Montana Audubon

Montana Audubon works at the local, state and national policy levels to protect our natural heritage.

Support Public Lands on the Flathead National Forest

Please respond by August 31 – do it today!

The Lake County Conservation District is currently pushing a proposal to have the state of Montana take over management on approximately 60,000 acres of Flathead National Forest. The land would be managed for the benefit of the Conservation District, generating money from logging commercial timber—potentially tearing up pristine wildlife habitat and permanently altering land that belongs to all Americans. Specifically this Swan Forest Initiative:

  • Is not proposing to transfer the US Forest Service land to the county or state. Instead, the land would be managed for the county government—a stealth version of the “public lands transfer” proposal being promoted in other western states.
  • In case you don’t know what a Conservation District is: it is a “unit of local government designed to help citizens conserve their soil, water, and other renewable natural resources.” Montana has 58 Conservation Districts; the Lake County Conservation District is located in (obviously) Lake County.
  • Has been worked on since at least 2013, when the Conservation District received a $15,000 grant from the state of Montana. August 31 marks the end of the public comment period on this process.

PLEASE take the time TODAY to send in comments opposed to the “Swan Forest Initiative.”

Photo from Swan Forest Initiative Economic Analysis


WHAT WE ARE ASKING YOU TO DO:

Write the Lake County Conservation District TODAY. Comments must be received by Thursday, August 31, 2017 at 5:00 pm.  There are two easy ways to send your comments:

  • Email: [email protected] or
  • Mail: Jim Simpson, Lake County Conservation District, 64352 US Highway 93, Ronan, MT 59864

SAMPLE COMMENT*

Map showing relative area of the Swan Forest Initiative

To: Mr. Jim Simpson, Chairman, Lake County Conservation District, 64352 US Highway 93, Ronan, MT  59864

Dear Chairman Simpson and the Lake County Conservation District Board,

Please accept these comments on the Swan Forest Initiative, which proposes to have the Lake County Conservation District control the management on approximately 60,000 acres of timber on the Flathead National Forest. As an American taxpayer, I am co-owner of the Flathead National Forest. I want to go on record as opposed to this proposal.

There are many reasons to oppose this effort, including:

  • The fact that that all Flathead National Forest land must be managed for multiple use, which puts wildlife, water, and recreation on equal footing with timber management. I am opposed to allowing one of these “multiple use” categories to dominate all the other categories—and federal law agrees with me.
  • The fact that the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation does not have any legal authority or interest in managing these lands on behalf of the Lake County Conservation District. Without a qualified manager in place, this project is not feasible and should be dropped from consideration.
  • Allowing federal lands, which are owned by all Americans, to be used for the benefit of individuals in one Montana county, is an incredibly slippery slope—and could lead to the dismantling of our US Forest Service, as well as other important federal agencies who manage public land.

Please encourage all Lake County Conservation District Supervisors to vote AGAINST the “establishment of a Conservation Forest on Federal Lands in the Swan Valley.”

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue.

Sincerely,

*Helpful Hint: Letters, whether print or email, are more effective if you alter the introductory sentence and/or personalize the letter in some way.


BACKGROUND ON THE SWAN FOREST INITIATIVE:

  1. The Swan Forest Initiative Proposal. The Lake County Conservation District is proposing to have the Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) manage commercial timber on 60,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest in Lake County. The Conservation

    Photo from Swan Forest Initiative Economic Analysis

    District proposes to have DNRC manage this timber “in trust” and on a sustainable basis for 100 years. The Conservation District would receive revenue from the timber sales; subtracted from that revenue would be DNRC’s management costs, fire protection costs, and other “reasonable management costs.” Interestingly, DNRC has never been asked whether it would or could manage these forests for the Conservation District—and their response at this time is ‘no’ to both questions (i.e., they are not interested in managing the federal forests for a Conservation District—nor do they have the legal authority to do so).

  2. Timeline for the proposal. Work on this project began intensively in 2013, when the Conservation District received a $15,000 grant from the state of Montana. August 31 marks the end of the public comment period on this process. The Conservation District has indicated that it will make a final decision on the “establishment of a Conservation Forest on Federal Lands in the Swan Valley” at its regular meeting on September 14, 2017 at 7:00 pm (the meeting will be held at 64325 Hwy 92

    Brown Creeper photo by Bob Martinka

    in Ronan, if you want to attend)!

  1. Not a Land Transfer – Technically. Politicians who say they oppose the transfer of federal public lands to states have found a new avenue to effectively do the same: instead they recommend that the federal government retain ownership, while the state manages the land. Managing 60,000-acres of national forest land in a sustainable way is a challenge—when the US Forest Service is supposed to be managing the land for multiple use (see paragraph below), and the state of Montana would be managing the timber to raise money for Conservation District projects.

Grizzly photo by FWP

As background, the US Forest Service must manage its land according to the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, which requires that national forests manage their renewable resources of timber, range, water, recreation and wildlife for “multiple use and sustained yield.” This Act is the first law to have the five major uses of national forests contained in one law equally, with no use greater than any other. The definition of “multiple use” is the “management of all the various renewable surface resources of the national forests so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people ….” As stated above, having a national forest manage for multiple use for all Americans, while the state of Montana would be managing the same land to maximize revenue on timber sales for the people in Lake County, creates a conflict that will be virtually impossible to resolve (if it can be).

  1. The legal analysis for this project shows that the proposal doesn’t work. As part of its deliberations, the Lake County Conservation District had a legal analysis of its proposal completed. That legal analysis concluded that at the federal level, it would take an act of Congress to specifically set up permission for the Conservation District and the state of Montana to manage national forest lands. At the state level, the legal analysis concluded that the state’s Conservation District laws needed to be “clarified” to allow them to manage timber. What was startling to us, is that the legal analysis never addressed the issue of whether or not the state of Montana (DNRC) could manage timber on federal land for a local Conservation District. DNRC has neither the legal authority nor the interest in managing this timber for the Conservation District.

Protecting publicly-owned land is critical for Montana Audubon.


For More Information:

  • Contact [email protected].
  • To read more about the Swan Forest Initiative, click HERE for Lake County Conservation District information and HERE (Swan-Study-Counterpoint) for a letter from 3 Lake County Conservation District Supervisors on why this proposal should be opposed.

Please send your comments so they are received by Thursday, August 31, 2017!

Gray Gray Owls are found in the Swan Valley

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