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Give Roush Credit For Careful Logging

Wilderness Society President G. Jon Roush isn’t a Bill Arthur, but you’d never know that from listening to people squawk about his recent logging operation.

Talk-radio godfather Rush Limbaugh denounced Roush as a hypocrite for logging more than 400,000 board feet of timber on his Western Montana ranch - 12 years after he had stopped a sale of 16 million board feet on Bitterroot National Forest land abutting his property.

Roush was denounced as an environmental traitor by two Nation magazine writers, including Wild Forest Review editor Jeffrey St. Clair: “The head of the Wilderness Society logging old growth in the Bitterroot Valley is roughly akin to the head of Human Rights Watch torturing a domestic servant.”

Indeed, Roush seems hypocritical, like Sierra Club staffer Arthur, who severely logged 10 acres near Cusick, Wash., and Oregon environmentalist Andy Kerr, who moved into a massive log home after advocating a timber-harvest ban on federal land.

But Limbaugh and others are missing a key point as they rush to condemn. Roush may be right when he says, “You’d be hardpressed to find a better-managed or more environmentally conscious sale.”

A timber-industry forester who visited the site near Florence, Mont., described the cut as “beautiful.” That fact might stick in the environmentalists’ craw more than an alleged betrayal by one of their own.

Timber can be cut with care, contrary to the hysteria fomented against logging in some environmental circles.

Roush said no trees more than 90 years old were cut. Also, he said, no logging was done within 100 feet of streams (though environmental groups generally argue for a 300-foot buffer). He said no roads were constructed that could have caused more erosion, and he logged only about one-third of the trees that could have been cut under state law.

Roush’s logs did go to the Plum Creek Timber Co., a large holder of private timberlands viewed by many environmentalists as a tree liquidator. But Roush said he had no control over that aspect.

Basically, Roush was stuck when he couldn’t sell his $2.2 million ranch of about 800 acres to pay for a divorce settlement and tax bills. He needed money, and the timber on his property offered a solution to his immediate problems.

Hypocrisy aside, Roush deserves credit, not condemnation, for logging his land responsibly in time of personal crisis. Maybe the experience has taught him and his followers there is a middle ground in the polarized timber debate.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board

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