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Far-flung areas should be cut from Black Ram timber sale

| August 3, 2021 7:00 AM

To the editor

The Kootenai National Forest (KNF) is waiting for a grizzly bear biological assessment from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the Black Ram timber sale in the Yaak. As proposed by KNF, Black Ram would “likely adversely affect” the Yaak’s 20-plus remaining grizzly bears.

Despite requests for KNF to conduct an environmental impact statement like they did for smaller projects — Buckhorn and O’Brien Lower Yaak — the larger 57 million board feet and 95,000-acre Black Ram project has only undergone the lesser-required analysis of an environmental assessment.

In March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 5-year grizzly bear status review confirmed what our members have speculated: Of the six grizzly bear ecosystems, only the Cabinet-Yaak “resiliency” is “low.” Yaak grizzlies are doing the worst of any population.

The Black Ram cutting units we question that are critical grizzly bear recovery areas are largely backcountry. Thus the Rampike Creek, Midge Creek, and Unit 72 areas should be dropped.

We support the shared stewardship project efforts near Libby, Troy, and rural neighborhoods. The KNF should prioritize the collaboration, permitting, and harvesting of these overgrown areas. The KNF should not rely on a liberal Wildland-Urban Interface definition to justify some remote Black Ram units.

The KNF should correct itself on Black Ram and reassess the negative effects to grizzly bears and forests far from town.

Aaron Peterson

Executive director, Yaak Valley Forest Council