July 24, 2020 9:27 AM

For more than 14 years, the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition (KFSC) has brought together individuals, businesses and organizations that take an interest in the management of our public lands. In particular, we’ve been focused on how we can make the Kootenai National Forest work for all of us.

The Forest is central to our way of life in northwest Montana. We rely on it for timber, tourism, hunting, recreation, education and personal rejuvenation. It’s the KFSC’s mission to represent all of these interests. We are loggers, foresters, conservationists, business owners, snowmobilers, educators, hunters and we are all forest users. We know the incredible opportunities that the Kootenai National Forest provides. The forest has resources that benefit all of us. The Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition is committed to making sure that they’re available, sustainable and accessible, so our families, communities and outdoors can thrive together for generations. To make sure this happens, we’re working closely with the Forest Service to support multiple-use goals that benefit our communities.

The KFSC supports active management of productive timberlands and protection for selected areas of premier wild country. We work to expand recreation opportunities for hikers, bikers, motorized users and all who enjoy the Kootenai National Forest. We support the creation and maintenance of a trail network that provides access for all kinds of people.

There’s already proof that our approach is working. We’re proud to say that in recent years, timber harvest levels have been considerably higher than the average for the past several decades. Timber projects are being approached in a sustainable way, bringing long-term benefits to wildlife and recreationists, as well as the forest itself.

Forest management is increasingly gaining positive momentum, experiencing less controversy and benefitting from more community support. Conservationists and timber companies are working together, with the understanding that forest management and the conservation of wild places go hand in hand. We know that, with community support, the Kootenai National Forest can produce sustainable and predictable volumes of timber to supply milling infrastructure as well as support local jobs and businesses. We also know we can work together to protect more wild acres for wildlife, recreation and pristine water quality.

Listening and learning to the varied points of view in our group and community have made it clear that we share many values. We know that public processes can be complex and heavy on acronyms to folks who don’t have a background in forest management. The processes that shape the future of the Kootenai National Forest should be accessible to the public. The Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition is working to educate and explain the public process.

We hope that the public will give us feedback and participate in shaping the future of the Kootenai. Getting involved takes patience, grit and a willingness to learn, but we welcome everyone interested in supporting a thriving, balanced and healthy Kootenai National Forest.

To learn more about the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition and see how you can get involved, visit our website at http://www.kootenaifuture.org/

Tim Dougherty and Doug Ferrell are co-chairs of the Kootenai Forest Stakeholders Coalition.