Friday, June 21, 2024

Does Aubyn Curtiss know it's 2006, not 1986?

| October 27, 2006 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

We heard from Aubyn Curtiss last Friday concerning questions about the named "Lincoln County Coalition" and she invited any of us involved to explain what seems to be going on.

Well, I have been in business here in Lincoln County for most of my life now. My largest base of income has always been logging and the wood products industry with mining being my second largest base of income in the past.

I got involved in these coalition efforts because I have seen logging's boom and bust, and many personal lives disrupted here due to the curtailing of logging since the early '90s. I personally don't want to see anymore wilderness areas, but that is just one issue.

If you would have told me in 1990 that we wouldn't have a lumber mill in Libby in another 15 years, I would have said "you are crazy." But we don't, mainly because of the lack of an available timber supply even though we are surrounded by a productive forest. That is what fighting for the last 30 years has gained us.

So when I read Aubyn Curtiss' wondering about roads for existing roadless areas, I just wondered if she knows it's 2006, and not 1986 anymore.

What did all the arguing and fighting accomplish for us? All the mills are gone here now. What worse result could we all have imagined while we were fighting for what we wanted?

And she is still arguing over roadless areas when we are not even allowed to adequately manage the areas of the Kootenai National Forest with roads.

Judges tell us what to do, not the U.S. Forest Service.

We cannot get gated roads opened because the courts will not allow it. And with the recent Ninth Circuit decision restricting logging to only 8-inch diameter and smaller trees on a Forest Service project south of Missoula, it is clear that future restrictions on forest management are likely.

What are we going to do? Just keep fighting?

Look what it's gotten us so far - the worst. Maybe that's fine for a politician to take that position, but I'm concerned about my clients and friends who still make a living in the logging industry.

When you add in the court-ordered designation of lynx habitat to be done this fall, the future danger gets scary.

What about motorized recreation? Are ATVs going to be banned in most places due to endangered species habitat? Are snowmobiles going to be limited like they have in Priest Lake, Idaho?

That's a very real danger. What is the future of Lincoln County here? Will we all be able to enjoy living here, or will just some of us be able to?

Aubyn Curtiss still says just what she always has, but the fact is that we, the local citizens, do not have much of a say in how the Kootenai National Forest is managed. Judges manage the Kootenai Forest.

The Endangered Species Act is supreme, and there's nothing we can do about it. Courts make the decisions, not politicians.

Back in 1994, I was glad to see the Republicans take over Congress in Washington, D.C., because I believed what we were told - that they were pro-logging and wanted to do something about the Endangered Species Act.

Well, hindsight is always perfect, and the fact is that nothing has been done about the Endangered Species Act. Logging on the Kootenai is much less under the Bush administration than it was even under the Clinton administration.

Where will all this end?

And so, that's why I got involved in the Lincoln County Coalition. To see if there may be some compromise between various groups that have only just fought in the past.

I don't know if anything good can happen, and logging is about all I care about here. I see a very dim future for local logging if we stay on the same road we've been on.

Maybe nothing positive will happen, but it's worth a try. The alternatives are clear.

Wayne Hirst