In early August, I drove from Bozeman to Missoula, Montana to attend a federal court hearing before Magistrate DeSoto. I’ve been at many hearings over the almost four decades of fighting to protect native fish and wildlife habitat on public land managed by the U.S. Forest Service-USDA. As so often is the case, our (plaintiffs) argument centered around the ill effects of roads and clear-cut logging on elk and grizzly bear populations. Because there are no laws to protect most animal species that live in national forests, the elk and bears serve as proxies in many of these court battles. Our dependence on machines and capitalism are the primary underlying obstacles preventing proper consideration for all lifeforms when forest management decisions are made. This is my opinion. I am not a scientist, journalist or lawyer.
There aren’t many journalists that cover these hearings, so I’ll simply suggest reading Laura Lunquist’s excellent article explaining the details of the case. https://missoulacurrent.com/outdoors/2021/10/judges-ninemile-lolo/
My friend and colleague, Mike Garrity is quoted in the article expressing our frustration at the serial lawbreaking:
“It’s unfortunate that the only way we can get the Forest Service to follow the law is to sue them. But what we hope is that our Congressional delegation and governor will finally take note, in case after case, of the serial law-breaking at the Forest Service. Our politicians really do need to ensure that the agency stops this pattern of constant illegality instead of repeatedly blaming ‘environmental activists’ for making the Forest Service follow the law,” Garrity said.
Of course, Montana Senator Steve Daines couldn’t contain his displeasure, spewing his usual mumbo-jumbo about “frivolous litigation” by “obstructive groups,” “and putting good-paying timber jobs at risk.” Daines is one of the reasons I no longer consider politics relevant – to anything.
Adding fiscal insult to environmental injury, the Forest Service estimates that it will lose $5,122,000 on the Soldier-Butler Project. That’s more than five million fiat dollars misspent to subsidize the timber industry while seriously damaging critical habitat for the native fish and wildlife. Montana is world-famous for wilderness, wildlife, wild trout and gorgeous scenery, all God-given “assets” being destroyed for a few jobs working in the timber industry. Would you want your kid doing that for a living? Such is the fantasy we call capitalism these days. Or is that daze?