Carpetbaggers trying to dictate local forest management

With nearly 1,000 comments on a proposed new management plan for Colville National Forest, I’d expect forest officials to be extremely busy April 24-26 when they meet with those groups and individuals who objected to the plan.
Many of the comments are from people who live, work and recreate in Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Okanogan counties. Many comments are also from people who neither live here nor have recreated in the area. Then there are those who neither included their full name nor where they live.
I took some time over the weekend to take a peek at some of the comments. Locally, they show a desire to keep forestland open — meaning cut back on any proposed wilderness designation, protect roads and increase economic opportunities.
Some noted actively managing the forest through logging would go a long way toward lowering the fire danger and improving overall forest health.
Duane Vaagen of Vaagen Lumber pointed out that the U.S. Forest Service needs to step up its efforts to combat the pine beetle infestations.
He also suggested the forest needs to adopt a business-friendly model accepting of “new ideas, new methods, new policies, new actions with collaborations and business partners.”
I’d say he probably knows more about forest management here than the man the U.S. Forest Service has picked to oversee the objection meetings — Washington, D.C.-based Director Allen Rowley. Nothing against Rowley, but in his recent years with the Forest Service, he’s been based in “the other Washington.”
Needless to say, Vaagen Lumber works the timber here daily.
Then there are comments from Sarah Ryan of Ellensburg, Washington Cattlemen’s Association executive director. She works with local cattlemen who have grazing allotments here.
She notes in her objection that just about everything in the proposal would negatively impact grazing. That, in turn, would have economic consequences for our rural communities.
She also notes the plan would restrict road and trail access and maintenance.
“The Forest Plan should focus on enhancement of the existing road and trail infrastructure, not removal or obliteration of roads and trails,” she said.
She’s right.
Forest roads are not just vital to cattlemen — they’re important for providing access to hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and other activities.
The many residents here with wood-stoves and fireplaces need those roads to access timber to heat their homes in the winter. Tribal members need those roads to access native herbs, berries, roots and traditional hunting and cultural grounds as they preserve their heritage. And when fire breaks out, crews depend on those roads as access points and fire breaks.
Comments submitted by Stevens County Commissioners Wes McCart and signed by Steve Parker also highlight the importance of the roads and proper forest management to Stevens County’s economy.
“Our specific objections are based on concerns for the economic impacts to Stevens County, the forest products industry, the Colville National Forest (CNF), the cattle industry and the customs and culture of our tri county region,” Parker wrote.
He points out the potential for misapplication of the recommended rules.
Commissioners are also objecting to the designation of more wilderness area.
“We find no place in law that authorizes continued wilderness designation,” he wrote. “Any expansion of wilderness will negatively impact many forest users and will not contribute to healthy ecosystem function, will not protect forest stands from insect and disease and will have the potential to contribute to catastrophic wildfire.”
Pend Oreille County Commissioner Stephen Kiss echoes those sentiments.
While I haven’t read every local objection, comments from Vaagen and area county commissioners sum up much of the local opinion of the plan.
On the other side of the issue, are so-called conservation groups — few of whom are actually in the Colville Forest area.
There’s Tom Uniack, executive director of Washington Wild. Know where he’s from? You guessed it, Seattle.
Then there’s Marla Fox of Wildearth Guardians in Portland, Ore., who wants fewer roads. Funny reading this coming from someone whose employer is surrounded by asphalt.
Fox is just another carpetbagger trying to impose her politics on our area.
And she’s not the only one. As David McClure of Nespelem points out in his comments, “Some of the management ideas, are put forth by people who don’t live here and won’t feel the consequences of those ideas.”
Being from Eastern Washington, I understand the local point of view. I also see the effort by outsiders to change our way of life. Let’s hope Rowley can see what is going on, too, and send the plan back to the drawing board.

— Roger Harnack is the editor and publisher of the Statesman-Examiner and Deer Park Tribune. Email him at publisher@statesmanexaminer.com.