The Yaak Valley Forest Council (YVFC) today stated its opposition to pending legislation sponsored by U.S. Senator Steve Daines that would de-list federal protections for grizzly bears and another bill that would allow for remote area clearcutting under misleading definitions of fire protection and public safety, which would have negative consequences on the Yaak River.
“The Yaak River headwaters would suffer greatly from these two bills. As the courts ruled, de-listing grizzlies in Yellowstone means damaging grizzlies’ ability to reach the Yaak, where just 25 bears remain. And ‘categorical exclusions’ allowing 3,000-acre fuel breaks, ‘emergency’ 10,000-acre ‘salvage’ logging, weakening of environmental regulations, and decreased judicial review of roadless area clearcutting are harmful and wrong,” stated YVFC Executive Director Aaron Peterson.
Senator Daines recently testified in a committee supporting his bill to federally de-list grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area while his Emergency Wildfire and Public Safety Act will receive a hearing this week.
“Amidst the flames of climate change, Montana’s grizzlies cling to isolated islands, unconnected to one another. Why would Senator Daines feel compelled to circumvent the law, moving the great bear—and Montana’s economy—ever closer to extinction?” asked Rick Bass, Board Chair of the YVFC.
“Here’s a question for a desperate politician interested in gutting public lands and endangered species in an election year,” continued Bass. “ Why is the Kootenai National Forest (KNF) focusing 75% of its proposed 95,000-acre Black Ram mega-project on ancient forests in the backcountry, and atop the sacred headwaters of the Yaak River, while avoiding smaller overstocked forests close to towns?”
In the northwest Yaak, the KNF created a miles-long firebreak running to the Canadian border that is currently de-watering an ancient, never-logged forest: a fire-proof forest resting atop a perched water table, home to countless frogs, salamanders, toads. “Washington D.C. greed,” Bass says. “Even loggers look at Black Ram and ask “’Why here?’”
“The U.S. Forest Service should be researching the effects of these aridifying backcountry ‘firebreaks,’ not creating more with Senator Daines’ help. We propose these ancient forests be researched while we educate members of Congress that the out-of-compliance Pacific Northwest Trail through the Yaak has also already caused stress and cumulative effects harm to grizzlies,” concluded Peterson.