“Everyone lost and no one gained.” That’s how one conservationist describes the “timber wars” that were fiercely fought in Montana’s Yaak Valley for nearly three decades before a hard-fought co-existence plan began to be hammered out, pieces of which are reflected in Montana Sen. Jon Tester’s timber and wildnerness bill, writes Michael Jamison of the Missoulian. The wars, “got us nowhere,” recalls combatant Robyn King, who heads the Yaak Valley Forest Council, a conservation group. “No new wilderness lands. No logs for the mill.” Along the way, people were beaten, cabins were burned, cars were vandalized, logging equipment sabotaged.
The Yaak Valley warriors eventually found common ground with timber companies on some issues, and Tester’s bill “cobbles together” bits of that effort, along with similar efforts in Montana’s Seeley Lake area and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge area, writes Jamison, who looks at the bill from the perspectives of those who fought the wars and forged fragile alliances. Jamison’s piece looks at how the experiences of the three groups were formative in the creation of the controversial bill.