Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By John Rice
Missoula, Mont. 

Reopen National Forest Service roads


November 7, 2019

In response to Seeley Swan Pathfinder’s Oct. 24 article titled “Illegal access to Forest Service roads needs community solution” as requested by Seeley Lake District Ranger Quinn Carver.

The solution is as per my previous discussion with Mr. Carver. Simply, open up public lands to the public. The National Forest Service has closed thousands of public access roads to the taxpaying public for years using one environmental excuse after another. The result is always the same, once closed they never reopen.

The destruction caused by the Rice Ridge fire was primarily the result of the Forest Service let-it-burn policy, in which millions of taxpayer dollars in marketable timber was lost. It has been two years and you can still go for miles on this burnt property and not see a living thing, not even an environmentally protected grizzly. And what about the loss of stream vegetation for spawning environmentally protected bull trout? So what are you protecting by closing more roads in these areas?

Citizens need to research The Equal Access to Justice Act or EAJA. This Act was created to help the average citizen fight the Federal Government. However, it has been used almost exclusively by Environmental Groups to put millions of dollars into their 501 [c] [3] coffers at the expense of U.S. taxpayers. It would appear that through environmental bullying in Washington and the Courts has driven the National Forest Service from mismanagement of our forest to mismanagement of American Citizens seeking outdoor experiences.

No one is suggesting that anyone should destroy public property. However, our representatives need to understand that most Montanans and many of those visiting our state aren’t seeking to rub elbows with their neighbors or have running water, electricity, hot showers and other amenities as part of their camping experience in Montana. Indeed, it is hard for many of us who have come from generations of Montanans that have not been confined like cattle to public campgrounds, paying fees to enjoy public property we have and are still paying for with our taxes.

We see now where the Burlington Northern Railroad is being sued because they have killed more grizzlies than ever before. What do you want to bet that a judge, such as Molloy will not consider that we now have more grizzlies than ever before? How long will it be before any citizen who accidentally kills a grizzly on a Montana road will be held accountable by the environmentalist and those judges such as Molloy?

I strongly support environmentalists who seek to protect the environment through economic good sense.

Again, Ranger Carver your best efforts should be to reopen National Forest Service Roads to the general public, not play Gestapo by asking our neighbors to spy for the National Forest Service who is incrementally taking away our citizen rights of public access to public property.

John Rice, Past Chairman of “Montanan’s For Better Government”


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