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The Lincoln County Coalition

| January 25, 2007 11:00 PM

The Lincoln County Coalition has achieved a remarkable feat.

It's gotten wilderness proponents, snowmobilers, all-terrain vehicle riders and timber industry advocates to sit down at the same table and agree on a new approach to forest management.

The coalition's proposal, which is contained in draft legislation it hopes to see considered by Congress, sets aside an area on the Three Rivers Ranger District to test out the new approach. Some compromises have surely been made along the way, and the draft probably doesn't represent the greatest hopes and dreams of any of the various interests represented on the coalition, but just getting these different factions to agree on something is a major accomplishment.

At a county commissioners' meeting a couple of weeks ago, coalition executive committee member Wayne Hirst - whose livelihood depends on what's left of the timber industry - said he's seen local people fighting over these issues for 30 years. And what has that fighting gotten us, Hirst asked. The mills are gone and there aren't many jobs left in the woods.

It's time to try something new, he said.

On Wednesday, the commissioners discussed offering their support for the coalition's plan. Two of the commissioners - John Konzen and Marianne Roose - are members of the coalition, so their support is a given. Commissioner Rita Windom, however, made her support conditional on the coalition listening to public input before the draft is submitted to Congress. Konzen said he'll come up with a motion that reflects Windom's concerns, and the commissioners will likely vote on that next week.

Windom wasn't happy that the draft legislation includes wilderness protection. I'm sure some of the members of the coalition aren't wild about that either, but then again I'm just as sure that other members aren't too fond of designated snowmobile and ATV trails either. The significance of the coalition's proposal is that these diverse interests have come together on a plan they all can live with, rather than spending their energies bickering and trying to scuttle each other's work.

The conditional support suggested by Windom seems reasonable. Public input should be taken into account. Here's hoping it doesn't turn into another 30 years' war. - Brent Shrum