Kootenai forest plan needs more science

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I am educated in biology (both fisheries and wildlife), hydrology, environmental science, forestry, and economics. I have spent the majority of my career working in the field of natural resource management throughout Western Montana and Idaho. I also worked on the bear DNA study in the NCDE.

After reading Mr. Baum’s guest opinion titled “Kootenai draft plan inadequate,” I felt compelled to educate Daily Inter Lake readers on the true contents of the plan.

I concur with Mr. Baum that the current Kootenai National Forest Draft Land Management Plan is woefully inadequate. However, I believe the plan is inadequate due to the fact that it is not based on the best available science and virtually ignores current laws and legislative mandates, NOT because it allows motorized recreational use and doesn’t do enough to protect grizzly bears.

Unlike Mr. Baum I have actually read the Draft Land Management Plan, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and appendices to those documents. In addition, I have meticulously reviewed the Wilderness Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, and the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act, to mention a few. What Alternative B, the Forest Service’s preferred alternative to the Draft Land Management Plan, really says is this:

—Alternative B virtually ignores the language in “The Wilderness Act” by proposing 110,000 acres as “Recommended Wilderness” management areas despite the fact that many of these acres were harvested for timber as recently as the 1970s. These areas are not exactly “UNTRAMMELED BY MAN” (quote taken from The Wilderness Act).

—Alternative B virtually ignores the language in “The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act” by proposing wild, scenic, and recreational river designations for a large number of small tributary streams that by no stretch of the imagination meet the definition of a wild, scenic or recreational river as described in the Act. Also, the majority of streams and creeks being proposed for wild, scenic, and recreational river designation under this alternative DO NOT possess values which are “OUTSTANDINGLY REMARKABLE ON A COMPARATIVE REGIONAL AND NATIONAL SCALE” (quote taken from “The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act”). These designations would implement more restrictive forest management polices on approximately 47,300 acres.

—Alternative B fails to address wildfire risk and vegetation management options in the municipal watersheds of the towns located within the Kootenai Forest’s boundaries.

—Alternative B fails to address any of the multiple issues related to the Department of Homeland Securities obligation to protect the northern border of the United States.

—Alternative B fails to adequately address the negative economic impacts of more restrictive forest management policies on the residents of both Lincoln and Sanders counties. (These counties currently have the two highest unemployment rates in Montana.)

—Alternative B DOES NOT emphasize timber production, actually decreasing the land available for timber management by 251,400 acres.

—Alternative B decreases the land available for motorized winter use by 96,700 acres.

As a proponent of science-based forest management, I would challenge both Mr. Baum, and the Kootenai Forest, to provide the science that supports the management policies being proposed in alternative B of the Draft Land Management Plan.

Where is the science that supports Mr. Baum’s allegation that snowmobiling prevents hibernating wildlife from lactating?

Where is the science that supports Mr. Baum’s alleged conflict between snowmobilers and other winter forest recreational uses on the Kootenai National Forest?

What is the source of Mr. Baum’s completely inaccurate recreational use figures?

Exactly what law made snowmobile use illegal in the Ten Lakes Area?

Where is the science that supports the allegation that current Kootenai Forest management policies are negatively impacting ANY threatened or “special” species?

Where is the science that supports the Mr. Baum’s allegation that more restrictive forest management polices improve grizzly bear habitat?

The science I have read on that subject states that given the finite nature of our land resources, the best way to increase grizzly bear population numbers is to improve the productivity of the habitat that exists on those land areas. The best way to improve habitat productivity is to improve the production of plant species which have been identified as primary food sources for grizzly bears.

Improving primary food source productivity can be accomplished with either wildfires or vegetation management. Vegetation management provides positive long-term economic impacts on our economy. Firefighting does not.

After citing his volunteer work on the bear DNA study, I can only assume that Mr. Baum is aware of the fact that the study he cited revealed grizzly bear population estimates that were almost three times higher than previous estimates. The bottom line is that if the bears are starving to death, more restrictive forest management is not the solution to the problem.

Mr. Baum states his concern that the Draft Land Management Plan “fails to protect important roadless areas.” Considering the remote location and rugged nature of these areas, what exactly does Mr. Baum think these areas need to be protected from? Starving grizzly bears?

Being a native Montanan, I am particularly insulted by Mr. Baum’s statement that native Montanans are not very good stewards of our national forest lands. After reading the Draft Land Management Plan, it is the stewardship of the U.S. Forest Service and special interest groups like Headwaters Montana that should be in question, not that of native Montanans.

Both Mr. Baum and members of Headwaters Montana need to understand the difference between a NATIONAL FORESTand a NATIONAL PARK. They are not the same. What the Kootenai National Forest officials need to do is burn alternative C along with the Headwaters Montana proposal, and start coordinating and collaborating with local citizens and forest users to formulate a science-based Land Management Plan which advocates sustainable, multiple-use forest-management policies that are acceptable to both the Kootenai Forest, and the people who live, work, and recreate in the forest.

If Mr. Baum is so concerned about disturbing nature’s ecological balance, he should leave his own “little wilderness ranch” in Montana, and return to wherever he came from.

All of the documents I referenced in this letter are available at the Kootenai National Forest website, and elsewhere on the Internet. I would encourage readers to review these documents in order to confirm the accuracy of my statements.                                  

McKinley Raines is a resident of Trego.

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