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Roadmap

| June 22, 2005 12:00 AM

Being first on the governor's list of counties to visit regarding the "roadless issue" may not be the most desirable position to be in.

A lot of people are wondering what next. And others are trying to decipher what the "love fest" with the governor of "we all need to get along" and solve this roadless problem meant. Even the governor was a little surprised by the congenial discussion. He pretty much said, 'What gives? This is Libby.'

Actually, it was a tough time — mid afternoon on a work day — for all the factions on this issue to be in attendance.

I have no doubt that a majority of people in this county are interested in working together to come up with some solution. And a great number of those people might be willing to make some hard decisions and compromises.

A starting point would be to look at the identified roadless lands and consider which ones would be ideal candidates for a successful bid for wilderness designation. Now I know that's going to cause a lot of people to see red, but this issue has been hanging over the county and the state since President Ronald Reagan vetoed a wilderness bill that the state's residents and congressional delegation took time to hammer out. Not all these roadless lands should be designated wilderness or in our case recommended for designation.

Then we need to identify those areas that can remain roadless but contain timber that can be selectively logged. I know that's sacrilege to some but we have the ability to remove timber via helicopter and on the ground with lighter, rubber-tired clippers and forwarders that don't need roads. This is the best of both worlds in which we can improve habitat and preserve wildness. In past meetings the Forest Service has already told us that there isn't that much available timber on these lands, at least that's practical or economical to log.

And there might be some areas where we would want to adjust boundaries or eliminate the area from the roadless inventory, and others we may wish to leave untouched for future generations to deal with.

The county commissioners should request from the Forest Service a list of the roadless areas, with reommendations on wildlife habitat benefits, water quality issues, recreational opportunities and logging potential. Also, the USFS's thoughts on wilderness designation should be included.

The county can then hold meetings in Eureka, Troy and Libby to take similar input from area residents with a committee pulling it all together in a written package that can be presented to the county residents and eventually the governor. Just one person's suggestion. - Roger Morris