Manage forests for the good of all

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After the Inter Lake’s story came out Wednesday describing Sen. Steve Daines’ plans to try to break the federal logjam on national forests, we received predictable complaints from a number of environmental activists.

You can read a couple of them on this page. The gist of their argument is that you can’t increase logging without returning to the bad old days of clear cuts and reckless disregard for wildlife and water quality.

We beg to differ.

Daines, a freshman Republican senator, is not suggesting anything radical in his proposal to double the amount of timber being harvested. That could be accomplished with relatively little additional impact on natural resources, and might actually result in healthier forests.

But what Sen. Daines is concerned about that Keith Hammer of the Swan View Coalition is not worried about is strengthening the economy of Montana. By doubling the timber harvest, Daines believes he could assist in creating an additional 1,000 jobs in the timber industry. Those are high-paying jobs, the kind of jobs that Montana was built on, and it is irresponsible for the federal government to work against Montana families. No one will tolerate a policy that results in a degradation of water quality or significant impacts on wildlife, but the human factor has too long been ignored, and can’t be any longer.

As Lincoln County Commissioner Mark Peck said, “You’ve got to get away from pitting wilderness against management, as if the two were mutually exclusive.”

Exactly. And we are glad to see that Sen. Daines is making strides to  reform forest management with an aim toward doing just that. Daines told the Inter Lake editorial board last week that he can’t get the job done without the support of his Democratic colleague Sen. Jon Tester, along with Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke.

We encourage all members of the delegation to put their heads together and find common ground. Chances are, in Montana, that common ground will have a forest on it, and there’s no reason why we should not be able to use that resource for the good of all.

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