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Know the West

ROOTS enjoyed shallow support

  Dear HCN,

As a former intern and longtime friend of the paper, I have often defended HCN's journalistic integrity, even when your views didn't happen to support my own. Paul Larmer's recent article, "Idaho grizzly plan shifts into low gear" (HCN, 11/9/98), leaves me feeling painfully bereft of much defensible.

Larmer focuses on the "ROOTS Alternative" for grizzly bear reintroduction in the Selway-Bitterroot Ecosystem as if this were an option worth rallying behind. While a consensus approach to problem-solving is surely tempting, we must still judge the product of collaborative efforts for their merits and not just pat ourselves on the back for creating a feel-good process.

Supporters (the few that can be found) for the ROOTS Alternative like to bill it as a "Win-Win," but the sad truth is that prospective winners from this option do not include the dozen or so grizzly bears that would be tagged and collared, reclassified "experimental, nonessential," offered scant designated habitat and no protections from extractive industry, and dropped into the Selway-Bitterroot. When the designers of the ROOTS Alternative sat down to plan, they neglected to invite any bears - or, for that matter, anyone willing to try to speak on behalf of the bears.

Larmer somehow fails even to mention that the Draft EIS includes a Conservation Biology Alternative for griz reintroduction. Crafted by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies - one of the ostensibly "silent" local environmental groups - this alternative not only provides for the full protection of Selway-Bitterroot grizzlies and their habitat, but also includes provisions for road removal and habitat restoration that would generate hundreds of high-paying local jobs. At hearings last year, the overwhelming majority of individual testimony received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service criticized the ROOTS Alternative and favored the stronger protections offered in the Conservation Biology Alternative.

If I didn't have such deep faith in your journalism, I would have to question the editorial influence wielded by certain board members. Say it ain't so! We have not been silent, we just continue to speak out for a better plan than that offered by ROOTS.

David Havlick

Missoula, Montana