NEPA GHG Guidance

The CEQ has released a new Draft Guidance on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change.The link goes to a press release with a link to the new document (which, unfortunately, is a static document that you can’t searched or copy-and-paste from).

CEQ press release excerpt:

As part of an ongoing effort to modernize implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act and promote effective and transparent environmental reviews, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) today released updated draft guidance for Federal agencies on how to consider greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change in their NEPA analyses, as well as final guidance on conducting programmatic NEPA reviews. These measures will increase the efficiency of environmental reviews and help agencies make informed decisions that are sound investments of taxpayer dollars and good for American communities.

NEPA requires Federal agencies to consider and transparently disclose the potential effects of their actions and decisions on the environment.  In many cases, Federal actions have the potential to produce greenhouse gas emissions, and also are at risk of experiencing impacts from a changing climate. The draft guidance, which will be available for 60 days of public comment, outlines how Federal agencies should describe these potential effects when conducting NEPA reviews to allow decision makers and the public to more fully understand the environmental impacts of proposed actions.  In turn, agencies will be better able to compare alternatives, and consider measures to reduce the impacts of climate change on Federal resources and investments.

Excerpt from an E&E News article (subscription):

Steven Weissman, director of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s energy program, said it appears the guidance gives federal agencies a large amount of discretion and contributes to the impression that some effects of greenhouse gas emissions are acceptable.

Weissman pointed to CEQ’s guidance for agencies to focus on projects and actions that will release more than 25,000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions on an annual basis. CEQ said a “quantitative analysis of greenhouse gas emissions is not recommended unless it is easily accomplished” for projects that emit anything below that amount.

That means smaller projects that emit less — but still contribute to climate change — may not get a close look, he said.

“Basically, they’re saying you could level over 160 acres’ worth of trees before you reach any level of significance, or burn 20 million tons of coal,” he said. “It’s all very interesting because there’s no particular number that’s magical here; this is just an effort to set a benchmark [to prevent] too much attention on projects that would have smaller effects.”

“What I learned from 30 years with the Forest Service”

An essay from High Country News (subscription). It’s been a long time since I worked for the USFS, but some of what Marsh says I can sympathize with. Do preservationists have a role to play at the agency? Conservationists, yes, but the National Forests weren’t intended for preservation. I’d like to know whether Dan’s career was ruined for trying to do the right thing instead of “getting along.”

What I learned from 30 years with the Forest Service
Susan Marsh
Opinion Dec 17, 2014

After working for the Forest Service for 30 years, I finally had to write a book about it — especially about some of the painful lessons I learned. Here are just a few of them.

It will come as no surprise that it wasn’t easy being a woman in what was, and remains, a man’s domain. Nor was it easy being a resource professional in one of the fields of study known within the agency as a specialty. Specialists, or “ologists,” were considered narrow in focus and sadly misinformed about the relative importance of scenery or wildlife in the context of meeting targets. I was a preservationist in the midst of managers who wanted to roll up their sleeves and Do Something.

I soon learned that a bureaucracy like the Forest Service values loyalty to the “outfit” above all. One has to be a team player, and in order to play on the team it is necessary to embrace a worldview shared by one’s teammates. So I learned to hunt elk and go ice fishing, to head for whichever bar offered country music and scantily clad waitresses, and to keep my cards close to my chest.

“Never let ‘em know what you’re thinking,” one district ranger advised. While mulling the need for such a motto, I took the advice of a different ranger whose loyalties matched my own. “My first priority is to the land,” he said. “Then to the public for whose benefit we’re managing it. Finally, to the outfit.”

This got my friend in a lot of trouble. When he tried to reduce the number of cattle in a battered little watershed in Montana’s Ruby River drainage, his boss refused to support the action. Even though evidence was strong that the stream banks would benefit from having fewer hooves in one small area, reducing cattle simply wasn’t a viable option. The permittee would complain to his congressman and the governor, both personal friends.

Where most rangers would have backed off, Dan fought. The poor condition of a stream within his district caused him personal pain, and if he didn’t try to fix it, he felt he wasn’t doing his job. His boss disagreed, saying: “Your job is to get along.” The bitter lesson I learned from Dan was that you could ruin your career if you tried too hard to do the right thing.

After three decades with the Forest Service, there remains one lesson that still surprises me: I still cherish a strong sense of loyalty to the agency, however flawed it is, and to the high-minded principles on which it was founded.

My desire to defend it arises when I hear someone complain about how the local district doesn’t do one thing or another, or at least can’t do it right. If you only knew how hard it is, I want to say. I react each time I witness yet another effort to privatize the public land, to hand it off to the states, to divide it up among interests that seek only to exploit it. As humanity continues to leave its heavy footprint across the planet, the national forests and other public lands become all the more precious.

The stereotypical government worker draws a salary without having to try very hard. It is true that I have encountered my share of drones over the years, but the people who represent the Forest Service to me are like Dan: They gladly work nights and weekends, if necessary donating their annual leave at the end of the year. They care deeply for the land and want to make a contribution to the greater good.

Working for the agency is more of a vocation than a job. A wise-ass adage holds this definition of success for a conservation-minded employee: It’s not the number of projects you accomplished, but the number of bad ideas you successfully scuttled. Most of my Forest Service heroes scuttled plenty of dumb ideas.

The Forest Service is far from perfect, and I would agree with those who say it is less effective than it could be. But it gives me comfort to know how many of the people within it are driven by the loyalties once articulated by my mentor, Dan. My hat is off to them.

— Susan Marsh is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News (hcn.org). She lives in Jackson, Wyoming, and her latest book is A Hunger for High Country.

“A wildfire of corruption”

Wash. Post columnist Kathleen Parker, in “A wildfire of corruption,” writes that the story of the 2007 Moonlight Fire in California is “a tale of corruption, prosecutorial abuse, alleged fraud upon the court and possible government cover-ups in the service of power and greed.” As you may recall, Sierra PAcific Industries was found by Cal Fire to be culpable in the ignition of the 65K-acre fire. The state’s case has been dismissed, and this may have an effect on the federal suit, “which had resulted in a settlement by which the defendants are paying the federal government $55 million and have started to transfer 22,500 acres of land.”

I always have thought that forcing a “donation” of land was highly unusual, but maybe it isn’t.

FOIA Improvement Act – coming next year

I saw FOIA from the government side when I was a regional FOIA coordinator as an unfunded mandate that made agency staff drop their priority work, but then sometimes get bogged down in attempts to deny requests under changing administration policies regarding the “presumption of openness.”  But when I hosted a FOIA conference, I invited a newspaper reporter as a guest speaker to offer the rest of the world’s perspective.  Which is a lot like the one in this editorial.

Forest Service hiring process changes?

I heard from a colleague that the USFS is moving away from USA Jobs as its job announcement/application web site, but he didn’t have any other info. Today I found this article, but didn’t move past the “pay wall.” Anyone know what’s going on?

Forest Service hiring process changes

NCW — The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and other national forests in the Pacific Northwest will use a new system to hire temporary or seasonal workers, including firefighters, next year.

The process will allow the agency to expedite the review and selection process for thousands of positions expected to be filled in Washington and Oregon this summer.

Seeking the key to forest management by padlock

 

Forest Service lock-key

All.. I am glad to be back from a rigorous quarter of Christianity in Antiquity, Pastoral Care, and Spiritual Leadership. I can tell you that I learned in Antiquity that the world hasn’t necessarily gone downhill. When Christian sects don’t gouge each others’ eyes out .. the world is improving in at least one way :)! If you want to know more about my experiences in Spiritual World, I started another blog “IndieCatholic.com

Anyway, enough about me. Here’s a link to Ron’s post on Not Without a Fight (PS if you read NWAF and want me to share a post here, just email me).

Ron’s note:  This no-nonsense op-ed comes to us from Salem, Oregon’s Statesman Journal; it was authored by Mickey Bellman and published Dec. 12th.

And so, another year passes, another U.S. congressional session parades into history and there is still no forest plan to address the management of our national forests.

Rep. Greg Walden blames the senators for the forest debacle. Both he and Rep. Peter DeFazio had authored bills to settle the quagmire of federal harvest levels.

Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden authored a bill to settle the federal timber issues and he blames those guys over in the House for not following through.

And so gridlock — nothing happens. No cures, no panaceas, no solution, no resolution to the forest debate that began when the spotted owl was declared to be “the canary in the coal mine.” What does remain is forest management by padlock.

For three decades, the controversy over forest management and timber harvest has continued in Western Oregon. While the federal harvest has shrunk to less than 10 percent of what it was in the 1980s, sawmills have closed, jobs have been lost, loggers have gone bankrupt and logging equipment suppliers now sell farm machinery. The tourist industry — touted by the eco-groups as our employment salvation — has indeed opened a few new REI and Cabela’s stores, but that is all.

As for the aforementioned northern spotted owl, its numbers and population continue to decline. Could the invading, aggressive barred owl be preying upon the more docile spotted owl? Or might it be the increasingly devastating forest fires that incinerate vast tracts of federal forest?   

Blacktail deer populations have declined every year since Clinton’s 1994 forest plan was passed. Without timber harvest to open the dense forest canopy, there is less browse at deer level on the forest floor. So, fewer deer for hunters to harvest, less revenue for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The O&C Counties of Oregon — counties that once received 25 percent to 50 percent of federal timber sale revenues to replace property taxes — now receive little or nothing, forcing Curry and Josephine counties to teeter on the brink of bankruptcy. Even the miniscule federal subsidies that were paid to prop up county budgets until the tourist dollars rolled in have now been discontinued by Congress.

Thank you, Congressmen. Your concern and support of federal forest management and Western Oregon is truly underwhelming!

Mickey Bellman of Salem is a professional consulting forester. He can be reached at bellman9647@msn.com.

I’m interested because I don’t think folks on this blog agree on 1) if there is really a problem, let alone 2) what to do about it.
Right now I’m curious from the folks who think things are fine.. what do you have to say to this op-ed?

“Have We Heard the Chimes at Midnight?” Wilderness50 Keynote from BLM Wilderness Expert

If you care about the future of America’s public lands and Wilderness legacy, please watch this video! – mk

Are we are in danger of losing the Wilderness System? Chris Barns is the Wilderness Specialist for the Arthur Carhart National Wilderness Training Center’s BLM National Landscape Conservation System in Missoula, Montana. With millions of acres of designated Wilderness in Montana and many millions more of undesignated roadless country on federal public lands, Barns’ comments should be considered by all Montanans who value our wildlands heritage. This is one insider’s plea to change direction before it’s too late, from a speech delivered in October 2014 at the Wilderness50 Conference in Albuquerque, NM.

Watch Barns’ powerful speech here.

Welcome New Contributor Alayna Dupont!

Thanks be to Gaia, another forest policy wonk has found us!

Here’s her bio…

Alayna DuPont works for a conservation non-profit out of Eugene, Oregon. Before this, she called Missoula, Montana home after having moved to the mountains to pursue a graduate degree in Resource Conservation. Alayna spent four years working for the Lolo National Forest and she has also worked for a land trust in her home state of Washington. Her love of public lands and policy has persisted beyond her Forest Service career and she spends time boring her dog and friends with policy theories and diatribes during long trail runs and over cold beers.

I expect a post from her shortly. Remember, let’s be nice :).