The following was written by BHA's Washington Coordinator, Matt Scott, a logger, outfitter and small business owner whose family's traditions and inspirations depend on the wilderness escape.
Is Wilderness a bad thing? I’ve spent my professional life working my tail off to get the time and money needed to spend as much time in the wilderness as I could. Wilderness has given me much more than the opportunity to hunt and fish, it has given me and my family a place to reflect and get away from our modern world. It has brought us closer together and was used by my parents, uncles and grandparents as a classroom for life. The opportunity to climb a mountain, get firewood with a crosscut, pack a mule, kill a backcountry bull or buck, and watch the sun come up from a wall tent has been part our family’s motivation for leading productive lives. This foundation cannot be measured as easily as board feet, ounces of gold, and number of jobs, but it is there.
Logging contractor, small business owner and wilderness outfitter/guide, is the quickest way to describe my background. Loggers understand their role in forest health, habitat, jobs and the importance of recreation on our public lands. We also understand firsthand the unbelievable bureaucracy related to harvesting on USFS lands. Regulations and misunderstandings have for too long polarized our community and left most of us in the middle without a voice. Preservation groups on one side saying “Let’s Litigate”, “Lock it up”, “Total restoration”, while others say “No wilderness”, “Never give and Inch”. Saying “No wilderness” is equally as simplistic as saying “Preserve it all”. It seems we have lost confidence as a society to define and convert problems into opportunities for the future!
What’s wrong with leaving a small percentage of our remote forests natural and managed for public use? Wilderness does not lock people out; it gives us the opportunity to remember what our country was once like. Public use is specific in the Wilderness Act, people can argue about the details of what you can and can’t do in a wilderness, but there can be common sense solutions to things like, chainsaws for trail clearing, grazing and fire etc. Leadership is needed to keep the arguments focused on solutions instead of polarizing views.
In my home state of Washington, the Colville National Forest (CNF) has the potential to provide us with wood products, wildlife to hunt and fish, along with areas of natural habitat. Through the collaborative process we have an opportunity to educate the public and conservation groups about the importance of harvesting timber, grazing, mining and recreation. But before we get backed up into our ideological corners and get ready for another fight, we need to remember what we are fighting over. The proposed wilderness area’s in CNF represent a tiny percentage of the landscape, holding up timber sales is a possibility under our law, education is the only way to solve the public’s misconceptions about forestry. And having clean water, lumber, and wildlife to hunt and fish is going to take leaders that are willing to look to the future.