News

September 29, 2020

For Immediate Release:

Yaak Valley Forest Council Opposes Black Ram Backcountry Timber Sale on Kootenai National Forest

(YAAK, MT) – Today the Yaak Valley Forest Council (YVFC) announced its opposition to the Black Ram timber sale on the Kootenai National Forest (KNF) in northwest Montana.

“Here we go again. The KNF thinks they can still have their way and ignore the 25 remaining Yaak grizzly bears and clearcut the U.S. headwaters of the Yaak River with the biggest timber sale in their history,” stated YVFC Board Chair Rick Bass. “This out-of-state log-grab—the logs would leave Montana immediately—destroys our attempts to have serious discussions regarding prudent forest management.”

In a public announcement, on September 29, 2020, the KNF issued their Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The public has 45 days to comment on the massive backcountry logging project. Of the three proposed treatments considered for Black Ram, the USFS inexplicably chose the alternative that “May Affect, Likely to Adversely Affect” grizzly bears, their habitat, and status under the Endangered Species Act.

In addition to clearcutting the ancient U.S. headwaters of the Yaak, the Black Ram alternative also proposes to add “more design features” to the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). The proposal ignores the fact that in July 2020, a Montana federal district court ruled in an ongoing case that because the PNT lacks a comprehensive plan there is the “reasonable probability” that grizzly bear conservation was threatened. By Congressional order, the U.S. Forest Service was required to complete the PNT’s plan over nine years ago.

“Not only are they proposing to further de-water and clearcut the old growth headwaters of the Yaak River, they are adding trail miles to an already out-of-compliance high-volume thru trail. The KNF should be treating the overgrown forests closer to towns, not clearcutting the Yaak’s backcountry,” observed Bass.

“This is the kind of proposal that makes people reconsider spending taxpayer money for logging on public land,” said YVFC Executive Director Aaron Peterson. “Black Ram is a national poster of a forest that turns its back on community protection.” Given the import of the headwaters of the Yaak River, the YVFC requested a full environmental impact statement. Instead, said Peterson, “The KNF dallied for years, painted 800-year old trees, then released a brief unscientific document that would clearcut grizzly core and aridify and erase the ancient forest where our water comes from.”

The YVFC has notified the Montana delegation it will continue to oppose Black Ram and defend the headwaters of the Yaak River, the Yaak’s last 25 grizzlies, and support the need for science in public land management.

September 15, 2020

Yaak Valley Forest Council Opposes Senator Daines’ Fire Emergency and Grizzly Bear De-Listing Bills

(Troy, MT) – The Vaak 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.