To log, or to hug?

Isn’t that the $60 billion question? As I sit in my living room on what should be a beautiful, summer August day, I ask myself why I am here. Well, for obvious reasons, I am inside because the air quality is too extreme for me to be otherwise, but why are we here?

We are here because the logging industry has nearly been put to a halt since 2000. At its height, it provided thousands of jobs and in excess of $100 million every year back into our economy. Today, due to federal restrictions, regulations and lack of funding, the industry has nearly dissipated.

In its place we have mismanaged forests that are overgrown and unhealthy. The result is the State of Montana up in smoke, at the cost of $43 million this year, as of today. So many of the dollars are spent but not actually used to fight as this is a natural occurrence that needs to happen. While I agree wildfires are a natural occurrence and necessary in order to create new life. Low-grade, controlled burning nourishes soil, clears debris, seeds new species while killing disease.

What we have is out-of-control, destructive fires displacing people, killing animals, destroying homes — not to mention ending tourism for our beautiful state. Logging is a way of managing these fires so we can control them when they naturally occur without complete devastation. By clear cutting and cleaning up the debris areas, we can maintain that control. Clearing creates more sunlight which makes the other trees stronger and healthier and allows more water for other vegetation and fuller streams. Now doesn’t that sound like it’s a great thing for our environment?

So at the end of the day, let’s ask ourselves: By not logging, are we really saving that tree, our environment or even the species?

I would like to thank Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in their efforts to restore and reform our forests.

Nicole Lehto