Frank Carroll

Carroll

The fires of Montana are still raging and arsonists are at work lighting more. The new fires are not the kind you light, but the kind that rage on after fires die.

Montana environmental groups are filing lawsuits as we speak against salvaging any value from the 2017 summer fire storm. With millions of newly dead trees still able to provide wood to rebuild homes in Florida and Texas, it’s a criminal act to stop salvage logging of fire-killed trees that could be used for two-by-fours. Let’s make it illegal.

Most of the wood we will use to rebuild after the hurricanes will come from outside of the United States. Why? Because the Alliance Wild Rockies’ Gary MacFarlane and henchman Michael Garrity think the Earth will somehow plummet into the abyss if a few loggers cut a few trees to feed a few sawmills so people can use the dead wood before it rots. And they’re not alone. A whole enviro-terrorist industry is backing them, bringing reasonable use of dead timber to a complete halt in the most devastated areas.

Native Ecosystems Council’s Sara Jane Johnson; Friends of the Swan’s Arlene Montgomery; Swan View Coalition’s Keith Hammer; Wild Earth Guardians’ John Horning; Rocky Mountain Wild’s Tehri Parker; Defenders of Wildlife’s Jamie Rappaport Clark and a host of other bomb-throwers have joined these suits. If you know these people, call them. If not, call anyway. Tell them to just stop it.

And the worst part is you and I are paying their legal bills, however egregious or outrageous their assertions. All they have to do is file and the government must pay. Congress made that rule in Tom Daschle’s day.

Their destructive actions will be abetted by the U.S. Forest Service. Senior leaders will fold under the threatened lawsuits and “settle,” meaning the trees will stand in place and rot. The lawyers tasked to defend the agency will fold. Why? Because Congress stacked the deck against the agency. It’s the kind of malfeasance in office that would make officials in Uganda blush. It’s corruption on the ground, in private interest groups, and in the halls of government.

There’s a simple way to fight the wild-eyed dregs that continue to bring forest management to its knees, especially in the wake of disaster — pass legislation immediately that would do several things concurrently.

Here are the key points.

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First, there should be no acre limit to salvage operations following a disastrous fire season. Fish and Wildlife Service should suspend its consultation in the face of the already devastating effects of the fires. Salvage operations up to 30,000 acres should be categorically excluded from environmental review.

The allowance to file objections should be eliminated entirely and people like those mentioned above should have to pay out of their own funds to file litigation against Forest Service projects. Remember, these are our public lands and we’re in charge of what happens there, not the Swan Viewers.

Hazard tree removal should be at the discretion of the government along roads, administrative sites, and all infrastructure and boundaries of whatever kind. Temporary roads should be allowed at the discretion of the Forest Service; same with post-fire maintenance roads. How are temporary roads different than fire lines?

Proposed salvage and sanitation projects should require only the proposed action and no alternatives. Any silvicultural tool and any means to salvage the timber should be excluded from litigation unless litigants have the cash to fight the fight.

There is no one to blame for our current “second fire season” but Congress. Congress can and must fix it.

Frank Carroll is a freelance writer and columnist. He can be reached by emailing frankcarrollpfm@gmail.com or visiting blackhillsforestpros.com.

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