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Support for local control

 

As a citizen of Ravalli County, Montana, I have been fighting government intrusion and non-management of our public lands for 20 years. As a county commissioner I have been denied by USFS forest supervisors and rangers the right provided by the 1976 Federal Land Policy Management Act, the ESA and NEPA to coordinate our county’s interests whenever forest management actions are being considered. The results of this denial has placed our county in a non-stop emergency status due to either the forest overload of material which has led to 765,000 acres of the Bitterroot National Forest to burn since 2000. That is 47% of the total 1.6 million acres making up our forest. Ironically, 50% of our forest is Wilderness. Fire does not respect those boundary lines and it is the Wilderness that fuels the catastrophic fires and sends the roaring storms of fire into the National Forests and private lands.

Due to the nature of the fires which create their own weather events and winds of over 200 miles per hour, the soils are often sterilized, thus we have little or no ground cover to hold our snow load during spring melt off. This results in flooding and mudslides. One event this early spring has done what could go as high as a half million dollars in damage to our county roads. We still have two months of potential flood events on the horizon. We have had fire cross on to private lands, homes burned and outbuildings lost along with livestock from Lolo to Sula within the past 14 years. How many endangered species have burned? Smoke from wilderness fires fill our western valleys with choking smoke every summer and the papers warn of the long term heath threats.
Our county has less than 20% of the acres within it available for private development and management. The net result is an impoverished citizenry, a low tax base from which the local government must provide for the health, safety and welfare of our 40,000 plus citizens spread over 1.2 million acres. What makes this hard to swallow is that 40 years ago Montana was 10th in the nation for per capita income and our county was one of the most financially strong in the state. The community that led per capita income in our county back then has four seniors graduating this year from high school.
I have been working with county commissioners, state and congressional leadership from the western region to study the Transfer of Public Lands along with any and all alternatives anyone can come up with. What we have now is broken. The political nature of our BLM and USFS has polluted the relationships between those D.C. decision makers and our citizens and local governments. We have been told very firmly that the county does not have standing nor are we correct in our expectations for coordination.
We need state and local management of our public lands before they are sold off to pay federal debt or have 100% burn. The citizens of the United States have been sold a bill of goods when it comes to supporting the Neo-environmental movement. Bambi is being murdered by fire, by wolves and by a political agenda that is all about power and control and little to do with keeping our forests green, our water clean, our air pure or our endangered species protected.
None of this is by accident. Rural Americans “cling to their guns and religion” and are an independent bunch. You don’t go out to help your cows calve in subzero weather, put up hay in 100 degree plus temps or risk your life felling timber from a helicopter unless you have those values. Rural America is a threat to the Progressive Socialist mindset and we are being eliminated one rancher, one logger, one farmer at a time. That is why we are all rallying behind Ken Ivory and the movement to have the same equal rights and sovereignty as our fellow states to the east. This is not a political party issue as our own Governor has twice challenged the lack of management of our federally controlled forests.
Suzy Foss

Ravalli County Commissioner

6 Responses to Support for local control
  1. Anne Ward
    May 2, 2014 | 9:49 pm

    I am just amazed that you have the nerve to write this piece, Suzy. The way you and 2 of your fellow county commissioners have decimated our county government, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost to the taxpayers is just a hint of what would happen should you, or others like you, get control of the federal lands. Your own ranch is overgrazed and riddled with noxious weeds. Your judgement has been proven to be faulty–just look at the Stamey debacle. And your fear mongering statements that these federal lands will eventually be sold to deal with the national debt are delusional. You willfully ignore the income and jobs created by our magnificent national forest. You ignore the jobs created by having this treasure in our county. You ignore the fact that fires are a normal part of a cyclical pattern in nature. The reason fires come onto private land is that people are building homes on the fringes of the forest, and expect to have all the safeguards provided by a city. It’s time to realize that you don’t have the skill, expertise, or common sense to manage the federal lands, and leave it to the professionals. I suggest you try to clean up some of the messes you’ve created in the county instead of trying to obtain more power. It’s obvious you are not intellectually, emotionally or morally suited to lead.

    • Justin Gordon
      May 4, 2014 | 2:04 am

      I understand it is easy to lose ourselves in forums like this where truth and reason so often fall prey to our baser instincts so I will not assume anything personally about you. Perhaps you were just having a bad day and got a little carried away, it happens to all of us from time to time. So with that respect my lady I would like to point out a couple of issues with your case without personally offending you.

      First to suggest that a ranch that has maintained a hundred head of cattle with 2-3 crops of hay each year for over a century is “overgrazed and riddled with noxious weeds” now that it is maintaining a herd of 50 is patently absurd. You know this, you wouldn’t look someone in the eyes and say such a thing, but this forum caught the better of you as it does us all sometimes. Farmers know about farming, it’s kind of their thing, so lets move on from the obvious that the Foss Ranch is managed just fine.

      The next point I take issue with is “decimated our county government.” I know when it comes to the moronic nature of partisanship both sides are so ego-dependent on “their team” that it is difficult to concede a loss but lets face reality the reason the democrats lost in the valley in 2010 is because they had lost focus of their duties long before that. The county was a mess and needed cleaned up. For example we all know the treasures office had been operating with a lack of professionalism since at least 2008, well before Commissioner Foss was elected. Stamey’s merits or lackthereof were completely independent of the “personal and local politics first” nature of the hostile environment she entered on day one. The folks who thankfully finally left the treasurers office had in fact lost focus on their duties to the citizens of the valley and put their “BS” first.

      The next issue is your statement that “fires are a normal part of a cyclical pattern” which ignores the fact that man interferes with said pattern. Are you implying we should therefore let fires manage the forest and let them burn unabated? Clearly that is not a viable option. As that is not a viable option we need more defined management than random forest fires and that includes countering the tinderbox environment we have created in the valley. I just don’t see how it is reasonable to say the status quo is fine when it clearly has failed. I am not sure why you would have what seems a strong opinion on this matter yet also seem to believe that you and any local should not have any say in the management of our local areas.

      The next issue is of course the statement mentioning the “jobs created by having this treasure.” Exactly how many jobs is that and what is there effect on the local economy? Now how does that compare to when we had a thriving timber industry? I by no means suggest that there was not validity in fighting for more responsible timber management, that needed to be done, but where the democrats failed is not creating a sound management plan to prevent the tinderbox fed fires that made the whole fight moot. The next failing of course was their total disregard for the people of the Bitterroot. While planning to wipe out an entire industry it never occurred to them to help bring in another industry to replace the lost jobs. Imagine if the democrats had been more responsible so we didn’t have the worse than necessary fires and the drastic downturn in the local economy? Y’all would likely still be in office but the dems blew it.

      Lastly the petty insults are completely unbecoming and as they always do demonstrate a weakness in the insulting party’s case and self confidence rather than reflect anything of their intended target. Commissioner Foss started her own business in Montana in the early 80s while raising two young boys by herself. If you were in the valley at the time you know what it took for her to prove herself in that environment. If you lack respect for your fellow woman that is all on you and does not dismiss any other woman’s accomplishments. You are welcome to disagree with anyone and clearly state a well reasoned case why, but all this BS while crying BS? That is BS my lady. I really want to believe you are better than this. Let your preconditioned partisan rhetoric slide for a moment and think for yourself, is this really the type of person you want to be? Is this really how you wish to conduct yourself and communicate with your fellows? Or are you and can you be better than this?

      • Rick Borden
        May 14, 2014 | 2:43 am

        Justin, first of all you are to be commended for strongly defending your mother. I must ask you two questions. In your reply to Ms. Ward you state the treasurer’s office had been “operating with a lack of professionalism since at least 2008″. Would you please give some examples?

        The second question is in two parts and goes to your statement “the folks who thankfully finally left the treasurer’s office had, in fact, lost focus on their duties to the citizens of the valley and put their ‘BS’ first”. What exactly is “their BS” and how did it cause them to lose focus on their duties to the citizens?

  2. Keven Roth
    May 2, 2014 | 7:00 pm

    Excerpts from an excellent history of forest protection found at: http://www.foresthistory.org/ASPNET/Publications/region/1/flathead/chap5.htm
    “Support for forest conservation arose in the late 1800s in response to the destruction of timber by fire and the wasteful timber harvesting practices of the day, combined with the growing belief that forests were important for the protection of watersheds and prevention of floods. Groups that supported the creation of forest reserves included preservationists seeking parks, sportsmen seeking game habitat protection, western farmers and urban dwellers seeking watershed protection, and professional foresters in the Department of Agriculture concerned about forest depletion from fire, insects, disease, and non-sustained-yield forestry practices (T. West 1992:3, 29). The views of Native Americans on the creation of forest reserves in northwestern Montana have not been identified, but their rights to use and occupy the land being considered for forest reserves were not discussed in the debates.
    The Timber and Stone Act of 1878 represented an attempt by the government to control wholesale timber cutting and quarrying on public lands while at the same time allowing people with particular needs, such as miners, access to timber. Each claimant could obtain up to 160 acres for $2.50 an acre. The land had to be unfit for cultivation and valuable chiefly for timber or stone. Miners, ranchers, and farmers could cut timber for improvements on their land but were not supposed to export or sell it. Before this act there had been no legal way for anyone to harvest timber. The act soon led to fraud, however. Corporations and wealthy individuals obtained timber fraudulently for large-scale logging operations or held land for speculation; some even hired gangs of men to make entries on behalf of others. It proved to be almost impossible to protect the public timber supply by this act because the few investigating agents faced hostile westerners, including the local press, politicians, and juries. In 1892 the act was amended to include Montana. Because of this act, 663,552 acres of Montana forest land passed into private ownership (mostly large lumber companies) (Dunham 1970:61; Hudson et al. ca. 1981:216; Gates 1968:550-551, 561; Toole 1968:357).”

  3. Bill laCroix
    May 2, 2014 | 3:26 am

    Bullsh** Suzie. You’re just a poor excuse for a demagogue and you don’t want to admit it’s your fault that you can’t even get that far up the power ladder. How many of your “rural Americans” are raw recruits from the big urban areas? How many are developers? What you say, and what you mean is pure bullish**.

    • Justin Gordon
      May 3, 2014 | 11:41 pm

      So you call someone a demagogue and then try to get support for your argument by offering false claims, absurd inquiries, and personal insults to present a case based on emotion rather than reason? Do you see the irony here?

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