Thursday, December 07, 2006

Montana Wilderness Association agrees to trade 713,000 acres of Beaverhead National Forest for 573,000 acres of new Wilderness

The Montana Wilderness Association angered a lot of people when they announced they had made a private, closed-door deal with the timber industry to approve a plan to designate 573,000 acres of new Wilderness and "release" 713,000 acres of timberland to the industry. The Forest Service loves the deal because all it requires is their rubber stamp.

The deal has gotten more press in the past few days, and Montana papers have weighed in to support the deal.

Does anyone have a map of the areas that will be released for timber production? Is anyone aware of an analysis of the biological importance of this landscape? The MWA Website has a map of the areas to be designated as wilderness, but says very little about the land to be released, except that about one percent a year will be logged and permanent roads are to decrease over time. They also say that "fish and wildlife values would be enhanced" by the logging.

Article is here.

The West is full of myths -- Westerners seem to appreciate myths and take them more seriously than others. The myth of the cowboy, the good, strong (and white, of course), principled but tough frontiersman who brings respect and virtue to the savage wilderness is a myth that many Westerners seem to hold at the core of their being to this day, constantly bemoaning the passing of the time when a handshake was a man's word, and was inviolate.

Sometimes I wonder if there are other myths emerging today, and if one way to identify them is by how quickly the newspapers move to editorialize favorably about them. Newspapers (and the public) sure do love stories about the lumberjack and the pointy-headed city-bred environmentalists (more myth, of course) "sitting down at the table" and "crafting" (it's always "crafting," never "making") a "win-win" deal that is "good for wildlife and fish."

I don't really know a thing about the Montana agreement because I have never spent much time on the Beaverhead National Forest. It might be a great deal--perhaps the Montana Wilderness Association is giving away denuded landscapes for intact, biologically rich ecosystems. I have no idea.

But I do know that when you sweep away the mythology and get down to the details of the printed words on the page and the colored areas on the map and the plants and animals on the landscape, sometimes you can be in for a shock. And closed-door deals are far more likely to deliver that shock than the ones that have been conducted transparently, with public input.


Ralph Maughan said...

I know the Idaho/Montana border areas pretty well, and I'm willing to give up some timber to protect them, especially if the roads are to be closed.

Especially nice are some little things like the small acreage for the Mt. Jefferson/Hellroaring area in the Centennials that will kick the snowmobiles out.

The Beaverhead is very poor timber country, and it has to be logged at a subsidy. It is high, dry, and cold.

It seems to me like a good idea to finally get these wilderness areas, and let economics take its natural course with the local timber industry.

However, I do not know all the terms of this agreement, so I don't want to come down too firmly on its side.

Demarcated Landscapes said...

I´ve asked MWA for a map of the areas to be released, but never got a response.