PURSUIT’S general manager glibly assures us that his company’s proposed aerial tram on Columbia Mountain will be “unobtrusive”, despite the obvious fact that it will expose a quiet roadless area to much more use than it currently sees. He also acts like he’s doing us a favor when he says the tram will allow us to ‘’enjoy the splendor of Northwest Montana without feeling like you have to go into Glacier National Park”. But how many locals visit Glacier in the summer anyway? You have to wait in traffic, breathing toxic exhaust for hours, just to get in, then wait for an open parking spot, just so you can join a parade of hikers. Outside the Park, the rivers are over-fished and over-rafted. the trails are congested, the traffic is nearly intolerable, and silence is scarce, even in the backcountry.
PURSUIT’s proposal and the POWDR company’s efforts to expand the Holland Lake Lodge indicate that Flathead National Forest Supervisor Kurt Steele’s attitude has emboldened the industrial recreationists. The public’s overwhelming rejection of the Holland Lake fiasco reminds me of two controversies in the early 1970s, when public opposition to clearcutting in the Monongahela National Forest and terracing mountainsides in the Bitterroot Forest challenged then thwarted, the Forest Service’s “get out the cut” policy. Back then, the Forest Service and their corporate cronies were blithely ignoring and exceeding congressional mandates specifying harvest limits, regardless of the impacts to watersheds and wildlife. Similarly, PURSUIT and POWDR aren’t concerned about government oversight; they know the Flathead National Forest will ignore or bend laws to suit them, regardless of any social or ecological costs.
Ed Abbey referred to over-grazed land as “cow-burnt.” Northwest Montana is rapidly becoming “tourist-burnt,” thanks to tourist-herders like PURSUIT. They spout platitudes like “sustainable tourism,” but all they actually care about is making a buck. They’ll continue to invade and degrade wild country unless the Forest Service imposes some limits on them. We can’t count on Kurt Steele to resist them. He should be overruled by his superiors or replaced by someone who has more admirable land management ethics.
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