Thanks to Terry Seyden for this one from the Mountain Standard.
Who knew that Fleecer Mountain had such a thriving population of grizzly bears? And who would have thought that taking out some dead and dying trees, working on stream restoration and improving sagebrush range lands might lead to the extinction of lynx?
Environmental groups do – at least the handful that find themselves in court every time professionals in the U.S. Forest Service try to do their jobs and actually manage land.
This week two environmental groups – the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystem Council – filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service for its proposed Fleecer timber sale.
What a surprise.
It’s hard to think of any instances in recent years when the Forest Service has tried to do logging or habitat work on the public land it manages without these groups, as well as the WildWest Institute, having sued to stop it. They constantly cite the damage such projects could cause to the land and to the animals on or under consideration to go on the Endangered Species List in the northern Rockies. When they sue, they allege violations of several other environmental laws as well, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act, but the ESA is almost always used because of the species on the list in the northern Rockies.
The leaders of these two groups have made careers out of suing the Forest Service and other federal agencies. Listening to their rhetoric, one might get the impression that government employees are bent on wiping out native species and butchering forests into moonscapes.
The Fleecer project is a prime example. Forest Service scientists carefully planned the project to deal with numerous dead and dying trees in the area and supply some logs to the timber industry. They looked at conifer encroachment into native grasslands and the decline of aspen groves. And they considered the health of the streams and ways to improve the movement of fish.
But Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, saw the Forest Service’s real, sinister motives. He proclaimed the project “one of the most corrupt” ever proposed in Montana and said the lawsuit was necessary “for the sake of the elk, grizzly bears, lynx and a myriad of other old growth dependent species.”
The trouble is, the project area has no old growth – it’s all been historically logged. There have never been grizzlies spotted there. And Forest Service personnel say their analysis found the lodge pole pine areas where the logging is proposed is not prime lynx habitat.
Even other environmental groups see the folly in the tired arguments that the extremists keep pushing.
This week the Wilderness Society and Montana Wilderness Association – hardly groups bent on destroying the earth – filed a brief in support of a logging project near Seeley Lake on the Lolo National Forest that the Alliance and three other groups challenged. They noted that the project was part of a collaborative effort involving the Forest Service, local community and themselves and the logging and habitat work is needed.
Undeterred, Garrity countered by saying those groups have no business calling themselves conservationists and environmentalists. He called for them to give back the money they have collected from members for promoting a project that will harm endangered species.
But the turning of several environmental groups on the serial litigants is a sign that people of all stripes are fed up with their tactics. And as efforts to work together to solve habitat problems grow, people are seeing that these extremists have never done a thing for conservation other than file lawsuits. As long as they are filing lawsuits, they are protecting their jobs.
The real loser, however, is the ESA itself. This is a good law, albeit one that isn’t perfect. It has helped bring back bald eagles, grizzly bears in the lower 48 states and several other species that likely wouldn’t have made it without the act. But when it gets used by extremists to shut down any and every habitat or logging project because endangered animals could wander through an area, it’s hard to defend.
A word to the wise environmentalists, keep it up. Sue the Forest Service over projects that cut a single stick. Bring those corrupt government workers to their knees as they try to improve habitat.
But don’t forget that laws can be changed. And as the frustration grows over the management of public lands, eventually the ESA and other important laws to protect the environment will be gutted — or outright repealed.
Try filing legitimate lawsuits without any environmental laws on the books.
Note from Sharon: I don’t think realistically that there would be the votes to change those laws based on people who can separate the rhetoric of the lawsuits from the reality (local mostly westerners). However, you might see some federal lands policy changes from Congress and perhaps the change from appeals to objections is a step in that direction.