A group of locals made a little bit of history recently when they outbid a lumber company for timber on state land with plans to leave the timber standing for at least 25 years. A bill working its way through the state Legislature would repeal the provision in the law that made that possible.

That’s a bad idea for two fundamental reasons: It will deny citizens a fundamental right to preserve timber they regard as more valuable standing that being cut down, and it will eliminate an element of competition that can mean more money for state coffers.

The Save Our Gallatin Front group successfully outbid RY Timber for the 443-acre Limestone West Timber Sale. The group objected to harvesting the trees, which would have involved the construction of miles of new road into the roadless stand of trees. By paying some $400,000, the group will be issued a “conservation license” that will prevent logging on the land for 25 years.

House Bill 441 would repeal that portion of the law.

Save Our Gallatin Front’s successful bid yielded about $25,000 more than the lumber company’s bid. The ability to purchase a conservation license introduced an element of competition that made that possible. That’s a good thing for the state and taxpayers.

The bill has passed the House. The House has also predictably killed a rival bill that would have required the state to specify the option for a conservation license when soliciting bids for timber sales.

Conservation groups should be able to put their money where there mouth is and buy the right to conserve forest land. The conservation license provides an alternative to costly litigation, which has become the go-to option to thwart timber sales. Lawsuits challenging proposed development of public lands have been expensive for land management agencies to defend.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Senate Taxation Committee on Friday. And from there it will likely go on to the Senate floor. Senators are urged to see the inadvisability of this measure and vote it down.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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