Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Sierra Club official sees room for common ground

Field Editor

Duluth, Minn. Finding common ground between the interests of the
environmental community and hunting and angling groups is an
evolutionary process that will require both sides to “step outside
of their comfort zones,” says the national president of the Sierra
Club.

“We spend too much time talking to our friends and preaching to
the choir,” says Jennifer Ferenstein, who was in Duluth on July 12
to promote better fuel efficiency for automobiles. She also met
with officials from the U.S. Forest Service and prodded them to
complete a long-delayed 10-year management plan for the Superior
National Forest.

Ferenstein, of Missoula, Mont., said a recent Sierra Club
lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Michigan DNR
that challenged expenditures of Pittman-Robertson funding for
wildlife habitat management was intended to force “full public
participation” in wildlife management and that wildlife managers
“need to make choices in sunlight.” Without public oversight, she
said, there is “potential for pork and shady deals” in wildlife
management. The club lost the suit.

Another suit, from which the club recently withdrew, challenged
the management of native aspen trees in the national forests of the
lake states. Ferenstein said that conversion of forest areas to
aspen from other species had led national forests to be outside the
range of natural variability the vegetation patterns prior to
European settlement.

The Sierra Club’s stance against any commercial logging on
public lands is complicated, says Ferenstein, but is based on a
concern that harvesting wood for human use takes precedent over
other forest uses.

“Timber has long been king in the West,” she said.

Rapid residential development in forests, including those prone
to fire and out of ecological balance from decades of fire
suppression, can continue to occur, she said, provided people
create defensible space around their properties and fire fighting
occurs. She said the present national forest expenditures of $1
billion to fight fires may not be the best use of taxpayer
money.

Instead of using commercial logging to reduce fire risk and
manage forests, Ferenstein suggested that noncommercial thinning
and undergrowth removal be used. Menial work in thinning and
restoration would create job opportunities. Such work could be
subsidized by the government, which would differ from subsiding
timber production.

“We are not opposed to subsidies that benefit the public
interest, but not those that impoverish the land,” Ferenstein
said.

The Sierra Club does not oppose off-road vehicles, provided they
are used responsibly on designated trails and do not cause
long-term damage to the resource. However, Ferenstein says there is
a nationwide need to get a handle on off-road issues.

“Protecting the resource is our primary concern,” says
Ferenstein. “We would have the same concerns for hikers and
horseback riders or other users if their activities were damaging
the resource.”

As far as hunting issues, the Sierra Club seems to be walking a
line between traditional conservationists and the animal rights
movement. Ferenstein said that in addition to criticism from
hunters, the club also is criticized by animal rights organizations
such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

In Montana, she said the club has worked with organizations like
the National Wildlife Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation to protect roadless areas and to ban game farming.

“You have to have roadless areas to have big bull elk,” she
says.

A California native, Ferenstein says she comes from a family of
fly-fishers and once shot a pronghorn antelope.

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