8 Jun 2010, 2:05pm
Monkeywrenching forests
by admin

Incinerating Elliston

Note: The following opinion piece was written by Ellen Simpson, executive vice president of the Montana Wood Products Association. For more on this fiasco see: Holocausters Sue to Stop Another Healthy Forest Thinning [here].

Note 2: SOSF operatives on the scene are keeping a close eye on this situation. We will have more to report soon about the nefarious doings of the serial litigators involved.

Litigators ruining forest, habitat

By ELLEN SIMPSON, Your Turn, Helena Independent Record, June 7, 2010 [here]

Five years ago the Forest Service started the public process to thin some trees around and near the community of Elliston, 20 miles west of Helena. Citizens from Elliston commented in writing and in person in favor of the project that was designed to help protect the community from possible catastrophic wildfire. The national forest near the town and residences were starting to show the effects of beetle infestations.

Powell County has identified the project area in its Community Wildfire Protection Plan as a high priority for treatment. Local residents in 2005 were in stages of protecting their private property from the beetle outbreak and fire dangers and encouraged the Forest Service to do likewise on adjacent public lands. The Forest Service proposed a thinning project.

Of course, two serial litigators, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council, saw an opportunity to harass the agency and make some cash by filing an appeal and then litigating the much-needed project.

Fast forward five years to now. The only thing that has changed is that the condition of the forest is even more deplorable. The proposed project of under 800 acres has again been appealed and litigated by the same two groups. And, apparently, for the same reason — harass the agency and try to make some cash for their attorneys under the Equal Access to Justice Act.

No consideration by the litigants is being given to the seriousness of the danger to the lives of the residents of Elliston. In a recent op-ed, Michael Garrity of AWR claims the project area is all about elk winter range and Sarah Jane Johnson of NEC wrings her hands over lack of goshawk habitat if logging occurs. Two other lawsuits come to mind when reading the comments from these two and it sounds reminiscent of the Clancy-Unionville and Jim Town projects, both near Helena.

The Clancy-Unionville project was stalled by litigation for so many years that beetles killed nearly the entire area. The Jim Town project was likewise litigated and eventually over half of it burned in a wildfire. I wonder where the goshawks and elk go when their habitat dies from bugs and fire. Probably to an area that has been managed by logging.

The Elliston area might have been elk winter range at some point, but agency biologists say that is no longer true. The critters just move through on their way to a destination that perhaps has forage and where the trees are not dead. It amazes me that the litigators cannot understand that critters of all flavors prefer to live in habitat with a food source. That’s why so many of them live on managed ranches where they are safe and can eat!

Lastly, how totally disingenuous for the litigators to claim to be worried about the project costing the taxpayers money if it goes forward. This from serial litigators who lead Region 1 of the Forest Service in the number of appeals and lawsuits filed to halt and stall projects like the one proposed for Elliston. The real cost to our citizens cannot even begin to be measured in terms of lost time and jobs, wasted agency efforts, and worst of all the damage done to Montana’s once healthy forests that did provide a home for our wildlife.

9 Jun 2010, 9:10am
by Mike

Alliance for the Wild Rockies should reconsider lawsuit

By DONNA YOUNG, Helena IR, June 9, 2010 [here]

The most recent lawsuit filed to stop this forest management project near the community of Elliston is an example of how a few people who don’t live in or near a tinder-dry, beetle-killed forest can sue at the expense of those directly affected. As a Powell County commissioner and a resident of the Elliston community, I urge Mr. Garrity to withdraw this lawsuit. The fire danger to the town of Elliston and the people of the Upper Little Blackfoot River should be a priority. In the event of a wildfire, this project will help protect lives and over 100 homes, plus Camp Child and Lions Sunshine Camp. This is now a public safety issue. When Mr. Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and Sarah Jane Johnson, Native Ecosystems Council, began this series of lawsuits (2002), beetle-killed trees were not a factor. Anyone who has driven up MacDonald Pass recently can see the pine trees are dead and a major wildfire is a real possibility.

This thinning project would also provide jobs in this difficult economic time. Managing the forest through selective thinning is a good alternative to losing it all due to devastating fire.

USFS staff have met with the Powell County commissioners several times to explain the work plans for the forests and reasoning behind each project. Some projects include road improvements, roadside hazard mitigation, bridges and forest management. This communication has been informative and input from the county has been encouraged.

The USFS has taken many, many steps to answer the concerns of these groups, yet they continue to attempt to stop this timber sale. As a representative of the Elliston community, I would ask that Mr. Garrity reconsider this lawsuit, and consider the safety of the people of this community.

Donna Young is a Powell County commissioner. She lives in Elliston.



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