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Guest Opinion: Closing more roads not answer

| July 23, 2009 12:00 AM

(Editor’s Note: The following letter by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners was addressed to Paul Bradford, forest supervisor, Kootenai National Forest, and submitted to The Western News for publication).

Dear Supervisor Bradford:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above referenced Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Motorized Access Management within SRZ and CYRZ).

As the chief elected officials of Lincoln County, which essentially is encompassed by the Kootenai National Forest, we are highly cognizant of how hugely dependent the vitality and stability of our social and economic processes are on your actions and decisions.

Future access management practices based on potential amendments to the Kootenai National Forest Plan that may result from decisions contingent upon this document have a possibility of significantly affecting the socio-economic structure and culture of our communities, and are of critical importance to us and our constituents.

It appears to us that the proposed decision is between, essentially, the status quo (Alternative E) and an alternative that extends grizzly bear “security” to the highest level possible with little consideration for anything else (Alternative D modified), with, curiously enough, no middle range of alternatives considered.

We do not believe the emerging “science” is conclusive enough to support the more severe restrictions of Alternative D (modified).

First of all, it seems the basis for the security measures is the assumed need for “100” bears across these ecosystems. This is a nice round number, but is it soundly established on a solely scientific basis? Or, might some other number just as easily been haphazard as the goal based on someone else’s biased and elusive guess? How can we really know what the “right “ number is?

Secondly, there seems to be some inventory “issues.” Several years ago, we were given an estimate of “30 to 40” bears, while this year our information indicates a “minimum of 45” bears, accompanied with a concern over the decrease. What decrease? It seems to us that “45” is an increase over “30 to 40”!

Another major driver for Alternative D (modified) is concern over increased mortality within these Recovery Zones. Now it seems to us that the extensive road closures and access restrictions in these zones over the past many years would have begun to show some reduced mortality – yet mortality has increased in the face of these restrictions.

Now it is suggested that many more roads be closed to reduce mortality? Where is the logic and correlation to support this?

We do not support nor accept changes as extensive as those enumerated below, without more supportable and acceptable levels of scientific persuasion:

• Loss of hundreds of miles more to motorized access.

• Extensive loss of flexibility for resource management.

• Extensive loss of administrative access.

• Loss of ability to access “suitable” acres.

• Extensive loss of ability to tend previously treated stands.

• Extensive loss to motorized developed recreation (22 developed sites impacted).

• Loss of 57 miles of motorized trails.

• Extensive negative impact on dispersed motorized summer recreation.

• Loss of access for preparing and grooming winter snow trails.

• Loss of access to summer recreation trailheads.

• Decrease in recreation jobs and income.

• Decrease in timber jobs and income.

• Increased fire risk.

• Potential of negative effects to air quality from increased fire risk.

• Reduced access for vegetative treatments, fuel reductions, fire suppression

Finally, Paul, we are definitely not “anti-grizzly” and believe in the potential for increasing their numbers.  But we believe the “science” could as easily be interpreted to suggest the need for more access, not less, to provide treatments for improvements in vegetative habitat conducive to better satisfying the food needs of the grizzlies; bears observed outside the core areas are usually there looking for food.

Feed them and they will come. Perhaps an alternative based on more bear forage rather than more closed roads could have a greater impact. And … why has the augmentation discussion gone by the wayside?

John Konzen, Anthony Berget and Marianne Roose, Lincoln County commissioners