Women Allege Harassment and Abuse on Forest Service Firefighting Crews

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From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Current and former female firefighters of the United States Forest Service have filed a complaint with the Department of Agriculture alleging that they suffered job discrimination, harassment and sexual abuse at the hands of male co-workers and that top agency officials failed to stop it.

The women said the complaint, the first step in a potential class-action lawsuit, was filed late last month on behalf of hundreds of women who worked in the Forest Service’s Region 5, which encompasses more than 20 million acres in 18 national forests in California. The seven women who are the lead complainants said they faced retaliation when they reported the offenses to superiors….

One of the current complainants, Alicia Dabney, a former firefighter in the Sequoia National Forest in Centerville, Calif., said in an interview that she was the subject of repeated verbal abuse and physical taunts. “It was a frat boy atmosphere,” said Ms. Dabney, who was usually the only woman on her 20-person crew. “You are often isolated because where you work is so remote.”

Ms. Dabney said that her supervisor, who is still employed by the Forest Service, put her in a chokehold and tried to rape her in 2012. In another instance, she said, fliers with the words “Alicia Dabney is a whore” were left on the floor of the fire station.

She said that after she reported the harassment, the Forest Service fired her in 2012, citing what her superiors said was her failure to disclose her past criminal record on her job application. Ms. Dabney said that the agency had long known about her record and that “this was dredged up after I complained.”….

The current gender discrimination complaint is similar to ones filed in the 1970s and 1990s by female workers in Region 5 who said they were denied promotions and harassed by male co-workers. As part of the settlements stemming from those complaints, the Agriculture Department required the Forest Service in California to hire more women and to put in place civil rights enforcement programs, sensitivity training and a unit to investigate and resolve sexual harassment and hostile environment claims.

Read the entire article here.

The Next Rim Fire?

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http://www.news10.net/story/news/local/eldorado-hills/2014/09/18/king-fire-burns-27930-acres-el-dorado-county-thursday/15816425/

The King Fire is experiencing growth like we saw in the Rim Fire, last year. There are important similarities but there is also a main difference. The fuels are much thicker in this more northern landscape. The fire behavior was so extreme that even the airtankers could not fly their missions. The south fork of the American River features a canyon that is steep, and over 2000 feet deep. The fire has been fought aggressively along Highway 50, with 1000’s of homes nestled into un-firesafe neighborhoods. Like most people, they seem to prefer their shade over fire safety. The fire has now burned about 50,000 acres in one 24 hour period and there is only 5% containment. A weak cold front approaches and will increase the winds, even more than they have been in the last two days. After the cold front blows through, there might be a change in the wind direction, too. There seems to be a new gap in the Sierra Nevada, where old growth is being incinerated. A drive up to south Tahoe along Highway 50 shows the now-interconnected wildfires in recent history. The Wrights Fire, the Pilliken Fire, the Cleveland Fire, the Freds Fire and now, the King Fire. Change has been very harsh upon the Highway 50 corridor.

When will Congress do “something” that is effective against wildfires?

More Photos From Scotland

Thanks be to Gaia, my camera with photos arrived today shortly after I posted the previous post. In honor of the vote tomorrow, here are a smattering of photos.I think you can click on them if you want to see them more clearly.

clearcut along road (see reflection in bus window)

clearcut along road (see reflection in bus window)

log truck
Log trucks.

Maes howe with cows
Note that the Maeshowe site, a World Heritage Site, is right next door to a pasture of cows.

P1020297 Dogs n’ livestock..something we have here…

Sound familiar?

Sound familiar?

Log deck to be loaded on a barge.

Log deck to be loaded on a barge.

For my Druid and Wiccan friends, here is a Rowan tree (Sorbus)

For my Druid and Wiccan friends, here is a Rowan tree (Sorbus)

Here is a link to some Rowanlore.

Good luck to all tomorrow and may there be a peaceful reconciliation thereafter!

Principle or Practice? Landscapes of the Scottish Islands

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First, thanks and apologies to Larry Harrell for being the contact for the blog while I was on vacation. Also an apology for getting back to this late. I returned to a crush of full time graduate school classes, and have just now had time to look at the blog.

My travel in the islands of western Scotland was for pilgrimage. I have to recommend it for folks interested in forests, because of the uniqueness of being somewhere where the conifer forests are (mostly) introduced. Tourism, (relatively intensive) forest management, and grazing seem to live together in relative harmony.

Vast numbers of tourists walk through sheep droppings and around sheep to see historical sites and views, and drive by plantations and clearcuts on the main roads. Big clearcuts, with no screening vegetation (I may get some photos of this later).

That is not to say there isn’t controversy about the non-native tree species. What I though was interesting in observing these landscapes was that a piece of land right now (say a recent clearcut) could be interpreted using different stories. For example, a clearcut could be either “a bad practice leading to a bad outcome” if you don’t like non native-forestry. Or a “bad practice leading to a good outcome” if you convert the clearcut area back to native vegetation. Or just a “practice that uses the land to provide incomes for people.” Those are all stories that we interpolate between us and the specific piece of ground in a specific vegetative situation, and some judgment calls can only be made knowing what occurred in the past or might occur in the future. Aesthetically, these forests would be beautiful if they were native. But they’re not. So some see beauty and others see human destruction. Is that in some sense, “reality” or in some sense “choice”?

If you think they are too dense for some species of wildlife, then you can talk about what densities would be better. But if you don’t like exotic species based on principle, then it doesn’t matter. But sheep are exotic to the Islands too.

So if “humans making a living on the land” is bad because it changes things from the “natural” way, then that seems like it would be true of farming, forestry or tourism.

If it’s a question of specific practices damaging specific environmental values, then that seems more amenable to discussion and compromise.

Here is a photo of a display at Glencoe National Park:

glencoe

It seems to me that most of us (even on this blog) are somewhere in the middle, and if so, there should be areas of compromise.

No TRO for the Rim Fire Salvage!

As I predicted, there will be no TRO for the Rim Fire, from District Court. Once the sales are sold, restoration work can begin. Let’s hope that SPI has an army of fallers, ready and waiting. I also hope that they will leave the plantation salvage for last. *smirk*

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Sonora, CA –A Federal Judge in Fresno has denied a temporary restraining order regarding the lawsuit filed against the Rim Fire Recovery Record of Decision.

Forest Service Spokesperson Wyn Hornbuckle says, “We are pleased with the court’s decision.” He would not comment further.

As reported earlier this month, three environmental groups including the Center for Biological Diversity were seeking an injunction to halt logging within the 37 occupied California spotted owl territories within the burned area. The Chair of the Yosemite Stanislaus Solutions (YSS) group and President of Sierra Resource Management, Mike Albrecht, worked with local environmental groups and the Forest Service to hammer out a compromise on the Rim Fire Record of Decision. He applauds the Judge’s decision.

http://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/223061/logging-injunction-denied.html

Rim Fire Logging Lawsuit

Yes, we all knew it was coming but there is one surprise. (See the 3rd plaintiff)

Again, owls will “occupy” almost ANY landscape, as long as there is prey there. If the nest stands were cooked, then they will have to find, and build, new nests. Owls are notoriously lazy in building nests, and often will use abandoned goshawk nests (and vice versa). One question I’ve wondered about for a long time is; Why do PACs retain their “protected” status when nesting habitats (the reason the land is protected) are destroyed? The loss of spotted owl (AND goshawk) nests is merely another part of the “whatever happens” strategy, so loved by the plaintiffs.

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“The complaint issued by the Earth Island Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the California Chaparral Institute seeks an injunction to halt logging within the 37 occupied California spotted owl territories within the burned area. That would prevent logging in about 40% of the Rim Fire areas already approved by the decision for tree removal.”

http://www.mymotherlode.com/news/local/221678/rim-fire-logging-lawsuit.html

Conservation in the West poll

New Survey: Conservation Could Impact 2014’s Ballot Box”

“This year’s bipartisan survey of 2,400 registered voters across six states …”

“Westerners want their air, water and land protected, and where a candidate stands on these issues could potentially sway votes.”

“69 percent of Westerners are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports enhancing protections for some public lands, like national forests.”

I’ll believe it when I see it, but it at least suggests that the opposite is NOT true.

Local planning and forest planning

I think this article was an offshoot of the recent surge in discussion of transferring federal land to Montana (and other western states).  (A number of the articles linked in the sidebar are about that.)

This article ends up making an important point, but also shows how people can take that point and run the wrong way with it.  The important point is that a local land use plan is essential for having a discussion with the Forest Service about how a forest plan may affect local land use (and vice versa).  NFMA requires the the Forest Service planning process be “coordinated with the land and resource management planning processes of State and local governments and other Federal agencies.”  The 2012 planning rule requires the forest supervisor to “review the planning and land use policies” of other governments.

Here are the problems.  A local consultant states that, “federal land management must be consistent with local plans to the greatest extent possible.”  There is no such requirement; coordinating the process does not mean consistency with the results.  A county commissioner says, “more tangible issues, like whether a forest road gets maintained or how energy exploration and wilderness designations get decided, are what residents really care about.”  Local land use plans have no jurisdiction over federal lands and should not be addressing management activities that occur there.  Putting that kind of thing in a local plan does not bring it within the NFMA coordination requirement.  On the other hand, there may be need of coordinated planning of connected infrastructure like roads (or where subdivisions occur in relation to NFS management).

I’d like to think that whatever it takes to get local planning to occur is a good thing.  But I think that circulating the idea that local land use plans can govern federal land use will do more harm than good.

 

Thumbs Up!

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Less than a week ago, I noticed that the Forest Service’s employee search engine had lost its email addresses. Employee phone numbers were still available to the public, but not their email addresses.

Lacking any email addresses to find out what was going on, I picked up my 20th century phone and started dialing. Found a nice lady in Portland’s public affairs office who said she’d look into it.

On Monday, the FS’s webmeister emailed me: “This appears to be something that got inadvertently omitted during a recent code change. We’re testing out a new Web Content Management System (Drupal) with our national headquarters site and have been making some improvements to how the html markup gets rendered by the application. It’s likely that the ‘email’ address field was accidently over-written during the course of these changes.” He said it would be fixed within a day or two.

It was and is fixed now.

It’s anecdotal data only, but I’ve seen several steps made recently that suggest the Forest Service is clawing its way up the “Best Places to Work” ladder. Keep up the good work! And thanks for the quick response, too.