One of the most overused and value-laden terms in the public lands debate (along with ‘commonsense’) – what does ‘balance’ mean? How can the Forest Service tell if it’s gotten it right? (Brian Peck is keeping score for the Kootenai.)
This story reminded me of that use of this term:
The County Commission passed a resolution officially requesting the forest service immediately cease actions it has been taking since 2013 pertaining to grazing on Dixie National Forest.
The forest service actions protested include the gathering of data, conducting studies and preparing reports without the county’s involvement. The resolution further protests a cooperative relationship the forest service has engaged in with Grand Canyon Trust Inc., which the commission and the Utah Association of Counties maintain constitutes an improper relationship with nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.
In its resolution, the County Commission “respectfully requests” the forest service discard any data, studies and reports prepared without notice and involvement of the county since 2013 and that the service coordinate with Washington County in any future action from the outset.
An undated letter from Mark Ward, senior policy analyst and general counsel for the Utah Association of Counties, (responding to an Aug. 18, 2014, forest action), supports and is made a part of Washington County’s resolution. In his closing, Ward wrote to the supervisors of Dixie National, Fishlake and Manti-LeSal forests, all affected by the Aug. 18 action: ‘Forest Service should scrap the FS Initial Review, start over and next time, integrate NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) into the process. After all, it is the stated policy of Forest Service to ‘fully integrate NEPA requirements into agency planning and decision-making,’ … and ‘apply (NEPA procedures) to the fullest extent practicable to analyses and documentation of Forest Service actions …’
NEPA doesn’t apply until you have an ‘action’ to propose, and the NEPA process is supposed to encourage review of the data used in evaluating the action (regardless of its source). The cash-starved government is always looking for help in collecting data. Is there a problem with this approach?
“Conservationists settle lawsuit after the government agrees to conduct a comprehensive environmental analysis of the drilling project. Following the conservation groups’ opening brief in the case, the Forest Service agreed to withdraw approval of the project.”
So what’s wrong with this? Better to gamble taxpayer dollars on a losing hand?
Some observations about the recently revised Kootenai forest plan.
Robyn King, president of the stakeholders’ group, said her organization hasn’t taken a stand on the broader forest plan, although they did publicly support the East Reservoir Project that could result in several small-to-medium timber sales in Lincoln County this year.
“As you can imagine, due to the diversity of our group, there are quite a few opinions about the new forest plan! The coalition did not work together on a joint response to the forest plan,” King said.
Peck points to the stakeholders’ group as an example of how forest management should take place. “The best solutions come from the closest spot to the impact. Who better to make the decisions than a diverse group of people living here, in and around the forest?”
That involvement will continue, promised King. “What we are looking forward to is our continued involvement at the project level collaborating with each other and with the United States Forest Service to find common ground agreements on vegetative management for the forest,” she said.
Despite the hype associated with the 2012 planning rule’s foray into collaboration, I think this is a more realistic approach. The broader, regional and national interests that are hard to collaborate with are more relevant to overall strategic planning for national forests than to specific projects. In addition, the track record so far for collaboration for forest plan revisions is not encouraging. I would be more inclined to agree with Peck’s statement if he is talking about a project that is being developed consistent with a forest plan that reflects broader interests.
The latest on Montana, giving credit where credit is due (i.e. there’s nothing ‘grassroots’ about it):
“The American Lands Council is leading the charge on this. I’m not a member, but I do appreciate that they’re helping elected officials get better educated on this,” Fielder said.
I’m sure that education includes these facts:
ALC bases much of its justification for lands transfer on sections in the Western states’ Enabling Acts that say the federal government “is obligated to extinguish title to additional lands.”
But a University of Utah legal analysis published in October found that phrase applied only to Indian lands, not public lands. The analysis also outlined several laws and Supreme Court decisions that firmly establish federal control of public lands.
“As the owner of public lands, the United States holds the public lands ‘in trust for the people of the whole country,’ not solely for the benefit of adjacent landowners,” the report said.
Someone came up with a new financial twist – give states the land, federal tax dollars keep paying for the upkeep:
Fielder said the state wouldn’t need that much money if the federal government were required to pitch in. “This catastrophic wildfire condition has grown on their watch. So keeping the federal government on the hook for helping with fire suppression is something we ought to look at,” Fielder said.
And these folks don’t like to collaborate:
But Fielder dismissed collaboratives as ineffective. “Citizens have very little chance to get their objectives inserted in federal land management plans because paid lobbyists are there at every meeting. They pretty much drown out the local community’s voice,” Fielder said.
I’m sure that’s based on a good set of facts, too.
This is an interesting picture from the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The fire burned and killed off all the pines but, the underground mass of aspen roots and shoots survived. I wonder how a pine component could “naturally” come back, or, did Indian burning favor old growth pines? Certainly, the higher pine forests of the Kaibab Plateau are overstocked and at risk, today.
Sounds like quite the wonkfest….
National Stewardship Contracting Virtual Meeting
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Eastern Case Studies: 11:00 AM EST
Western Case Studies: 12:30 PM EST
Registration required: Register now
Why should you attend?
Fresh off its permanent authorization in the 2014 Farm Bill, stewardship contracting is factoring into the activities of National Forests and BLM Districts across the country. This webinar is a great opportunity to learn more about how tribes, conservation groups, local communities, private landowners, and various non-agency stakeholders are engaging in the management of federal forests through stewardship contracting. In this virtual meeting you will get to hear stories and lessons learned from recent stewardship contracting projects and be able to reflect on your own experiences working on stewardship contracting projects.
Topics we will discuss include:
How non-agency stakeholders have engaged in stewardship contracting projects,
Whether collaboration on stewardship contracting projects changes the way the Federal agencies and external groups interact,
Differences between projects with established collaborative groups and those that do not have established collaborative groups, and
How the scope and scale of stewardship contracting projects is affected by involvement of non-agency groups.
How to join the meeting
A brief registration is required. To register now click here.
Case Studies Overview
We are offering two webinars, each with a regional focus. The first webinar at 11am EST will cover the six stewardship contracting projects studied in the Eastern US; the second webinar at 12:30pm EST will cover the nine projects studied in the Western US. You may register for either or both sessions. Themes cutting across stewardship contracting projects nationwide will be addressed in both regional meetings.
For background on Programmatic Monitoring of Stewardship Contracting:
This meeting is hosted by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation, Michigan State University, the Watershed Research and Training Center, the USDA Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.
This is from the Denver Post editorial board:
There is no small amount of satisfaction to be had in last month’s federal approval of a locally crafted protection measure for the lovely area of Southwest Colorado known as Hermosa Creek.
We feel the need to pinch ourselves in disbelief that Congress could have found a way to approve something so constructive, with bipartisan support.
The best part about the Hermosa Creek protection act was that it was the product of robust local participation and debate.
Mountain bikers, conservationists, anglers, business owners, grazing permit holders and others hashed out a detailed plan that required some compromise, but was predicated on common goals.
The plan was like a custom-tailored suit that should serve as a template for other communities around the nation looking to preserve and protect special areas.
It was heartening from a national standpoint as well. In recent years, Congress has gotten so polarized that it has had difficulty coming to agreement on any land protection bills. Just about the only way to address such matters was to look to the president to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to declare national monuments.
And as beneficial as that process can be, a consensus-driven effort with local support is far better.
That’s what Colorado got with the Hermosa measure, which protects more than 100,000 acres of the creek’s watershed in the San Juan National Forest, just north of Durango.
The bill designates more than 70,000 acres as a special management area, which maintains historic uses such as mountain biking and grazing.
Another 38,000 acres will be set aside as wilderness and managed in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964. Hunting and fishing are allowed, but roads and mineral development are not.
The attention to detail that went into this plan, its respect for various uses and the ability to compromise displayed by those who crafted the measure are admirable and should be emulated.
Maybe someone could investigate how the bill handles NEPA for grazing?
In yesterday’s post I asked:
New Congress, new ideas.. we could take this project and ask the question, how could we do better with justice for all and still follow the existing laws? Ideas? When I retired, the solution to this was “collaboration”- folks have been doing this, and spending a great deal of time and energy… but the same result seems to be occurring (in some cases). It is certainly not the solution that some believed.
Now we have some very experienced and smart people on this blog, plus many of the people who like to talk about these kinds of things over a beer or two. Now I realize that there are folks out there like Guy who think things are fine the way they are and “if the FS would only follow the law, there wouldn’t need to be litigation.” I know others may not agree with that framing. So those of you who think the current situation is sub-optimal, please put on your thinking caps and propose some ideas for solutions.. and I’d like to go with ones that keep the land in federal ownership, because the end result would be something we could try to sell to Congress. NePA nerds of all stripes are requested to chime in..
Thanks to all!