I grew up the son of a logger in the timber industry. Since I was 12 years old, I would be out there working, first with a branding hammer and paint, all the way up to running the processor. During those years, I saw the two factions at war: conservation vs. harvest, and knew that neither side could afford to look beyond their own agenda for fear of losing too much ground and never being able to recover. But things are very different now.
About a year ago, the local field representative for the Montana Wilderness Association introduced me to the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition (KFSC). After hearing about the KFSC, and this local collaborative effort that has been going on for over a decade, I was absolutely stunned and impressed.
Their concept of forest management is so intuitive, their plan so perfectly focused on the balance between resource extraction, conservation, and recreation, all while actually acting as stewards of the land instead of only focusing on their “interest”. And that is the crux of it. Their plan is better for the health of the forest. Even if we all lived in stone houses and had never discovered paper, managing a forest in this fashion would be best for its actual health in a world where we fight fires and pour considerable resources and lives into that effort. By mimicking natural fire patterns, and utilizing terrain characteristics to create non-harvest areas which make sense based on both feasibility and erosion impact, the coalition’s plan goes further still by protecting recreation areas from both future development and future restrictions. Finally, the plan also includes expanding wilderness areas by protecting pre-established roadless areas that fit the criteria of non-harvestable areas, further giving eternal protection to wild and untouched spaces. And therein lies the brilliance of the plan.
We, as human beings acting together as stewards of our natural spaces, much as a gardener tending to his or her fields, protecting, cultivating, harvesting and enjoying the great gifts nature has given us.
The work of the KFSC represents an opportunity to change the paradigm from either fighting to prevent even a single tree from being harvested or clearcutting to the maximum sustainable yield to one in which we all share in both the bounty of our forests and the unfettered enjoyment thereof.
In the end, that should be the goal: a community, in which we are engaged together for the betterment of all. The KFSC has embraced that ideal and given us a model by which we can have a greater future.