From the July 2000 Idaho Observer:

“R.I.P. Clinton-Gore Roadless Plan”

Montanans deliver federal land use policy comments in black casket

by Don Harkins

MISSOULA, Mont. -- A procession of motor vehicles picked up participants all along the 120 mile-long trip from Kalispell to Missoula where western Montanans delivered their commentary on federal land use policy to a U.S. Forest Service (USFS)-sponsored public meeting held at the Doubletree Hotel here June 21. Nearly 1,500 Montanans filled out Clinton-Gore roadless initiative comment forms that had been symbolically placed in a black casket inscribed: “R.I.P. Clinton Gore Roadless Plan.

“Over 300 cars, trucks and RVs, more than 40 logging rigs and half a dozen buses were with us by the time we got to the I-90 interchange in Missoula,” explained rally participant JB Stone.

The procession, dubbed “Freedom on the Move” by rally organizers, grew to 20 miles long by the time it entered Missoula city limits. It did not take a press release to warn the USFS that protesting Montanans were on the way. The Montana State Police even directed traffic as the north, south and west contingents of the rally merged outside of Missoula. Organized by the Montana Wood Products Association, Montana Logging Association, Montanans for Multiple Use, Montana Snowmobile Association, the Missoula Snow Goers Association and Communities for a Great Northwest, the train of vehicles participating in the demonstration was several times longer than each of the several economically depressed towns through which it passed en route to Missoula.

While the rally participants were gathering outside of Missoula, there was a barbeque and the crowd was entertained by several speakers. One speaker was Region One Forester Dale Bosworth who, according to Stone, “made a feeble attempt to convince us that the [roadless] initiative is 'common sense' and that if we think it is a 'bunch of garbage' we should tell them.”

The feds have been told

Montana's resource-dependent economy has been hit hard by federal land use regulations that have destroyed the livelihoods and lives of thousands of people in western Montana. Increasingly desperate people have been voicing their opposition to federal regulations at public meetings for over a decade. Not once have the voices of concerned people been able to halt the advancement of federal control over what, according to the Constitution, should be state land and state resources. On Earth Day, 1999, Montanans stated clearly that Montana's real endangered species are loggers, berry pickers, snowmobilers, miners and other people who make a living off the land and enjoy the out of doors. Last April 15, the USFS clearly made aware that people are very unhappy with their control of western Montana when news of a massive rally of civil disobedience caught on like wildfire. The event was canceled at the last minute after rally organizers were threatened with bodily harm and legal action if the event were allowed to take place.

The west is organizing

Missoula rally organizer Jim Hurst spearheaded the Montana effort to send 10,000 shovels to Jarbidge, Nev., where there was a highly publicized opening of a USFS-closed road July 4 (See page 22). Jarbidge shovel brigade member Elwood Mose spoke at the Missoula event and thanked Montanans for the “10,000 shovels of solidarity.”

Mose, a native American, commented on the beautiful faces in the crowd and stated that his people have been the victims of Washington storytellers before. He pointed out that all of us out west are slated to be residents of the new federal reservation.

The communication and cooperation between Missoula organizers and Jarbidge organizers is an indication that citizens are quickly organizing in opposition to a federal government that can no longer veil its intentions to gain total control of the land and natural resources found in the states west of the Rocky Mountains. Other communities throughout the Northwest are similarly oppose to the federal land grab agenda.

Pallbearers deliver message

After much comraderie and after everybody had filled out their comment forms for delivery to the USFS in the black casket, the procession saddled up and headed for the meeting.

“Tension and expectation was building and folks along the way were clapping and offering encouragement. We met none of the expected resistance,” recalled Stone who had noticed that “Rainbow Family members and Earth Firsters” he had seen earlier were nowhere in sight.

Although thousands of people throughout the area were aware of the event and supportive of its intentions and local TV, radio and print media were on hand to report the rally, there was no national coverage.

Rather than sit in on yet another public meeting and listen to the same rhetoric that has systematically destroyed the economy of the region, rally participants simply intended to wait outside the hotel while “pallbearers” dressed in black delivered their comments to the USFS.

There was some resistance at the door by the USFS which did not want the black casket lead by Stone carrying a large American flag, to be allowed into the building. However, after insisting that the USFS acknowledge its statutory obligation to receive citizen comments and after the large crowd began chanting, “We want in,” it was agreed that the casket and its pall bearers only would be allowed into the meeting. “Since this was our plan all along, it was no concession on either side,” said Stone.

An “insider” was able to witness the crestfallen faces of approximately 650 “Sierra Club hat-wearing eco-whiners” who had hoped that the peaceful pro-American mission of Freedom on the Move would fall short of its message-delivering destination. Only four people on the inside expressed their opposition to the roadless initiative.

Once the pallbearers returned, the demonstration outside the meeting peaceably disbanded.

Public comments regarding the Clinton-Gore roadless initiative will be taken until July 17. You can send your comments to: CAET-USFS, PO Box 22300, Salt Lake City, UT 84122; FAX: (801) 517-1021; email: roads/wo --

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