Saturday, February 24, 2024

Trail route restricts logging and invites many otherwise avoidable lawsuits

| May 5, 2020 8:49 AM

To the editor:

The Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council met in Libby earlier this year and the presence of the Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail in the Upper Yaak caused me concern. I worked in Libby for 38 years, from when logging was king to when it was severely curtailed through court decisions.

The Pacific Northwest Trail is essentially a strip of wilderness through the Yaak with associated restrictions, including a scenic preservation of a half-mile on either side of the trail. This is already affecting the Forest Service’s Black Ram Project.

Worse yet, with increased use of the trail, further restrictions will happen. Grizzly expert Wayne Kasworm observed at the advisory council’s Libby gathering that road closures could then be required to offset the use of this trail as it winds through 27 miles of core grizzly habitat. Current court decisions limit the miles of open roads and trails, and the current Pacific Northwest Trail route could close an associated 27 miles of open roads. We know the trail will be used in court actions.

Are we all going to say nothing and just let more restrictions on forest management and road access in the Yaak? Why not look at alternatives that are less restrictive? There is a proposed southern route with only seven miles in the core grizzly habitat. Whether we like it or not, grizzlies are legally required to be protected.

We should be aware of the legal effects of the Pacific Northwest Trail in the Yaak and leery of more forest restrictions to come.

Wayne Hirst