks we can support. Please contact us with ideas and any questions you might have.

Robyn King, executive director
Yaak Valley Forest Council