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Tree hunting

The Bitterroot National Forest.

The Wildfire Prevention and Mitigation Act of 2017, the subject of a recent Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., is the illegitimate offspring of timber-industry lobbyists, Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming.

The Prussian “Iron Chancellor” Otto Von Bismarck is often credited with the saying: “To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making.”

This proposed new Daines-Barrasso law is 21st-Century virtual “sausage” with no substance, fabricated to deceive for one purpose, and one purpose only: maximum corporate profit. Don’t avert your eyes, instead, reach for the reading glasses, or better yet, to read the fine print and understand the self-evident intent, reach for the magnifying glass.

Since the 1988 Yellowstone fires, wildfire and the fear of wildfire has been a beard for industrial-strength destruction of America’s forests. Corporate propaganda surrounds us like water engulfs fish. Clear cutting has increased dramatically.

Every new clear cut is linked to a sawmill by bulldozing a new road deeper and deeper into the primeval forest. The objective is to kill the last, best (old growth) trees for a few shekels. U.S. Forest Service logging targets have steadily increased. Hand and glove, so too have subsidies and industry profits. Daines and Barrasso believe no physical or legal limits should restrain corporate looters’ relentless attacks against Mother Nature.

Sausage, however, may not be the best analogy to describe this multi-purpose Act against nature. I’m thinking minestrone. Minestrone is a full-bodied Italian soup made with vegetables, often with pasta or rice added. There is no fixed recipe for minestrone, since it usually features whatever vegetables are in season.

Here’s some of what’s “in season” for this pot of congressional soup:

• Reduce citizen enforcement of federal environmental laws (deregulation).

• Create (legal loopholes) categorical exclusions for misguided sage grouse and mule deer projects.

• Create more good-paying jobs. Who wants a sawmill career; please, raise your hand?

• Create a five-year pilot program (expand government bureaucracy) to deny judicial review to plaintiffs challenging forest projects, ie. forced, binding arbitration – no day in court.

• Specifically overturn a 9th U.S. Circuit Court decision requiring U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consultation on lynx critical habitat.

The so-called national “forest health crisis” is one giant fraud. It’s all about money.

“We need forest management reform now to reduce the severity and intensity of wildfires and create more good-paying jobs,” said Daines. 

Government has never created a forest, not one. For over 100 years, government has permitted and licensed corporations to monetize and destroy priceless, living beings (forest ecosystems) and all life that depend on forests to persist. As a powerful corporate-government agent, Daines commits unspeakable crimes against nature by under valuing forests in only money and ignoring the key role fires play in keeping forests on the landscape. Fires are not bad. The problem is people and money, not forests or wildfires.

There is a right path and a wrong one. It’s time for each of us to choose, before we lose our ability to even contemplate choice. 

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Steve Kelly, of Bozeman, cooks, gardens and serves on the board of Alliance for the Wild Rockies.