Reader’s opinion: Speak out against wildlands giveaway in Whitefish Range

“There is just one hope for repulsing the tyrannical ambition of civilization to conquer every inch on the whole earth. That hope is the organization of spirited people who will fight for the freedom and preservation of the wilderness.” Bob Marshall

The Whitefish Range Partnership, in collusion with the Montana Wilderness Association, is crowing about a Trumpian deal with devils on the future management of the Flathead National Forest. A deal which releases 70 percent of the roadless lands found suitable for wilderness designation to other uses, which include road building, logging, ORVs, snowmobiling, mountain biking, and other wilderness-degrading activities. It is but another example of how that which is most cherished here in our great state can be divided, amputated, and cast aside like so much refuse. All in the name of “collaboration.”

Why would they do this?

In a word: delusion. Delusional, because WRP and the MWA think that by saving a small percentage of precious wildlands, they are “making a difference.” That they are saving the last of what is best. That they have reached a consensus.

They have not.  And we of the Flathead-Lolo-Bitterroot Citizen Task Force will persist as a voice against this abomination.

Asking for 80,000 acres of new wilderness, out of a possible 645,000 (with the Flathead forest recommending 190,140) is the worst sort of compromise and reeks of Neville Chamberland waving his scrap of paper and declaring we have “peace for our time.” And, of course, we all know how that turned out. There will be no peace if the collaborators continue down the path of giving away lands that are so crucial to the survival of keystone species like the grizzly bear, the Canadian lynx, and the bull trout. And rest assured, we of the bona fide conservation community will give them no peace for their collusion efforts.

What is especially egregious about this “deal” is that of the 33,744 public comments the Flathead forest revised Forest Service Plan received, 98 percent wanted all roadless lands to be designated wilderness. Again that’s 98 percent! But the Flathead National Forest, in typical governmental fashion, ignored their own survey and caved to the interests of the “stake-holders,” as if all Americans do not have a vested interest in the management of our public wildlands and are just as much stake-holders as certain special interest groups that like to speak for the majority, even when the majority disagrees. This is certainly the case here.   

Besides a unreasonable appeasement to the timber industry, the giveaway increases the Suitable Timber Base, which allows more logging in the DNRC Grizzly Bear Security Core and abandons the Plan 19 Amendment for road closure and decommissioning specifically for the great bear. It also would allow lynx management guidelines to be superseded to allow additional logging and road building. These are not small concessions. They would directly effect wildlife that are being tragically impacted by climate change and an ever increasing population in the second fastest growing county in Montana—the Flathead.

We of the old guard conservation community, represented by the FLB Citizen Task Force, will not stand idly by and watch the Montana Wilderness Association barter away the last best place for chicken-feed concessions. The whole notion of collaboration might have been viable in the 1950s, but in 2019 it is ludicrous; it is obscene. There are so few wildlands left in the Lower 48 that we cannot—and will not—let them be traded away for the benefit of those that cannot and will not appreciate them.

Michael Jarnevic is a retired US Army sergeant major with 42 years of continuous service in both the USMC and US Army Special Forces. Currently, he is a freelance writer, outdoor lecturer, and environmental activist residing outside of Missoula.