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Editorial: Forest Management

Editorial: Court rules in favor of active forest management

Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jul 11, 2018

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied claims by several environmental groups and ruled in favor of a habitat management project in southwestern Montana not long ago, a big win for wildlife and for healthy forests. And one that should have far-reaching effects.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and several other partners filed an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Forest Service and several other federal agencies in response to the groundless claims by the environmental groups that active forest management would in some way be detrimental to healthy forests.

In fact, it’s quite the opposite, and that has been proven time and time again for decades.

“We have seen environmental groups file frivolous litigation time and time again seeking to thwart efforts designed at im­proving wildlife habitat and overall forest health. That is the case here,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “We appreciate the court’s ruling and look forward to the implementation of this needed habitat stewardship work.”

The East Deer Lodge Valley Landscape Restoration Management project is a landscape project in the Pintler Ranger District on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest designed to improve forest health and reduce sedimentation in the headwaters of the Clark Fork River, so it’s also good for fisheries.

The vast majority of lodgepole pine trees in the immediate area are dead. Many of them are already on the ground. Without forest management treatment in the near future, the forest floor will be covered with combustible material that will also impede the growth of shrubs and grasses needed by elk, deer and other wildlife.

The project calls for the removal of pine beetle-killed timber, forest thinning to reduce conifer encroachment and other treatments on riparian areas to protect and improve watersheds that will enhance both fish and wildlife habitat.

The same needs to be done in California, but it may be too late. Lumber companies in the state are almost history, thanks initially to lawsuits to protect the spotted owl — later found to be completely groundless — and subsequently by environmental group lawsuits that found a willing partner in rulings by judges with no knowledge of forest management.

At least this one ruling sets a precedent, which may someday result in healthier forests here, as well as other western states.

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