Lake County Conservation District wants to take over 60,000 acres of Flathead National Forest land in Montana’s Swan Valley

What follows is an action alert from Friends of the Wild Swan. Looks like this is just another proposal (in a long line of similar schemes) to have states and counties take over management of federal public lands, which belong equally to all Americans.

The Lake County Conservation District (LCCD) in Montana has been working on a novel approach to take over management of Flathead National Forest land in the Swan Valley. The Swan Resource Management Study vaguely outlines a plan to take control of 60,000 acres in the Swan Valley in Lake County which then would be managed by the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) for logging over the next 100 years.

The LCCD seems to believe that these federal lands represent a cash cow for the county to use for various unnamed projects even though most federal timber sales lose money and DNRC doesn’t have an adequate accounting system to track its costs to see whether they make money from timber sales.

There are obviously flaws with the whole premise of controlling just the timber output on federal lands but the LCCD has been moving along with this since 2014 and is soliciting public comments about whether to proceed with asking Congress to authorize the transfer of management. These are federal public lands and they belong to everyone in the U.S. not just Lake County or Montana residents.

The Swan Valley is rich in wildlife and biological diversity. These wild lands are critical habitat for lynx, bull trout, grizzly bears and other fish and wildlife. Allowing the County to have management jurisdiction for purely logging and its associated roads will adversely affect the habitat for many imperiled animals and fish as well as water quality.

According to their website “LCCD residents, especially those with property in the Swan Valley, will be asked their opinion. LCCD wants to know if there is adequate local community support to request Montana’s governor and legislature to begin working on State legislation that would support the establishment of the proposed Conservation Forest. Conversely, LCCD wants to know if the study should be suspended and the idea of a Conservation Forest tabled.”

In an undated letter on the website it says that environmental groups, Lake County residents, legislators and others have been notified of the public meeting on December 7th at the Swan Lake Clubhouse at6:30 pm. However, even though Friends of the Wild Swan attended the previous meeting in 2014 and submitted comments we have not been notified nor have Lake County residents.

Please attend this meeting if you are able or send a letter to the LCCD and Lake CountyCommissioners — tell them:

• This is a bad idea and no more taxpayer funds should be spent on it,

• These wild lands are too valuable for their clean water, fish and wildlife and must be maintained for those values,

• These are federal lands that belong to everyone in the United States, not just Lake County residents. Any activities on Forest Service land must be in compliance with federal laws like the Endangered Species Act, National Forest Management Act, Clean Water Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

We need to let them know loud and clear that their proposal is not a viable option for our precious public lands.

For more information go to: www.swanforestinitiative.org

Send comments to the LCCD at lakecountycd@ronan.net or by mail to 64352 US Hwy 93, Ronan, MT  59864 and to the Lake County Commissioners at lakecommissioners@lakemt.gov or by mail to CountyCourthouse, Room 211, 106 4th Ave E., Polson, MT. 59860

16 Comments

  1. “DNRC doesn’t have an adequate accounting system to track its costs to see whether they make money from timber sales.”

    Bullshit. You gotta call it when you see it. In light of all the fake news these days, when will Enviro Groups be held to high standards in “Press Releases”.

    http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/trust/forest-management/timber-sale-information

    http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/trust/forest-management/2017-timber-sale-results

    http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/trust/forest-management/2016-timber-sales-results

    http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/trust/forest-management/previous-timber-sale-information

    http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/trust/docs/annual-report/web_tlmd-annual-report-2016.pdf

    And most importantly, affirmed by the court…

    http://missoulian.com/mtracker/news/judge-tosses-suit-over-swan-valley-timber-saleposted-at-p/article_15646e1a-7aa3-5c1f-871a-c9e095fbfb44.html

    [Edited by MK to cross out BS]

    • Howdy Scott Hall,

      In addition to editing out your use of BS, you may want to be better informed before you start accusing “Enviro Groups” of spreading ‘Fake News.” Thanks, man.

      DNRC is not required to account for whether individual timber sales are making or losing money. See the Montana Supreme Court’s decision in Friends of the Wild Swan v. DNRC, 2005. The court ruled that the current statute (77-1-202 MCA) does not require that type of accounting and it would be up to the legislature to do so. “However, the question here is not whether more specific accounting is preferable or even desirable. Rather, the question is whether harvest-level accounting of proposed timber sales is required by law.”

      Dissent by Justice Leaphart on pages 19 and 20 discuss the annual asset reports which utilize a ten year rolling average. “The Board is not explicitly required to conduct any accounting whatsoever; rather, 77-1-223, MCA, like 77-1-202, MCA only implicitly requires the Board to complete any accounting. Moreover, calculating a ten year rolling average return of revenue on asset value is not sufficient to ensure that the Board secures the largest benefit, even on a “programmatic” (i.e, annual) basis. In fact, the Board could lose money on any of its individual transactions, during any single year or during a string of consecutive years, and the beneficiaries would never learn of these losses so long as the Board reported a net gain of the course of a decade.”

      • Re: “DNRC is not required to account for whether individual timber sales are making or losing money”

        Even if it losses money, it is a cheaper way to control stand densities than non-commercial restoration projects. And the reduction in catastrophic losses to fire, insects and diseases protects more endangered species while lowering costs by eliminating excessive catastrophies caused by the irresponsible individuals who spout such non-science/nonsense.

  2. True, the land now belongs citizens and is managed by their surrogates, the federal government. Sadly, the Congress and Administration do not allow its managing agent, the U.S. Forest service, to husband the land and its resources. Consider: the National Forests in Montana grow 560 million cubic feet (MMcf) of timber each year. 510 MMcf , 90% of the growth, dies each year from fire,insects, an disease. 98% of this mortality is not salvaged but left in the woods to fuel future fires. The Forest Service harvests only 4.6% of the annual growth. Meanwhile, mills close, local governments and schools face bankruptcy, workers are idled and families disrupted. Dying trees and megafires are the inevitable result of a quarter century of neglect. The land, its resources, and its owners deserve better.

    The land belongs to all citizens of the U.S. Are we satisfied with its management? If not, we have a choice: drastically change laws and policies so as to allow management or transfer ownership to an entity that can. The LLCD may or may not have that capability. Allowing matters to continue as they are is not an acceptable option.

  3. “98% of this mortality is not salvaged but left in the woods to fuel future fires.”

    It does a lot more than that, all of which is important to functioning ecosystems that support wildlife diversity. And I think the citizen-owners believe it’s a good thing that we still have undeveloped public lands where this can still happen.

  4. I whole heartedly agree with the comments provided by two of the LCCD Supervisors – Gardner and Rosman. How can land that belongs to residents of this nation be managed locally and respond to critical local needs? I am a retired business owner and believe that the value of outdoor recreation needs to be addressed and protected – as well as habitat and keeping our lands open to access and multiple use. This seems to be a beginning of a land transfer of a more permanent kind and I am adamantly against that movement. Comparing costs with DNRC and federal management is totally ridiculous as the DNRC does not manage all resources resulting in a comparison is alarmingly skewed. Nothing more than false information and slanted verbiage! Please consider deeply that this proposal will jeopardize and loose so much of what Montana holds dear and unique…and I believe forever.

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