“Conservation” Groups Cheer Recreation Over Wilderness Protection

Emigrant Peak part of the 56,000 acre Emigrant-Dome Mountain proposed addition to the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness and a critical wildlife migration corridor and elk winter range is a portion of the 1.1 million acres of roadless lands on the CGNF that qualify for wildernesss  did not get any recommended wilderness in the CGNF plan. Photo George Wuerthner.

The following link to an editorial by Winter Wildlands appeared in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.  It celebrates the recently released Custer Gallatin National Forest Plan which reduces wilderness protections on the forest, yet is cheered by Montana “big green groups”.

The recreation-promoting crowd in Bozeman (GYC, Wild Montana, TWS,) masquerading as conservationists all are cheering the CGNF designations.

All these organizations are enthusiastic about the new Custer Gallatin NF plan. The CGNF plan calls for a paltry 140,000 acres of recommended wilderness out of 1.1 million potential roadless lands that could qualify for wilderness. See the map of potential wilderness at this link.

There is nothing in this editorial about protecting wildland values and wildlife habitat of the CGNF. These groups are celebrating the loss of wilderness and are culpable in its demise. Note that the Forest Plan they are applauding reduces the S.393 Buffalo Horn Porcupine Hyalite Wilderness Study Area from 151,000 acres to 78,000 acres and the loss of recommended wilderness from the last Forest plan for the Lionhead area by West Yellowstone. And this is something these groups are cheering.

There is nothing in this about human impacts on wildlife. It’s about how great it is that “everyone” gets to play.

I’m not against enjoying the natural world, but wilderness is the “gold standard” for protecting wildlife and wildlands values.  The CGNF “recommended” wilderness is primarily the rocks and ice-high alpine terrain, and the “other” designations she applauds allow more human intrusions and potential manipulation (logging) in the best wildlife habitats.

If you look at the different designations for the Gallatin Range, the majority of the “recommended” wilderness is high, steep alpine/subalpine terrain. I love that kind of country.

However, nearly all the lower elevation valleys which contain the best wildlife habitat are under either less protective backcountry and recreation designations–both administrative designations that lack the legal designation that comes with wilderness. The same less protective designations are recommended for major portions of the Crazy Mountains, Pryor Mountains, and Lionhead.

And the CGNF plan has nothing for large chunks of roadless lands adjacent to the AB Wilderness like the Deer Creeks, Emigrant to Dome Mountain, Line Creek Plateau, Rock Creek, and other lands the border the Lee Metcalf Wilderness like the upper Taylor Fork area that should be added to the existing wilderness.

I remember the day when groups like GYC and Wild Montana (aka Montana Wilderness Assocaition) championed wilderness designation of lower elevation areas to protect wildlife. Cumulative impacts were the concern. That doesn’t seem to be on the radar screen of today’s professional “conservationists” who seem more interested in preserving their recreation over other values.

Nearly all of the logging that occurs on the CGNF is deemed for “fuel reduction” and “forest health”. Backcountry and recreation designations will permit such logging Photo George Wuerthner.

“Note the sleight of hand in this editorial. The author says “backcountry” designation won’t allow commercial logging in places like the Buffalohorn Porcupine area and South Cottonwood area of the Gallatin Range which are designated backcountry instead of recommended wilderness in the CGNF plan.That is incorrect.
The Forest Plan says: “The backcountry areas are not suitable for timber production. Vegetation management, including timber harvest, is suitable for purposes such as fuels reduction, restoration, or wildlife habitat enhancement.”

Crazy Mountains near Livingston. The CGNF recommended less than 10,000 acres for wilderness in this spectacular mountain range. Photo George Wuerthner.

Thus logging will not be done for so called “timber production” but commercial timber sales will still occur in backcountry areas under the euphenism of “vegetation management.”  Almost all of the commercial logging occurring on the CGNF is for fuel reduction or forest health, not for timber production.  The logging in backcountry areas will still be commercial, which means the trees are cut by private logging companies and hauled out of the forest on new logging roads to a timber mill.”

These groups are part of the shameless Forest Service propaganda machine.

The CGNF highest values are the three W’s:  its wildlife, watershead and wildlands values. These values got short shift from the Forest Plan that green groups celebrate.

George Wuerthner has published 36 books including Wildfire: A Century of Failed Forest Policy