"One of the wildest places in America is a test case for the new administration’s conservation and climate strategies."
"For Aaron Peterson, exploring the chattering Yaak River and wandering the forests surrounding it is no more complicated than clipping on cross-country skis outside his front door. Roaming this northwestern corner of Montana sometimes feels risky when the weather’s warm because of the grizzlies in one of the Lower 48’s wildest places. But on winter days, when bears are hibernating beneath fresh snowfall, they are not what gives Peterson spine-tingling chills. Instead, it’s the crystalline air and exhilarating calm.
“It’s still wild,” said Peterson, executive director of the Yaak Valley Forest Council and an advocate for keeping the Yaak exactly this way by turning it into a “Climate Refuge,” a sanctuary for wildlife and old forests.
But that idea is threatened by the Kootenai National Forest’s plan for what’s called the “Black Ram” project in the Yaak Valley along the Canadian border. Blueprints for “active forest management” on more than 95,000 acres would allow a patchwork of commercial logging on about 4,000 acres that’s expected to yield about 57 million board feet of timber, as well as trail and habitat improvements and the removal of underbrush that could fuel wildfire. The project was at the verge of final approval when environmentalists began pressing the Biden administration to stop it and recognize the area as a tool in the fight against climate change."