Real March Madness: Get a T.O. Baby
Posted by Matthew Koehler on March 20, 2009
Ahhhh…March Madness! I’m not sure if there is a finer amateur sports spectacle. Yes, it’s true. I’m a sports fan. Always have been. Always will be. And basketball has long held a special attraction. Maybe it was because I grew up in rural Wisconsin and basketball games on Friday nights were one way the entire community got through those dark, cold winter nights. Maybe it’s memories of my younger brother and I sweeping the snow off the hand-painted court on our driveway in the dead of winter for one of our epic Brother vs Brother battles. We were so crazy about basketball when we were kids that we’d actually take the microwave from the kitchen and put it in the garage so we could keep time and have a buzzer!
Well, at least all the craziness paid off for my brother, who actually got quite good at the game. Out of all the youngsters who’ve laced up their sneakers and played high school basketball in Wisconsin over the past 100 + years, only two have scored more points in their career than my brother. Heck, it just so happens that tomorrow is the 16th anniversary of Mike Koehler Day, so proclaimed by our village of Elkhart Lake.
But this post isn’t really about March Madness on the basketball court. Well, OK, kinda. The folks at the Heritage Forest Campaign have gotten into the action with a clever little ad asking President Obama to call a Time Out and support the Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
You remember the Roadless Rule, right? Following years of scientific study, hundreds of public meetings across the country and more than four million public comments (95% in favor) the Roadless Rule offered some very needed protections to almost 60 million acres of undeveloped lands on our public national forests. Unfortunately, during the last eight years, the timber industry and the Bush Administration did everything they could think of to de-rail the Rule, and it currently sits in court-limbo, the conservation equivalent of purgatory.
Personally, I don’t believe the Roadless Rule goes far enough to protect these wildlands and forests, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. And given the massive public support, scientific support and the economic insanity of building more roads on our national forests (already crisscrossed with 440,000 miles of tax-payer financed roads) it’s a “no-brainer,” if there ever was one.
If you feel the same way, please take some action. Click here to send a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service. Ask Sec Vilsack to implement an immediate “time out” on road-building and other activities on these pristine national forestlands — including Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. This immediate action would provide protection to these areas until the necessary steps can be taken to fully reinstate the Roadless Rule. Members of Congress have also come off the bench to provide strong support for this game plan.
Last week, twenty-three US Senators wrote Secretary Vilsack urging him to “ensure that inventoried roadless areas in our national forests are not harmed while legal challenges over their status are being resolved….We believe the uncertainty surrounding the Roadless Rule calls for prompt administrative action to ensure that national forest roadless areas are not harmed in the short term. We urge you to direct the Forest Service to not propose or implement any projects that would be inconsistent with the Roadless Rule without prior approval from your office. There is recent precedent for such an administrative directive, as a similar approval process for roadless area activities was adopted by former Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth in 2001.”
Notably absent from the letter were Montana’s two senators. Why in the world are Senator Tester and Senator Baucus riding the pine when it comes to roadless protection? After all, recent polling shows that over 75% of all Montanans feel it’s common sense to keep our roadless backcountry the way it’s always been. The support is even greater among hunters and anglers, 85% of which support keeping our backcountry free of new roads. And of the 17,429 Montanans who commented on the 2001 Roadless Rule, 78% were in favor of protection.
But apparently these numbers (and all the scientific evidence) aren’t enough to convince Senator Tester and Senator Baucus to support roadless protection? Talk about March Madness!
I’ll share with you my theory why Montana’s senators didn’t sign onto this letter. It’s because of all the pressure they are getting from the timber industry and well-founded and politically-connected conservation groups such as the Montana Wilderness Association and the Montana offices of the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited to support “exclusive-selective-collaboration” efforts such as their Beaverhead-Deerlodge Partnership, which calls for 200,000 acres of roadless lands to be opened to industrial logging. Talk about a flagrant foul on wildlands!
I’ve even heard from a good source in DC that some of these groups have actually asked members of Congress to not support the Roadless Rule in favor of “Montana-based solutions,” such as their ecologically and economically questionable Beaverhead plan. And these are the same conservation groups that recently put a full court press on the Legislature in Helena asking for $10 million in taxpayer funds to be loaned to the timber industry so the big mills could cover payroll and buy more logs (even though there’s no demand for lumber products). March Madness, indeed! These groups need a Time Out before they run out the clock on roadless protection or worst yet, just kick the ball out of bounds.
You can register your displeasure with Senator Baucus and Senator Tester and let them know that you support the Roadless Rule and full protection for Montana’s roadless wildlands. In the meantime, enjoy March Madness on the hardwood, which is certainly more entertaining (and less frustrating) than the March Madness in our forests!