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KNF proposal on wilderness baffles local business owner

| October 21, 2005 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

I'm not sure why the managers of the Kootenai National Forest, county commissioners, and other local politicians insist on inhibiting the economic development of this county by strenuously, stubbornly and shortsightedly stonewalling any new wilderness proposals in the Kootneai National Forest. I have read comments by local politicians who claim that they never hear from anybody in this county who wants more wilderness. Of course, it's disingenuous of them to say that because they know that many local residents support more wilderness, including me. We know that wilderness is an appropriate, desirable, and economically rewarding use of our national forests. It is one essential component of the multiple-use concept, to which all national forests are supposed to subscribe. I have no need to go into detail about the valid and important commodity components of our multiple-use forests. Those components are already well-represented, and I have no need to defend them. However, the wilderness component is not well-represented at all, and I think it's time that somebody spoke up for it.

I will admit, right up front, that my business benefits from the presence of wilderness and other undeveloped areas. People come from distances near and far to visit and photograph the priceless values of wilderness. They often bring their visual images to me for processing, and they are so enamored of these wild images that they don't quibble about price. They just want their pictures to faithfully represent what they saw and experienced. Of course, grocery stores, motels, sporting goods stores, restaurants, gas stations, and many other local businesses also profit from these visitors to the "Last Best Place." Wilderness simply is good business for Libby.

But it's also about much more than crass commercialism. Wilderness areas also provide clean water, clean air, healthy wildlife habitat, vigorous wild fisheries, exercise, peace and quiet, and a plethora of other positive attributes that are not necessarily present in the developed areas of the forest. Even now, as a crippled old man who has trouble walking to the mailbox, I greatly value these wild places. I can no longer visit them, but my kids and grandkids can and I hope these wild places will be available to my great-grandkids as well.

So, to KNF managers, county commissioners, and other local, regional, and national politicians, here it is, as I see it. You are not representing me when you oppose reasonable acreages of wilderness, and though you don't like to admit it, my position is well-represented in this community. So how about some representation, now? Thank you.

Bud Journey