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LETTER: Disparate Policies Between Forests
A recent editorial indicates that there may be quite a differential between Flathead and Kootenai National Forest policies regarding the work of collaborative groups. Noting that the Flathead National Forest’s team leader for forest planning remarked that the consensus reached by the Whitefish Range Partnership was commendable and that their recommendations “will be given a lot of weight” relative to implementing forest planning rules appears to differ substantially from policy on the Kootenai.

No such commendations were expressed by Ranger Betty Holder upon receipt of the Galton Stakeholder Collaboration Proposed Action Plan. In acknowledging and thanking those for numerous hours engaged in the effort she stated: “As we discussed at the beginning of this process your recommendations will be addressed as comments to the draft EIS. Any implementation of your recommendations will be in the Final EIS because most specialists have already completed their analysis of the alternatives for the Draft EIS. “

If “most specialists have already completed their analysis of the alternatives,” one must wonder why then, since the collaborative has been re-visited under the auspices of the Kootenai National Forest, has the Galton Stakeholders Collaborative deadline run up into the month of December? To a layperson who has been attending bi-monthly meetings since January Ms. Holder’s statement seems to mean: “Thanks for all your time, but our minds are already made up.”

The Galton Study area has been visited since 2009 when public hearings were held and testimony taken. In January of 2013, the Kootenai National Forest conducted a selective e-mail solicitation to see if recipients had interest in working on a collaborative effort to resolve some of the issues identified by the input received previously relative to management of the approximate 170,000 acres of the Kootenai in north Lincoln County.

Residents who have spent hours poring over maps of roads and records of prior uses of the area strongly believe that the “Galton Stakeholders’ Collaborative” recommendations needed to weigh heavily on any decisions to be made because of the fact that it has potential for effecting serious economic impacts to the county and the very safety of its citizens. In addition, almost 43,000 acres of the study area are private land, mostly homesteaded in the early 1900s.

At any rate, participants are left pondering the differences in policy between the two forests. Could it be because the Galton failed to produce the desired consensus that its outcome will not be “given a lot of weight?” Would the consensus have been considered to be more valuable had the wilderness advocates not announced their “leaving the table” in June and boycotted the remaining meetings?

Gregg Johnson & Aubyn Curtiss
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