From the May 2003 Idaho Observer:
Gate closures on the Flathead making natives restless
Feds' fake green policies threaten resource, recreation dependent communities near Glacier
By The Idaho Observer
COLUMBIA FALLS, Mont. -- At least 70 Flathead county residents gathered for a rally at the rodeo grounds here May 2, 2003, to decide what to do about U.S. government road closures that have eliminated public access to tens of thousands of acres of forests, streams, lakes and rivers near Glacier National Park.
Some people in attendance were advocating a political process with an emphasis on educating the public as to the core issues: jobs, lifestyle and fire suppression.
Others were calling for a concentrated effort to physically remove the gates and other barriers put in place to keep people out of the Flathead.
Of 2,104 roads in the Flathead National Park system, an estimated 1,906 have been permanently gated or Kelly humped to prevent usage of the federally-administered, unceeded state lands for recreational or forest products and mineral exploration purposes.
A local activist informed The IO that there are no longer 1,906 gates. There is an active, yet uncoordinated, leaderless, area-wide campaign currently removing gates.
Bob Savoi of Kalispell circulated a petition calling for the removal of Forest Service gates. He presented the Flathead county commission with 5,000 petition signatures.
Savoi's petition seems to reflect the sentiments of the people in the area. Approximately 80 percent believe the gates should be opened and people should have access for both recreation and ecologically intelligent logging and mining operations.
The Flathead Valley is a phenomenally beautiful, resource-laden area. The availability of timber and other forest products, semiprecious metals and industrial minerals brought people to the area prior to the turn of the century.
President Teddy Roosevelt announced the creation of the national parks system in 1906. The conservation age had began. Soon, the area's spectacular lakes, rivers, mountains and plentiful game became an all-season attraction to Americans and their new automobiles.
The economy of Kalispell, the area's largest town, was built on logging, mining and outdoor recreation. The economy of Kalispell and, therefore, the entire region, is drying up because access to the surrounding land has been restricted to the point of being eliminated altogether.
The government claims that the law clearly demands it protect endangered plant and animal species and their habitats. It claims that recreators, recreational vehicles, logging and mining disrupt the recovery of reintroduced endangered species such as grizzly bears and wolves. It also claims that human activity threatens to wipe out endangered native plants.
To ensure plant and animal habitat is protected from human interference, the U.S. Forest Service is systematically obliterating roads. The process involves going into the forest with heavy equipment , ripping out culverts and disturbing large amounts of otherwise pristine forest floor to build mounds, or Kelly humps, designed to prevent off road vehicles from entering public lands.
You should see the damage the Forest Service does when it removes culverts and builds Kelly humps, commented Kalispell resident Mike Aastrom.
Aastrom then described how Forest Service Kelly humps and destroyed culverts turn a beautiful stretch of forest with an established road winding through it into a place more reminiscent of a trench warfare battlefield from WWI.
Savoi has posted before and after culvert removal photos to his website at www. kd7cni.com The photos show how culverts, while in place, facilitate natural drainage. After the Forest Service removes them, natural drainages are disrupted and massive erosion occurs.
Don't think this [road-closure policy] is all about grizzly bears because it's not. I think there's something else going on here... The more you look into this you'll find these guys are lying to you. It's a federal takeover, Savoi said.
In the days of Robin Hood, Sherwood forest and all the trees, rocks and animals in it belonged to the king. People were not allowed to even walk in Sherwood forest without permission from the king. Under no circumstances were ordinary folks allowed to kill a deer or cut firewood in the king's forest. The king, however, and his friends could do whatever they wanted in Sherwood forest.
Several people commented on how they had seen, or had heard about Forest Service personnel unlocking gates, going into the forest with other Forest Service personnel or civilian friends to hunt and kill deer, elk and bears -- in and out of season.
The Sherwood forest analogy applies here. It is illegal for the common folk to go into the Flathead forest to hunt, but forest personnel and their friends can simply unlock the gates and shoot whatever game they desire, whenever they desire it. One can imagine President Bush has access to a master key that will get him past any gated road in his kingdom.
The king's timber
An employee of the FH Stolts Land and Lumber company showed a financial report that categorized wages, profits and the volume of timber that came through the mill en route to becoming finished lumber and where the timber came from in percentages.
Wages were in the millions of dollars and profits were fair. Up until 1996, the percentage of logs that came through the mill from log sales off U.S. forest land was between 70 and 80 percent. The percentages began to taper off in the 90s. The last three years the percentage has been zero.
At this time, over 70 percent of the timber being cut by Stoltz comes from Canada.
Fire season approaches
While the economic considerations of the nation's biggest gated community should be enough to warrant widespread civil disobedience; while the impact on the locals' ability to hunt, fish, camp and hike in their own backyard is devastating to the lifestyle that has been the cornerstone of Flathead county culture for generations, the potential for a bigger disaster is looming.
More than one forester who has retired in disgust has commented that the federal forests in the Northwest U.S. have been intentionally managed to promote bug and disease infestations and the growth of ground fuel for the last two decades. Why? Because the Forest Service's favorite pastime is to play God.
Prescribed burns is a preferred forest management practice. The forests of the Northwest have been carefully managed to justify prescribed burns.
The problem is that prescribed burns are extremely unpopular. So, rather than actually prescribe burns, the Forest Service grooms forest conditions so that when lightening or some thoughtless camper starts a fire, the forest will burn well.
One of the advantages to having road access to the forest is for the purpose of fire suppression. The Forest Service is currently implementing an aggressive road obliteration campaign that will help the forest service achieve the devastation it appears to desire.
This is promising to be an extremely hot fire season.
A big part of the problem for Flathead residents lies in its leaders. It does not seem to matter that the tax base from which county government salaries are derived is primed to crumble; local leaders have thus far sided with the feds.
One former county commissioner, who reportedly did have the best interests of his neighbors in mind and was voted out of office last cycle, made the comment, If you want the gates removed, you will have to do it yourself.
Brave new economic horizons
Kalispell, a town of less than 17,000, has some 300 casinos. One can say the regional economy is in transition -- from logging, mining and outdoor recreation to card games and one-armed bandits.
You see people all the time, you know they are poor, coming in, playing the slot machines, losing the money they had to pay bills, commented Scott Daumiller of Kalispell.
The places that sell food, alcohol and have slot machines are always busy. It is sad: Desperate people betting (and losing) their last few dollars in hopes they will be lucky enough to win their lives back.
Note: Shortly after beginning my opposition media career (late summer, 1995), I was in Baker City, Oregon, attending a meeting of the Northwest Miner's Association. Oregon was emasculating the state's mining law and miners were pretty upset. At that meeting I met an industrial minerals miner named Ron Gibson. He showed me something very interesting. He put a map down on a table that looked like it could have come out of any atlas -- a map of the resource wealth of the continental U.S. We have all seen those maps since grade school -- green with black letters telling us where the gold, silver and dolomite are located. Then he showed me a transparency he had made from a map of existing and proposed national parks, natural preserves, federal lands and biospheres. When he laid it over the top of the resource map, the two were nearly identical. I have been suspicious of federal land management policies ever since. (DWH)
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Congress debating Wildlands Project bill
Militant environmentalists' dream of granting refugee status to Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming citizens becoming reality
What began as a controversial idea in the mid-80s; what was rendered into a controversial map in the mid-90s is now a not very controversial bill before Congress. HR 1105, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, defines the concept and the art of incrementalism. Those who still believe the age of White House-sponsored ecoterrorism came to a close when President Clinton moved out should open their eyes. The Bush administration is moving ahead with plans to limit or eliminate altogether public access to public lands in a manner that would suggest Clinton was merely a scapegoat for environmental policies that have been in the works for two decades.
Short Title: Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act
Title: To designate as wilderness, wild and scenic rivers, national park and preserve study areas, wild land recovery areas, and biological connecting corridors for certain public lands in the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep Shays, Christopher [CT-4] (introduced 3/5/2003) Cosponsors: 140
Referred to the House Committee on Resources (3/12/2003)
Referred to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands (3/12/2003)
Referred to the Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health (3/12/2003)
Referred to the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans (3/12/2003)
Executive Comment Requested from USDA, Interior (3/12/2003)
The tracking history of this bill is interesting. In one day it passed through four committees without comment and landed on the desk of someone at the Department of the Interior for executive comment March 12, 2003. No additional activity has been posted at this time.
We can infer one of two things: The bill is a political football that no one wants to touch or; Congress is a useless debating society that no longer has the authority to make decisions independent of the desires of the executive branch as enforced through the president's cabinet. Since the bill has 140 sponsors, the former is not as likely as the latter.
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