Lately, some have anointed themselves the new decision makers on public lands. Rather than relying on the environmental laws that were built over decades to safeguard dwindling resources, groups are forming to weaken or destroy those laws and put themselves in charge. Rather than honoring laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to ensure a fair opportunity for all citizens to understand and comment on agency decisions, these groups work with the Trump administration to gut laws like NEPA. Local and state "collaboratives" dominated by the timber industry are accommodated by the multiple-use Forest Service. Well-funded conservation groups sometimes ride the tide, courting industrial recreation over endangered wildlife.

It's not a new story. For 120 years, extractive industries have fought to dominate the fate of our nation's resources and wild lands for private profit, and conservationists have pushed back.

My father owned a lumberyard in a town of 3,500 in rural South Dakota. I understand the value of timber to small communities. But today the price of using the last resources is worrying. Will the forest grow back? Can we trust past models? How do we know what will be "sustainable" as climate throws uncertainty at us? And what about carbon sequestration provided by intact forests? Where will wildlife find refuge as habitats change?

Furthermore, local interests say we should decide the fate of Wilderness Study Areas now. The 1977 WSA law suggested decisions be made within five years, but what's the hurry? Now, they remain protected for potential future inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System. Under this administration, they could disappear.

Let's err on the side of caution. These forests are not just any forests; the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is irreplaceable for the future of wild sheep, elk, deer, bear, wolverine, and our national mammal the buffalo.

Nancy Ostlie

Bozeman