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Choose truth and cooperation over lies and divisiveness

by TIM DOUGHERTY, DOUG FERRELL
| June 18, 2021 7:00 AM

The board members of the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition (KFSC) feel obligated to speak up about the role of public input in public land management actions. The KFSC is a collaborative group dedicated to seeking common ground and finding good solutions to help guide public forest management.

Recently, after a long period of mostly respectful public discussion of forest management issues, we have seen some discussion of these issues that is reminiscent of the era of the timber wars, when conflict, disrespect and polarization were the norm.

One of the great things about our country is we are free to choose, we are free to express our opinions in a multitude of ways. At KFSC, it pains us to see abuse and disrespect returning to our community, and the degradation of the working relationships between the public and the agency.

We live in a great country, blessed with a bounty of natural resources and tremendous public land assets. We are fortunate to have professional, experienced and dedicated public land managers who work to steward these lands for the common good. We are also fortunate to have a process in place to share our thoughts, concerns, ideas and issues with those land managers known as the “public input process.”

The public input process is not a vote. It is not a popularity contest or campaign to try to bully a decision maker into doing what you want done. It is an opportunity to voice your concerns, raise issues that need to be analyzed and considered by the decision maker. It is an opportunity to help form the purpose and need for the project and an opportunity to learn from the land managers about the current conditions and challenges as well as the desired future ecological and social conditions for the area.

We seem to be once again at a decision point. The people of Lincoln County can choose to engage in a productive and respectful interaction on land management issues or we can retreat to our corners and sharpen our pens and tongues. We can pursue accurate information, or we can repeat exaggerated facts. The KFSC encourages our community to recommit ourselves to respectful and open-minded dialogue.

The KFSC board includes members of the conservation community, timber industry, outdoor recreation enthusiasts, local elected officials and common citizens. We do not agree on every aspect of management on every acre of the forest. We often have different thoughts and opinions, but what we have found are many shared values.

As co-chair Tim Dougherty has stated time and again over 15-plus years with the Stakeholders: “with a forest of 2.2 million acres, if everyone can’t get at least some of what they need then something is terribly wrong.”

We encourage people to get involved in the management of their public lands, join our group if you desire or visit our website at www.kootenaifuture.org. But please do so with an open mind, respect for others and their values, and with regard for the truth of what is actually proposed.

Dougherty and Ferrell are co-chairs of the Kootenai Forest Stakeholder Coalition.