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Inevitable conflict looms if people say no to wilderness

| July 8, 2005 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

I am a stalwart, continuing supporter of the Yaak Valley Forest Council, its mission, and its efforts to protect wilderness in the Yaak. However, I respectfully disagree with the suggestion that the difference between "wilderness" and "wildlands protection" is merely semantics. So does the federal government. In the "Wilderness Act of 1964" it said, "A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

That said, there is a basic question that each person must answer:

Is it my responsibility and obligation to support the creation, retention and sustainability of habitat sufficient to avoid the extinction of grizzly bear, lynx and bull trout?

If the answer is yes then study and scientific analysis of habitat will supply the boundaries necessary to meet that responsibility. If the answer is no then there will be inevitable conflict over what and whether wilderness needs to be defined and protected. And the Yeses and Nos will not resolve this conflict through collaboration, consensus building, economic development planning, community forests, ATV club support, state roadless area planning, or federal forest planning.

Unfortunately, for those like Mr. Stehlik who reject the overwhelming amount of information that grizzly mortality increases when roads increase, there seems no other way then through the courts to protect critical habitat from imminent plunder and destruction by these like-minded individuals, businesses and organizations.

To avoid this, define what habitat needs to be designated "wilderness," protect it so species in jeopardy can survive, recover and flourish, and make sure no community forest, economic development, motorized trail, road, or timber - whether it be in the guise of fuels reduction, healthy forest restoration, or urban interface logging - extraction project adversely impacts the viability of these species. Then these projects can be readily supported.

Answer the question and let your legislators know how you feel.

Bill Wilson

Yaak