We all share one common interest. All our needs are dependent on the land. With such a fundamental interest why can we not find common ground with respect to utilizing our natural resources?
Every year we are subjected to tons of toxic smoke from catastrophic wildfires that emit more pollution than every car in California running 24 / 7 all year long. Millions of animals perish in these fires, homes are burned and human lives are lost.
Managed forests are healthy and resilient to intense fire. Healthy, green forests do not burn as intensely as thick, overgrown, unmanaged, “hands-off” forests. Healthy forests sequester carbon and produce oxygen; they are not explosive tinderboxes like we have today. Fewer wildfires means cleaner water, cleaner air and better habitat for our precious wildlife.
The cost of fighting forest fires in well-managed forests is a fraction of what it costs to fight fires in untended, overgrown stands of choked-out timber. The ecological damage and cost of firefighting and restoration after a hot burn are hundreds of times more expensive than managing the forest for optimal health and wildfire prevention.
The questions are: Do we want to continue to live our lives this way, and why do organizations like Idaho Rivers United (IRU) bring lawsuits that only serve to bring us more of the same?
Notice also that IRU does not sue the state of Idaho, because they know if they do, they have to post a bond for the amount of the sale; if they lose, they forgo their bond. So they sue the Forest Service over a bogus right-of-way issue and millions of taxpayer dollars rot on the stump and our local economy is stifled.
With a little research one will find the Forest Service has an easement, which is a property right as defined by law. I own 40 acres, and my neighbors have utility easements and right-of-way easements to provide access to their properties. These easements were on the title when I brought the land. They provide my neighbors with the opportunities to care for their lands and provide for their families and their business enterprises. To challenge them on these rights as granted would be to challenge them on their rights to live. We work cooperatively to bring about a peaceful coexistence within our community. So, too, the Forest Service sought to work cooperatively with its neighbors Idaho Department of Lands and property owners Morgan and Olga Wright.
So why doesn’t Judge B. Lynn Winmill see all this? No one gains in this situation except IRU. We have an opportunity to fund education, provide paychecks rather than unemployment checks, and IRU demonstrates a lack of compassion for the concerns of their fellow Idahoans. They seek only one thing, the grotesque profit associated with the Equal Access to Justice Act and their ability to suck funds from the American taxpayer to support a for-profit enterprise that has no concern for the environment. To top this, Judge Winmill is more than happy to participate in the charade.
Why do these self-proclaimed kings of our public lands advocate for these practices to continue? What are they doing to prevent this destruction? Nothing but promoting the same failing form of “environmentalism” that is destroying our environment! For them it seems to be all about raising money while telling us they are protecting the environment. And along the way they are duping good people who really want to do what is true, right, noble and just.
Chmelik is Idaho County Commission chairman and he wrote this piece in response to a Lewiston Tribune editorial that ran July 20 in West Views.