Defending Montana Forests From Lawless Logging

by MIKE GARRITY

A handful of timber corporations recently took out full-page ads statewide to criticize the Alliance for the Wild Rockies for doing what we do well — working to keep Montana “high, wide and handsome” as Joseph Kinsey Howard famously wrote.

We protect public land from corporations and government bureaucracies that want to log public lands without following the law. To put it simply, they want to return to the “good old days” before we had any environmental laws and corporations such as the Anaconda Company called all the shots.

As a fifth generation Montanan, I clearly recall the days when Silver Bow Creek ran red with mine waste and the Clark Fork River was a dead, sludge-filled industrial sewer. And it was not that long ago when you had to turn your car lights on in the middle of the day in Butte because the air was so polluted. These were also the days when our forests had little big game and native fish were beginning to vanish because of massive clearcutting.

Today Montana has some of the best hunting and fishing in the world. The state recently celebrated the return of native westslope cutthroat trout to Silver Bow Creek and Milltown Dam no longer holds millions of tons of toxic waste seeping into the groundwater.

Do we really want to go back to these good old days of cut-and-run where there are no environmental laws? Montanans love our national forests, which belong to the American people, not to the career bureaucrats in the Forest Service or the CEOs and stockholders of timber corporations.

Yet, in their ads, the timber corporations clearly laid out their goals for the conditions and laws they want applied to their personal profit-driven extraction of public resources. In their own words, the timber companies want to “scrap the entire Forest Service Administrative Appeals Process,” “exempt from judicial review those timber sales which deal with trees that have been killed or severely damaged by the Mountain Pine Beetle,” and “amend the Equal Access to Justice Act by requiring a cash bond in these types of administrative appeals and lawsuits.”

In plain language, what that means is that these corporations no longer want citizens to have a voice in how our public lands get used or abused. But that ignores both the history and intent of law and policy on public lands management.

Congress placed citizen suit provisions in virtually all federal environmental laws because citizens are often the only group willing to police the government. As the Federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals famously wrote, citizens “stand in the shoes” of regulatory enforcement agencies to enforce the law — and to do so without any prospect of personal benefit. If someone throws a brick through a window, the police would enforce the law. But when the federal government breaks the law, citizens are often the only enforcers.

Unfortunately a disturbing trend has appeared as big environmental groups such as the Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society increasingly take foundation money to “collaborate” with timber corporations. And much like the Vichy French helped the Nazis occupy France during WWII, these collaborators now have to face the harsh and shameful legacy of what they have done and continue to do.

Behind it all is the very simple truth now revealed by the timber companies’ own damning ads: these corporations want access and the subsidy to extract timber resources from public lands unencumbered by environmental laws. Their profit, our loss, and a return to the bad old days of corporate domination of Montana’s lands and people. But Montanans don’t want to return to those days when corporations like the Anaconda Co. controlled public policy and the rivers ran red with mine waste. We want a sustainable supply of clean water, fish, wildlife and timber.

It’s time to tell these corporations and their collaborative partners that the days of rape and run in Montana are over. Montana is worth fighting for, which is exactly what the Alliance for the Wild Rockies intends to continue to do.

Mike Garrity is executive director Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece