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Commissioner Downey urges public to contact senators about land access

by The Western News
| January 5, 2012 11:30 AM

Letter to the Editor,

There has been much discussion recently regarding the Tester Forest Jobs/Wilderness Bill, the Three Rivers Challenge position, amounting to a bottom-line of guaranteed increased wilderness designation and the promise of a small amount of timber available for harvest, perhaps an ATV usage study, etc.

We don’t need additional wilderness.

Over the past several decades, more of our access roads to the National Forest have been closed than I can count.

The National Forest is just that — an area of land (in this case forest land) owned by the people (and we are all, the people), for the use of the people. Not that we should abuse it, but use it for recreation, all types of recreations, not segmented so that just a few have access to it.

It is easy to file a lawsuit and stop the 10,000 acres avalable for timber jobs, to stop forest sales and to not fund an ATV-use study (just for an example).

But once land is designated as “wilderness,” once a Forest Service Road is closed — Game Over! The designation will nver be removed.

We are in the middle of a study to count the number of grizzly bears in the area. There is an old adage — Facts are our Friends.

Having an actual count, by area of the grizzlies — now that would be a fact to work with, plan the usage accordingly — not use old, circumspect counts of the animal.

Not sure why we can’t wait until the study is complete — seems lke jumping the gun to me, but then again, I’m not in favor of closing any roads, I I guess I wouldn’t see the point.

I would like to see future residents of Lincoln County ahve the access to the National Forest, their National Forest for recreation activities (e.g. fishing, hunting, bird watching, snowmobiling, ATV’ing, hiking cross-country skiing, boating — did I miss anything?).

In addition, I would like to insure that our aging population has that same access — which indicates motorized access, not just foot traffic. And then again, it would really be nice to lower the unemployment rate in Lincoln County — utilize our renewable resources and have work for our residents.

Please contact Sens. Tester and Baucus. Voice your displeasure over closing our public lands.

— Ron Downey,

Lincoln County Commissioner