Jim Petersen on Lolo Forest Plan

From The Western News. Excerpt:

The new Lolo Forest Plan revision speaks to diversity, inclusion, social justice, wilderness and wild and scenic rivers, but not a peep about the economic importance of the Montana and Idaho timber industries or the wildfire/ forest health pandemic that grips national forests in both states.

I’ll skip the economic and social stuff because I know others won’t. But I refuse to whistle past the graveyard the Lolo is becoming. You can drive in any direction from Missoula and find visual proof of the power of science- based forestry: The late Steve Arno’s silvicultural research at Lick Creek, near Hamilton; the beautiful groves of ponderosa and larch on the back side of Seeley Lake; the park-like stands on ponderosa on both sides of Highway 135 north of St. Regis; and the thinnings my friend, Tim Hancock is doing on private land near Ravalli.

Far more trees are dying on the Lolo Forest today than when Leiberg saw it in 1898 because there are too many for the carrying capacity of the land.

The solution to this environmental injustice is simple: thinning and prescribed fire, thinning and prescribed fire. Repeat in perpetuity.

Why on earth is the Lolo staff ignoring this? Has anyone on the Planning Team read the Montana Forest Action Plan that the Forest Service helped develop and signed? It doesn’t look like it.

3 thoughts on “Jim Petersen on Lolo Forest Plan”

  1. My favorite part was his info about Leiberg..
    John Bernard Leiberg was the first scientist to see the Lolo National Forest. Leiberg, a French-trained botanist, conducted a detailed resource inventory of what was then part of the 4.1 million acre Bitterroot Reserve between June and October, 1898.

    His findings are contained in the U.S. Geological Survey’s 1899 report to Congress.

    Leiberg reported that about 1.5 million acres of the Reserve had been “badly burned over the last 75 years, but that another 1.97 million acres was not burned and held trees of “considerable size and value.”

    By species, Leiberg estimated that 27 percent of what he saw was Douglas-fir, 24 percent was ponderosa pine, 15 percent red cedar and the rest were spruce, silver fir, western white pine, western larch, hemlock and lodgepole pine.”

    And also the GP quote..

    Pinchot spoke to the economic necessity of managing our national forests in his autobiographical Breaking New Ground, published shortly after his 1946 death.

    “Without natural resources life itself is impossible,” he wrote. “From birth to death, natural resources, transformed for human use, feed, clothe, shelter, and transport us. Upon them we depend for every material necessity, convenience, comfort and protection in our lives. Without abundant resources, prosperity is out of reach.”

    Not sure that that has changed…

  2. Jim, I’m not sure where you are going with this, but I can relay a story.
    I recently attended a “Ranger chat” as part of public engagement for thr Lolo Forest Plan. At Seeley Lake, district ranger Quinn Carver conducted the meeting. A centerpiece of the meeting was an informative map Lolo created showing burns across the district, color coded by decade. Most of the district has burned over the past 40 years. Timber is still being harvested here and there, and on some adjacent private land. Three people attending were representatives from the private land owners. An environmental advocate asked Carver if the district had any experimental forest plots in the district. He did say there was an old one but it’s hard to locate. Then he gathered everyone’s attention to the map, and declared that effectively he felt the whole district was an experimental Forest!
    My concerns about recreation were first chided, then dismissed in the summary I later read.

  3. “Why on earth is the Lolo staff ignoring this?” That’s a pretty ignorant statement. Go to their website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/lolo/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd993646

    Here’s the near future:
    Assessment (winter 2022-summer 2023)
    Evaluate relevant data and information on existing conditions, roles and contributions, and trends
    Start natural range of variation modeling; wild and scenic river eligibility; species of conservation concern process; recreation opportunity spectrum and scenery management systems mapping; TIMBER SUITABILITY AND MODELING; and wilderness inventory and evaluation
    Release Draft Assessment (spring 2023)
    Release Preliminary Need to Change (summer 2023)

    It is true that the wilderness and wild/scenic river evaluation and species of conservation concern identification have to be done on the front end, and there’s no such specific requirements for social and economic concerns. But the Assessment will cover “social and economic sustainability and multiple uses” – see §13 of the Planning Handbook 1909.12.

    It sounds kind of arrogant to try to take credit for the big, old trees on the Lolo that haven’t been cut down yet.


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