Montana Outdoors

August 17, 2008

The words and the reality

Filed under: Environment, Montana, Outdoors, Photography, Photos, Pictures, Plum Creek Timber Co. — montucky @ 11:09 am

Plum Creek Timber Company is the largest private landowner in the United States, owning 8 million acres nationwide. They are also the largest private landowner in Montana where they own 1.2 million acres. They have come under a lot of criticism lately when it came to light that for over a year and a half they had been engaged in secret ( and possibly illegal) talks with (Undersecretary of Agriculture) Mark Rey’s Forest Service about road easements through National Forest land for access needed for backcountry subdivision development. Now they have begun a major public relations effort to enhance their image. And you think the politicians know how to put spin on things!

In 1999 the company became a real estate development trust (REIT) and now pay no taxes on their land deals to the states in which they operate. There is one of their developments about 6 miles from where I live. They formed a subsidiary for their real estate development efforts and called it Township 110 Land Company. Forest real estate sales now account for 50 percent of their revenue.

The following copy is quoted from Township 110’s website. I italicized some phrases I thought should be emphasized. The photos were taken in April of this year on one of Plumb Creek’s properties that they recently logged and show their commitment to and stewardship of the land they own. It is perhaps ten miles from their new development here.

“Our name and history reflects our values… Township 110’s name embodies our efforts to bring to life people’s dreams for a better lifestyle —living in harmony with the land and their community. ”


“Our properties are planned for you to enjoy the great outdoors; they are in varied environments with easy access to nature’s beauty — such as mountains, woodlands, trails, water, and wildlife.”


“A natural feel with spacious timbered lots, balancing privacy and community, while embracing surroundings such as lakes, rivers or vistas.”


Sensitivity and integration of the wildlife habitat and ecosystems, with recorded community covenants to protect these values.”


(On a side note, this kind of stewardship of Plum Creek land and their version of treating timber as a renewable resource also serves to put more pressure on our National Forests for timber production.)


  1. Your passion and efforts are well-directed and expressed. Now to figure a way to effectively battle these corporate rapists and their ilk.


    Comment by Pinhole — August 17, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  2. What a great juxtaposition: the beautiful, flowery words from their company literature transposed with the stark images of reality. Thanks for putting this together for us and letting us know about this company.


    Comment by teaspoon — August 17, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

  3. Genius, brilliant post.

    I had no idea Plum Creek was making 50 percent of its money off of real estate. Honestly, I still don’t understand how this land that was once owned by the federal government — meaning, you and me and every other citizen — and granted to the railroads was then allowed to become a corporately held commodity, bought and sold for the benefit of stockholders.


    Comment by Patia — August 17, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

  4. Pinhole,

    A new Administration will help. Unfortunately there aren’t any good choices there, but at least the timber companies’ lackey will no longer be Undersecretary and that will be a big help. Maybe someone will be appointed to that post who doesn’t have a sneak-thief’s mentality.


    Comment by montucky — August 17, 2008 @ 2:45 pm

  5. teaspoon,

    I’ll try to post updates from the news as things transpire. We may have a bright spot now in freshman Senator Jon Tester. I’m not entirely happy with him, but he is taking Mark Rey to task at the moment and appears to have some personal integrity which is completely lacking in Representative Rehberg and, if it’s there at all, completely hidden in Bacus.

    The company is also planning to develop and sell big holdings in other states, too, including Maine, Georgia and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


    Comment by montucky — August 17, 2008 @ 2:56 pm

  6. Patia,

    I found the 50 percent number from THIS article in the Missoulian.

    I don’t understand how we let that happen either, but it’s not at all inconsistent with the current practice of public officials stealing from the people. There’s an interesting website, RAILROADS & CLEARCUTS that has some interesting history on the subject.


    Comment by montucky — August 17, 2008 @ 3:07 pm

  7. 😥

    It’s difficult to see the reality of the rape of the land. This has been going on for a long time and it never gets any prettier. Meanwhile the planet continues to suffer and decline. The human population explodes at exponential rates. Reproductive rights are highly acclaimed far and wide, and everyone feels the uncontrollabe need and the divine entitlement to produce their own large brood of offspring. Family is everything after all, is it not? The earth is teaming with people, but somehow there is always the need to create one more person. Love abounds everywhere. The killing in the streets and the casualties of war claim countless lives every day, but the death toll cannot keep up with the birth rate. Corporate greed and corrupt individuals are rewarded at the expense of nature and at the expense of those who object to the wanton destruction of our fragile ecosystem. People, we must remember, must work and do whatever it takes to support themselves and their families in the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed. Anything less would be unacceptable. Raw materials are in ever-increasing short supply to meet the needs and the demands of the growing population. Elections come and go, and the politicians who support greed, corruption and the destruction of the planet keep getting elected and reelected to office. I wonder how long until the majority will stand up and say enough is enough. I fear it will be too late by the time it happens, if it ever happens. Part of the problem I think is that we all tend to point our fingers at everyone else, but we fail to realize that we are each and every one a part of the overall problem, like it or not. Coming to that realization is the first step. The next step is deciding what we will do today — right here, right now — to make a difference, a meaningful and lasting real difference.


    Comment by Tabbie — August 17, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  8. I wanted to express my opinion that you are a needed force to publicize these matters. If every man and woman used their voice to protest, the politicians would be forced to listen. But too many people either don;t know, or know and can’t be bothered. This crap makes me sick. Great words with the photos. Are you considering sending it to a nearby newspaper? It speaks very loudly!


    Comment by Bo — August 17, 2008 @ 6:53 pm

  9. Tabbie,

    Your point is well made that this situation is only a part of the much larger problem that allows it to happen, a symptom, so to speak. I also wonder when the majority will begin to exert themselves, but I’m getting more pessimistic as time goes by. I’m old enough to clearly remember and understand what the moral and ethical structure of this country was 50 years ago and I recognize quite clearly how badly it has disintegrated, and how quickly, really, in the historical sense. I personally don’t think that either the society or the planet will be able to tolerate another 50 years of the same.

    Optimistically, I still cling to the hope that there is still a majority of the “good” and that at some point they will be able to gain control. Pessimistically, I’m beginning to wonder if it will take a cataclysmic event such as a world wide nuclear conflict, the earth being struck by another body or something of that nature to get humans to wake up and start being human again.

    And you’re right: those two first steps are really tough ones!


    Comment by montucky — August 17, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

  10. Bo,

    This sort of thing (and this is only one of oh, so many similar issues) clearly does need to be publicized well enough to get the attention of those good people in this country who thereby would be motivated take meaningful action. My attempt here was to show it graphically.

    There has been quite a lot in the press in the Missoula and Billings areas about this sort of thing, but I have no idea what the results have been. There is more and more interest though because folks are starting to understand that runaway development will be hitting them very hard in their pocketbooks very soon, and that will be somewhat a driving force to deal with part of it.

    I have had no luck whatsoever with the tiny paper in this area and there are just not enough people here to make a difference anyway. This immediate area is almost totally anti environmental, being composed almost entirely of loggers and lately, developers and their followers. They are anti zoning and anti planning, and farther to the north west there have even been threats of violence against environmentalists. My attitude toward the local people here can be summed up by the old saying, “Never try to teach a pig to sing: you will never be able to do it, and it annoys the pig”.

    This issue, because it directly involves the U.S. Forest Service and our National Forests. is really of national concern maybe even more than local, and I can’t figure out how to get it that kind of publicity, or if that were possible, how to get people to take it to heart. Every citizen of this country is a part owner of that land. And for much the same reasons that caused House Bill HR 1975, the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, to be sponsored not by any legislator from the states to which it applies (Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming), but by Rep. Carolyn Maloney [D-NY].

    The politicians, and indeed I believe the majority of the population, in this area firmly believe that every single piece of the natural resources in this area should be exploited as soon as possible because it’s their “right”. The rallying cry is those two magic words, “Public Access”, which on the surface sounds innocuous enough, but in reality the phrase is defined as “the right to do whatever you want, wherever you want, whenever you want with these National lands and the resources contained within them”.

    I think the most productive efforts that I make are lots of communications to our elected officials and giving all of the support I can to many of the environmental and conservation groups who do carry some combined clout. Somehow though, that just doesn’t seem enough.


    Comment by montucky — August 17, 2008 @ 10:37 pm

  11. Shocking,… anything I could add has already been said so well in your previous comments. Apparently my definition and their definition of “sensitivity, habitat, nature’s beauty and living in harmony with the land…” are much different. I agree that putting their words and your pictures together hammers home a message that should be brought to the media. More than 100 years ago there was clear cutting here in the Adirondacks. The birth of the Adirondack Park and the “Forever Wild” designation has saved that from continuing. I am forever grateful.


    Comment by Cedar — August 18, 2008 @ 5:45 am

  12. Clearcuts used to be the norm around here, even in the national Forest and you can easily see the scars of some that are over 60 years old. I’m not entirely against them depending on where they are, the size of them and especially how they are treated once they are through cutting. An occasional open area is actually good for the forest and wildlife and some that have been replanted now have very good stands of trees. These areas of Plum Creek land though are simply devastated.

    The worst thing is the roads though. There’s usually a road above and below a clearcut area and those are very damaging to the ecology as well as being eyesores and places to be exploited by the OHVs.

    I’ve seen helicopter logging take place where the trees are cut selectively and taken out by helicopter to a staging area adjacent to an existing road where they are limbed and stacked into a log deck. The sawyers and choker setters (on foot) don’t disrupt much of the forest at all, and the aftermath is not even all that detectable. Outside of some large trees missing, everything else is intact and there is no need for road building.

    Those who oppose helicopter logging point out that it is much too expensive and I’m sure it is expensive, but then if the cost of removing the roads and remediating their damage were considered, I’m not too sure that would be true. The Forest Service is now asking for millions and millions of dollars right now to remove old logging roads and restore those areas. Of course, the taxpayers are footing that bill, not the timber companies. (That’s another subject entirely though and another area where the Forest Service and the politicians who control it are completely derelict in their duties.)


    Comment by montucky — August 18, 2008 @ 8:27 am

  13. After I read your reply, Montucky,I hoped you hadn’t thought I was railing against you for not taking a stand. I respect you and your love of the wild country, and would never do that. I just get so angry at the short-sightedness of those that think the wilderness will last no matter what they do to ruin it. Sorry about the people in your neck of the woods. That has got to be so frustrating.

    And yeah, the politicians are tired of hearing from me, 🙂 but that doesn’t stop me. At least the conservation groups are very active in my region – and for that I am thankful.


    Comment by Bo — August 18, 2008 @ 2:11 pm

  14. No I didn’t think that at all, Bo. I am also very angry at the treatment of our wild country, especially the National Forests. Montana Senator Tester seems to show quite a bit of promise and I send him quite a bit of mail (hoping it won’t just be one-way).

    Our only Representative, Dennis Rehberg is himself a developer and he sold out long ago to the money interests who want to exploit the natural resources here. As a matter of fact, he is a good friend of one of the very worst of the big money developers, Tim Blixseth who developed the Yellowstone Club, an exclusive resort for multi-millionaires on land for which he made “fast track” deals with the Forest Service, something that I personally think should be the subject of a Congressional investigation.

    You’re probably familiar with Senator Baucus who has been a senator forever. He was instrumental in the big land deal for “conservation” with Plum Creek recently where we the people agreed to buy some 320,000 acres of mostly worthless or heavily logged land for $510 million. He’s bragging about the deal although I’d personally estimate that the price is about 3X what it should be for that land, which amounts to another giveaway to the timber people. Sen. Baucus is famous for addressing anything to do with wilderness or roadless country by throwing his head back and braying about “Public Access”.

    I’m hoping Senator Tester will continue to make sense and become an ally, but those other two are hopeless. That’s why, since it’s national land in the first place, the greatest help will have to come from all over the country, as it should anyway.

    Thanks Goodness for the conservation groups who are working in this area! They help create awareness and political action and in many instances utilize court action to get things done that should have been matter of course.


    Comment by montucky — August 18, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  15. I tried to rile up some friends of mine when word of Rey’s Plum Creek secret swindle was made public in early July.

    Maybe I’ll give it a second go now and will send them your heartbreaking pictures juxtaposed with the Plum Creek bunkum.

    Keep on keeping on.


    Comment by whenpigsfly — August 18, 2008 @ 3:55 pm

  16. I usually try to keep things positive, but I’m getting really, really tired of all the hype and lies, spin a razzle-dazzle from these guys. Plum Creek and Mark Rey somehow seem to be a marriage made in H___??, don’t they?


    Comment by montucky — August 18, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  17. this really puts things in perspective when paired w/ your photos. I read some of the responses here. I didn’t realize there were no real “allies” in your area, though there is much I don’t know about what all goes on…even down here I just don’t understand the desire to raze what’s left of “undeveloped” land to hurry and build another subdivision or shopping center. it really is sickening! so what DO you/we do? can any little effort really be worth it? I know you’ve said before that we have to teach our kids (and I think many of them see it, at least now while they’re kids) what kinds of things can be done on a personal practical level? I think you are getting some good exposure here. strange-and a shame- that your local paper won’t print your stuff


    Comment by silken — August 19, 2008 @ 8:20 am

  18. OMG! *puke* There is a special regimen of Torment in store for all those responsible for the above, I hope!


    Comment by katkmeanders — August 19, 2008 @ 5:21 pm

  19. silken,

    So far the best I have been able to come up with is to support as many of the conservation and environmental groups, regional, national or international. They actually form a pool of money and people and get a lot of things done. The locals are the most of the problem. I support the Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation, Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlands CPR, National Wildlife Federation and many others. What I would like to see is political involvement from all parts of the country: the Nationa forests belong to ALL of us.

    It’s not that our local paper won’t print things (letters to the editor), but they don’t do any good and just “annoy the pig”.

    Here’s an example from this morning’s news from Kalispell, a city about 80 miles north of here, at the border of Glacier Park. They have let development run rampant and one of their many problems is dirt roads that raise a huge amount of dust. They didn’t regulate the residential development there nor did they require the developers to put in paved roads. Now they have a very big problem. The article is >a href=””>HERE. A one of the solutions for funding to solve the dust problem:

    “Natural resources

    Unless county residents are willing to watch their property tax bill skyrocket, the only real solution to the road dust issue is to find a funding source outside the county.

    Commissioner Gary Hall said Flathead should look at Wyoming as an example of what to do when it comes to utilizing natural resources. Hall said Montana’s neighboring state is able to rebuild every school more than 20 years old because of revenue from natural resources.

    “Wyoming is a perfect example,” Hall said. “We could get help if our state leadership were to open up more natural-resource use. The state’s budget would increase and the surplus could be given to the counties. We need to start extracting more of our natural resources.”

    Sonju said he couldn’t agree more.

    “It is ridiculous that we are not developing our natural resources,” Sonju said. “As a guy that analyzes tax policy, it’s very frustrating. It’s unfortunate because we could fund so much more.”

    Sonju said that it is up to Gov. Brian Schweitzer to get the ball rolling when it comes to utilizing the state’s resources.”

    The resources of course and lumber and minerals (coal, oil, natural gas etc.). Wyoming has created a complete ecological disaster with their cold and oil fields.


    Comment by montucky — August 19, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

  20. Katk,

    This shows the level of contempt Plum Creek and their loggers have for the country. Mark Rey’s Secret Service now shares that attitude too.


    Comment by montucky — August 19, 2008 @ 6:36 pm

  21. Here on the east coast, we have an issue with a developer that has been doing under-the-table deals with local politicians and EPA officials to have land ‘recategorized’. For example, 100 acres of farm land that was previously in a 100 year flood zone was miraculously moved out of a the flood zone 3 days prior to the development permit being issued.

    Homeowners in the subdivisions he created are now fighting a losing battle to recover losses from issues with mold/mildew and sinking foundations. The developer used several different builders and has dissolved the original development company leaving little recourse for the homeowners.

    The same person is now planning a development 2 miles from my house for aviation enthusiasts, complete with a refueling facility and sewage treatment plant. The development is less than 200 yards from a creek that flows directly into the Potomac River.

    The EPA is ‘studying’ the impact of the development. Meanwhile the development is being pushed forward.

    I’m not holding out much hope for the future of our community.


    Comment by briansrapier — August 20, 2008 @ 12:34 pm

  22. It’s been interesting, if saddening, to follow the discussion on this blog. Thank you for letting us all know about this awful situation, and thank you even more for doing all you can to fight it.


    Comment by teaspoon — August 20, 2008 @ 3:27 pm

  23. Briansrapier,

    It’s sad to see that kind of thing. It’s especially disappointing because of the levels of corruption that make the whole thing work: the greed and un-caring of the developer, probably the same with his builders, and the corruption of the local politicians and the EPA.

    It’s my feeling that the EPA, the Forest Service and the National Fish & Wildlife as a result of the influence of the Bush administration have become so corrupt that the only way they can recover and be positive forces again is if they are completely dismantled and rebuilt. A heck of a kettle of fish, isn’t it! Oh yes, and reinstate the old practice of tar and feathers for the developers.


    Comment by montucky — August 20, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  24. Teaspoon,

    It is indeed sad. What bothers me is that although a new administration is looked to for the hope of reform, and there surely will be at least some of that, it is by far not the complete answer. The widespread greed and arrogance in this country is on the verge of destroying all of the things that used to make America beautiful.

    My opinion is that many years ago when we decided to abandon the concept of justice and replaced it with the practice of law we changed the question that each person must ask himself from what should I do, to what can I legally get away with.


    Comment by montucky — August 20, 2008 @ 6:12 pm

  25. wow montucky, that is a powerful thought, one which I think has invaded nearly every aspect of our lives here in USA. We (generally speaking) do not think of how we should act in certain situations (with family, with neighbors, on the job, in the community, much less on the larger scale) I think that has to go back to each individual, but it is so large, so overwhelming….is it really enough to do what little we can in our own part of this universe?


    Comment by silken — August 21, 2008 @ 8:18 am

  26. I know what you mean about the widespread greed and arrogance in this country. It’s hard to put too much faith in any politician to make these changes and reverse some of the damage that’s been done when the majority of people don’t care. I think government intervention can make a difference, and will have to in the near future step up environmental regulation (let’s hope they do) but until we find it in our own hearts to change, I don’t know how much good any government regulation will do.

    Have you read about the new revisions to the Endangered Species Act proposed by the Bush administration? If passed, biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service would no longer have input into the actions of many other federal agencies in evaluating projects that could impact endangered species. Agencies implementing projects will basically be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not their proposed projects will harm endangered species.


    Comment by teaspoon — August 21, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  27. silken,

    In my way of thinking, the awakening of each individual is ultimately the only solution. The sum of a country’s population is always responsible for their government. How to get them to wake up is of course the big question, and that’s why I’m beginning to think it may take a cataclysmic event to do that. In the mean time, we certainly should do whatever we can individually. It’s not always obvious where and how far our personal influence goes.


    Comment by montucky — August 21, 2008 @ 9:14 am

  28. teaspoon,

    An even wider problem is that the greed and arrogance is not only in this country; it’s world wide.

    With our acquisition of creature comforts we have gotten so far from our roots, the Earth itself, that we don’t understand that clear air and clean water and the biodiversity that produces them are the things that are really necessary for life on this planet: gross national product is not. When we begin to understand that concept again, we will begin the process of healing, that is if we wake up in time.

    Yes, Mr. Bush is creating quite a legacy for himself isn’t he? In a way, I see his proposal as a good thing simply because it will bring a huge amount of focus on the idea and maybe people will begin to realize what has been going on. The behind-the-back sneak-thief methods he used with Mark Rey to destroy the Forest Service cannot be used in this fight. I’m hoping and have a fair amount of confidence that the conservation and environmental organizations will be able to counteract this one, and at the same time maybe wake a few people up.


    Comment by montucky — August 21, 2008 @ 9:29 am

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