Stuffy evening, cloudy and a south wind Monday, no less! So why not go to another forest planing meeting? The Wasatch National Forest has already held probably over a dozen meetings on forest planning from Logan to Mt. View, WY. Many were well attended and thoughtful, some were lazy and downright quiet. The two meetings held earlier in the summer in Logan were well attended...and thoughtful.
But something happened as often does after such meetings. A few folks decided thoughtfulness was getting nowhere. There was too much talk about the need to protect roadless lands and wilderness and treat the land softly and care about wildlife. There was too much talk about ecosystems and science and broader values associated with forests. So out came the infamous bright red warning signs that started showing up in Cache Valley warning off road vehicle users that the Forest Service was closing down all of the roads on the forest and protecting everything as roadless and wilderness, never again to allow the good old family traditions of motorbiking, snowmobiling and ATV traveling. It was full of hysteria, severe misrepresentation and intolerance. The Wasatch National Forest called foul as did Logan conservationists and HUPC.
The Forest Service held a special meeting, the third forest planning meeting in Logan, on this stuffy evening. After factual, careful and measured response to every hysterical allegation, the Forest Service turned to the 250 vehicle enthusiasts (minus a dozen or so conservationists who sat carefully and quietly; threats were made from the onset to a number of us). Practically one after the next stood up and said, in essence one of four things: I'm proud to have authored that warning card and stand by every word, knowing full well that it was a lie...or, I wish I had authored that card, knowing full well that it was intolerant and hysterical...or I don't care about the elk herd if it means I can't go 4-wheelin', who cares about roadless and wilderness.
This wasn't done with tact or civility. Threats, feet stomping and interruption were the norm. In one case, a good old boy stood in front of the Forest Service representative and took over the meeting. There were no discussions about wildlife, ecological integrity, tolerance--it was just the classic me, me, me! And the ultimate sadness through all of this is the Forest Service stood in front of these people, deeply intimidated, and said, in essence, we heard you. We will not be proposing as part of the forest plan closure of any roads.
And therein lies the deepest problem. Much of the Bear River Range is crisscrossed by roads. It is inconceivable to see how the Forest Service can talk about biological diversity as part of the forest planning process (see The LYNX, 6/99, 4/99, 2/99) and say no roads will be closed. Furthermore, it is understandable to be intimidated by this rowdy bunch of guys, but we hope the Wasatch will not ignore more tolerant and thoughtful voices.