I am one of the small environmental groups that tried to stop the Bozeman Watershed Project through legal
action. We failed.
Even with legal action, it is difficult for the public to have a say in the management of our public forests. Other examples exist. In spite of longterm opposition to logging programs on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota, the Forest Service only recently acknowledged that the forest has been overcut. The lack of mature trees, not public opposition, will finally slow the logging program down on this national forest.
The same fate could lie ahead for the Custer-Gallatin National Forest. The new proposed forest plan is a massive logging program, with thousands of acres per year planned for “restoration logging.” This “restoration logging” is supposedly needed because the Forest Service claims that unlogged forests are unnatural and unhealthy. There will be many more projects like the Bozeman Watershed ahead when the new forest plan is implemented.
When I was a wildlife biologist on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest years ago, wildlife had no voice in logging programs. This remains true today. In spite of the massive subsidy the agency provides to the timber industry for logging, few dollars are spent on monitoring wildlife populations. This is true even for the threatened Canada lynx, a species that is highly sensitive to logging.
Our public forests should be managed for the public, not for the timber industry. These public values are enormous, including healthy wildlife populations, recreational values, abundant clean water, and carbon storage, for example. We don’t need another Black Hills National Forest example. That forest has created a vast landscape of what fire experts call “fire bombs,” young dense stands of small trees that are the perfect storm for fires, while telling the public logging will reduce fires.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Letter to the Editor 5/31/20