Backcountry Hunters Press For Colville Wilderness, Logging Plan

A group of hardcore hunters say they’re going to become even more active in a bid to protect national forest in Northeast Washington after a recent meeting with a local Congresswoman’s staff left them unclear about her position.

At issue is a plan to set aside tens of thousands of acres in the Colville National Forest as wilderness and national recreation areas as well as ensure a continued supply of timber for local sawmills.

It’s been gaining momentum, but now the Washington Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers says that opposition statements from a few threaten years of collaborative work by mill owners, environmental groups and others.

According to state BHA co-chair, former Eastern Washington University English professor and new Northwest Sportsman magazine contributor Jeff Holmes of Kennewick, an early-April meeting with Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ staff in Washington DC “went very well, with a staffer recognizing the need for a balanced approach that has something in it for everybody.”

But a follow-up confab late last week in Spokane with the Spokane Republican’s natural resources and agriculture pointman “left us less certain about the Congresswoman’s commitment to bringing the different sides of the issue to the table to work something out.  We hope this meeting was not representative of the Congresswoman’s current position because she has shown strong support for the balanced approach of the Northeast Washington Forestry Coalition in the recent past.”

Previous indications are that McMorris Rodgers was willing to at least listen as the idea blossomed.

BHA says the Coalition’s proposal for Congress to designate new national conservation area, three national recreation areas, and new wilderness areas on the Kettle Crest, Abercrombie Mountain area and around the Salmo-Priest Wilderness would benefit wildlife, recreation and access, local businesses and hunters.

The recent developments riled the group.

“It once was the environmentalists saying no to everything, but now it’s a handful of extremists on the other end of the spectrum,” said BHA chair Joe Mirasole. “Everybody wants a piece of the pie and nobody’s gonna get the slice they want if we don’t start working together. It’s hard to reach a solution that has something for everyone when part of that ‘everyone’ slams the door shut.  Fighting instead of compromising invites the courts and Uncle Sam to come in and make bad decisions from DC.”

“Saying no will get us nowhere,” added Bart George, a local utilities district biologist and die-hard big game and hound hunter from Newport.  “Our national forests are owned by all Americans, and we need to work together to find local, balanced solutions that create the greatest good for the greatest number of people.”

The potential turn of events may have been presaged a couple weeks ago by an article on Crosscut headlined “Hailed last year for collaborating, Colville Forest factions have gotten nowhere.”

You may recall reading about BHA, Mirasole and Holmes in a previous blog post and in a Rich Landers column:

“We don’t advocate for political parties; we have no religious preferences,” Holmes said. “Our ranks are comprised of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.”

“We don’t discriminate between fly fishers and bait fishers,” said Mirasole, a firefighter from Elk. “We don’t take a position on wolves. Those are all distractions from the fundamentals of protecting roadless areas for wildlife and for our kids.”

NEWFC bills itself as working “to demonstrate the full potential of restoration forestry to enhance forest health, public safety and community economic vitality.” According to BHA, since 2002 it’s helped move 25 thinning projects forward, reducing fire danger and producing logs for local mills.

We’ve detailed the proposal for the Colville here.

A person at McMorris Rodgers’ Spokane office referred media questions to the Congresswoman’s DC office. Staffers there had gone home for the day, but we left a message for a follow-up blog.

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One Response to “Backcountry Hunters Press For Colville Wilderness, Logging Plan”

  1. JW Says:

    Great to hear a sportsman group supporting protection of some great country side. I hope more sportman groups can follow suit.

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