Two Wild Rockies Earth First! (WREF!) activists, using the names Fireweed and Lupine, have occupied trees in a proposed helicopter landing site for the Little Bull and Big Bull timber sales in the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF). The proposed landing is located at the junction of Rye Creek and Mine RD south of Darby, MT. Live trees are planned to be cut to clear the landing pad. The activists are protesting the changes made to the timber sales through the 18.1 process as well as the multiple violations discovered in previoulsy cut timber sales which are a part of the Bitterroot Burned Area Recovery (BAR) Plan.
The 18.1 process is a way in which the Forest Service can make changes to the Record of Decision without any public input. Using new information the Forest Service can put through changes such as those disregarding winter only logging restrictions. A proposed change goes through a quick review and is either approved or denied. So far all have been approved. Eight of these changes have been made and four more are pending. "The 18.1 process is proof that the Forest Service did not adequately study these areas during the Environmental Impact Statement.", said Lupine, one of the individuals occupying a tree, adding "They weren't doing their job then and they aren't doing their job now".
"The Forest Service has once again circumvented the public's right to be involved in the decision making process by using this back door deal called 18.1" said Fireweed, the other tree sitter. Through the 18.1 process, the Forest Service has allowed ground based logging to be done in the summer. Previously, ground based logging in the Little Bull sale was only allowed if winter conditions existed. Winter conditions are defined as twenty-four inches of snow or four inches of frozen ground. The results of this change are obvious in the Little Bull Timber sale where huge trenches have been created on hillsides, further adding to the immense sedimentation of streams already caused by logging.
Since the BAR's inception WREF! has been in tbe field monitoring the areas slated to be cut. WREF! has reported scores of violations to the Forest Service and public since the logging began . Trees cut inside buffer zones, green trees illegally cut, and major sedimentation from failing roads have been found. "The forest service needs to completly re-evaluate the BAR plan and focus it on real restoration and not commercial logging," said Redge Peterson of Missoula. The Big Bull timber sale is the largest in the recovery plan and there has been nothing done to prevent the same problems that have occured in the other sales from happening again. The helicopter pad may also be used for refueling helicopters to log in the Little Bull timber sale were ground based logging allowed through 18.1 has already caused huge impact.
Since the fires of 2000 burned the Bitterroot National Forest, WREF! has worked to stop the USFS from destroying yet another unique and beautiful part of the Northern Rockies ecosystem. Restoration is the smoke screen the USFS has used to subvert the democratic process of public participation and steal the Bitterroot forests to maximize timber profits. The USFS ignored the community supported Conservation and Local Economy Alternative which would provide local jobs, home protection, and true restoration. Instead, the Forest Service mediated a deal in which 60 million board feet of timber are to be removed from 14,000 acres of the Bitterroot National Forest in the largest timber sale in Montana history, all without the right to appeal the sale under the National Environmental Policy Act. This is another example of what WREF! has fought to protect the Northern Rockies ecosystem from for more than 15 years. WREF! is made of volunteers who put their time and bodies on the line to protect the last wild places.
Picture and video available on request.
Wild Rockies Earth First!
PO Box 1742
Missoula, MT 59806