• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal


A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Greed and Politics Should Not Drive Forest Policy

Clearcut. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

The Custer Gallatin National Forest should withdraw its North Bridger Forest Health Project (2,296 acres of commercial logging, including 667 acres of clear-cutting). Despite the government’s claims, there is nothing particularly unhealthy about the public forest in and around Fairy Lake, Battle Ridge Campground and Brackett Creek.

Yes, the snow is deep, growing season short and the soil is thin, but trees somehow make a living in challenging conditions. Clear-cutting in these amazing high-elevation, alpine environments demonstrates how far removed the Forest Service-USDA has become from the public values of a typical local resident. Most individuals and families who travel the short distance to the North Bridgers are expecting a quiet weekend of camping close to town, or a peaceful day of hiking, fishing, hunting or sight-seeing. These are the values important to locals. Out-of-town visitors come to enjoy similar experiences on their national forest. These are sacred places.

It is self-evident that the Forest Service doesn’t value the forest in the same way. Why is this so hard for the Forest Service to understand? National (top-down) timber goals dominate the current system. Same as it ever was. Clear-cutting unroaded alpine forests defies common sense, is contrary to scientific knowledge, and lacks any sense of moral integrity to the public and the forestry profession. What a ridiculous place to manage a tree farm.

Major environmental laws passed in the 1970s to reign in the agency’s obsession with logging have not achieved the “multiple-use; sustained-yield” goals what Congress hoped for. The consistent agency behavior is industrial timber production. The good news is: Congress is currently considering a comprehensive remedy for this outrageous perversion of values (H.R. 1321/S. 827) based on ecosystems and linkage corridors, not corporate greed.

The reason the agency finds itself in federal court is its failure to conduct routine environmental analysis of the forest prior to designating it for inclusion in the government’s latest “insect and disease treatment program.” The logging project also shares a boundary with the Bridger Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA). Unroaded forest adjacent to the IRA should have been evaluated for its unique wilderness characteristics and potential for congressional wilderness designation. In their haste to lay waste to these unroaded areas the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Plaintiffs have requested that the court set aside (declarative judgment and injunctive relief) the ill-advised project. The Forest Service could simply drop the project to avoid yet another knock-down, drag-out court battle and self-inflicted public exposure to its habitual abuse of special places the American public holds dear.

The assumption that bulldozing new logging roads, clear-cutting and “thinning” primeval forests will mitigate insect activity, cure disease, preclude large, high-severity wildfires or “restore” forest ecosystems is not supported by science or common sense. The assumption is simply wrong. Climate dictates forest health, not the USFS-USDA. Drought, high temperatures, low humidity and high winds drive the big fires everyone fears most.

The change we seek in the agency’s behavior is blockaded by the simple truth that Congress funds the Forest Service each year expecting unrealistic timber-production goals. And that sabotages any reasonable hope for sound management of our national forests. It’s extortion. No change will come until management is based on the land’s capability, respect for natures limits and economic reality.

Greed and politics prevent protection of the most important of all public-forest values: water, wildlife habitat, wilderness, responsible recreation and carbon storage. When we change the politics, we can change forest policy. Until then, the fight will continue. Don’t be a spectator, and remember always, in a totalitarian top-down government silence is consent.

More articles by:

Steve Kelly is a an artist and serves as a member of the board of directors of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.  

October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
John Feffer
Trump’s Undeclared State of Emergency
Dean Baker
The Economics and Politics of Financial Transactions Taxes and Wealth Taxes
Jonah Raskin
What Evil Empire?
Nino Pagliccia
The Apotheosis of Emperors
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Passion for Writing
Basav Sen
The Oil Despots
Brett Wilkins
‘No Friend But the Mountains’: A History of US Betrayal of the Kurds
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange: Enema of the State
Scott Owen
Truth, Justice and Life
Thomas Knapp
“The Grid” is the Problem, Not the Solution
Rob Kall
Republicans Are Going to Remove Trump Soon
Cesar Chelala
Lebanon, Dreamland
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
Anthony DiMaggio
Fake News in Trump’s America
Andrew Levine
Trump’s End Days
Jeffrey St. Clair
High Plains Grifter: the Life and Crimes of George W. Bush
Patrick Cockburn
Kurdish Fighters Always Feared Trump Would be a Treacherous Ally
Paul Street
On the TrumpenLeft and False Equivalence
Dave Lindorff
Sure Trump is ‘Betraying the Kurds!’ But What’s New about That?
Rob Urie
Democrats Impeach Joe Biden, Fiddle as the Planet Burns
Sam Pizzigati
Inequality is Literally Killing Us
Jill Richardson
What Life on the Margins Feels Like
Mitchell Zimmerman
IMPOTUS: Droit de seigneur at Mar-a-Lago
Robert Hunziker
Methane SOS
Lawrence Davidson
Donald Trump, the Christian Warrior
William Hartung – Mandy Smithburger
The Pentagon is Pledging to Reform Itself, Again. It Won’t.