Washington Post: Federal Hiring System Broken

Here’s an interesting article on federal hiring processes. This sounds familiar:

“Federal government job seekers feel like their resumes go into a black hole. Hiring can take months. The most talented people don’t make the cut.”

Why is it so hard to get a federal job? Here’s one reason.

I applied for a federal job a few years ago, for which I think I was highly qualified, but I never got a call or any indication that I was being considered.

I’ve taught several “career skills” classes for forestry and wildlife-management students. One of the most important bits of advice is to seek out and speak with the people (at the USFS, BLM, or any other federal, state, or private employer) doing the hiring, which takes time and effort, but can help a great deal.

OSU study finds old-growth forests provide temperature refuges in face of climate change

BBush Old Growth
Wow! Imagine that. Oregon Public Broadcasting has the story.

Old-growth forests in the Northwest have the potential to make the extremes of climate change less damaging for wildlife. New research out of Oregon State University shows complex forests do a surprisingly good job of regulating temperature on the ground – even compared to fully mature tree plantations.

“On a sunny day, if you were sitting underneath them, you’d get a similar amount of shade,” says study co-author Matt Betts, an Ecologist at OSU.

But the kind of forest makes a big difference on temperature.

“The more structurally complex the forest, the more big trees, the more vertical layers – the cooler it was,” he says.

The research showed differences as much as 4.5 degrees on warm days. Old growth forests also held in heat during cold weather. Overall, these forests have a moderating effect on temperature extremes.

One reason, researchers suspect, is that tree plantations, even mature ones, don’t have nearly the understory material – small trees, shrubs, ground cover – as more complex stands. Nor do these single-age plantations have a lot of big trees – unlike old growth stands.

“We think one of the mechanisms causing this is thermal inertia,” Betts says. “That takes these trees longer to warm up and longer to cool down. And that could be providing some of the buffering capacity of these older forests.”

Betts says these stands of old growth could provide refuges for temperature-sensitive wildlife in the face of climate change.

“It gives us some hope that how we actually manage our forest, can influence positively those species that are declining,” he says.

The study was published Friday in Science Advances.

Conservation Groups Challenge Inadequate Bull Trout Recovery Plan

[The following is a press release from Friends of the Wild Swan and Alliance for the Wild Rockies. -mk]

Conservation groups Friends of the Wild Swan and Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a lawsuit in the Portland federal district court challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s bull trout recovery plan.

The Plan fails to ensure the long-term survival and recovery of the species, ignores the best available science, ignores its own previous findings about the status of bull trout and what they need for recovery and instead relies on novel and inadequate criteria for recovery devoid of any objective population criteria.

For example, the plan allows an arbitrary 25% of bull trout local populations in the Coastal, Mid-Columbia, Upper Snake and Columbia Headwaters Units to be extirpated without consideration of whether those populations are significant genetically or essential to achieve recovery. This is a total reversal of the Service’s 2010 designation of bull trout critical habitat that identified unoccupied habitat that is essential for expanding, not contracting the range of bull trout.

At the time of listing (1998-1999) bull trout numbers had already been reduced by 60%; under this plan bull trout local populations can be lost yet bull trout will be “recovered”.

“This plan allows bull trout populations to decline even further and doesn’t address the looming threat of climate change,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director for Friends of the Wild Swan. “Our detailed comments that included relevant science and threats facing bull trout were ignored and the Service is continuing on a path that will lead to less fish than when they were listed. That’s not recovery.”

The focus of the recovery plan is to “effectively manage and ameliorate the primary threats in each of the six recovery units at the core area scale such that bull trout will persist in the foreseeable future.” However the plan does not contain habitat standards or population criteria so it is not possible to gauge whether threats are being “managed” and bull trout numbers are increasing.

Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “The Obama administration’s Fish and Wildlife Service needs to come up with a real recovery plan that addresses global warming instead of just saying climate change is going to cause a lot of bull trout to die and there is nothing we can do about it. Their plan is an extinction plan, not a recovery plan. The Fish and Wildlife Service also needs to address the other main threats to bull trout, habitat degradation caused by logging, mining and grazing.”

This case marks the 7th time in 20 years that these groups have sued the Fish and Wildlife Service to require them to comply with their obligations under the ESA to list bull trout, designate its critical habitat, and now establish a recovery plan for the species that will lead to their conservation, recovery and eventual de-listing.

Why Bull Trout are Important

Bull trout need the coldest, cleanest water of all salmonids. Their stringent habitat requirements make them an excellent indicator of water quality.

The Five C’s characterize good bull trout habitat:

• Clean water with very little fine sediment in the stream bottom.  Fine sediment fills up the spaces in the spawning gravel, restricts oxygen flow and smothers bull trout eggs.

• Cold water temperatures are very important for bull trout.  If water temperatures rise above 59 degrees F then it creates a thermal barrier that restricts migration and use of available habitats.

• Complex streams with intact riparian vegetation to provide shade, woody debris, bank stability and deep pools.

• Connected watersheds allow the fish to migrate.  Bull trout spawn and rear in stream habitats.  At about two years of age they migrate from their spawning stream and mature in lakes or rivers, traveling up to 150 miles.  They return to their natal stream to spawn but unlike salmon make the journey between stream and lake many times in their life.

• Comprehensive protection and restoration of bull trout habitat must done be throughout the range of this native fish.

The decline of bull trout is primarily due to habitat degradation and fragmentation; blockage of migratory corridors by roads, culverts or dams; poor water quality from warm temperature, sediment or pollutants; past fisheries management practices such as introductions and management of non-native fish; impoundments, dams, or water diversions; and non-native fish species competition and predation. Climate change is an additional threat to the cold water that bull trout need to survive.

“I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your old-growth down!”

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I just saw these new photographs of the Jim’s Creek logging project on the Willamette National Forest posted on Facebook by Doug Heiken, who has sometimes commented on this blog.

Today, on Facebook, Doug wrote:

“The Forest Service logged the crap out of this old forest in 2008 in order to ‘save’ the old pines which are uncommon on the west side of the Cascades, but the thinned stands became vulnerable to winter winds that wiped out the very pines they hoped to protect. Now they want to log it again to “salvage” the down wood. Thankfully, some of the down trees will be used for stream restoration. Unfortunately, the FS wants to do more projects like this, only bigger. We would rather they focus on thinning young plantations instead of taking big risks by logging old forests.”

In the past, some of us have expressed concerns that ‘thinning’ forests makes them hotter, drier and windier…which aren’t exactly three positive outcomes, especially in an era of global climate change.

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Does the U.S. Forest Service Have a Dog in the Forest Certification Fight?

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Last week, Forest Service Chief Tidwell issued a press release lauding the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) “new opportunities to advance environmentally responsible forest management and help reduce the use of illegally-sourced wood through their Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating system.” Let’s spend a moment unpacking the Chief’s press release.

First, for those unfamiliar with it, the USGBC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation known popularly for its creation of LEED, a system for ranking buildings on the basis of their “green” energy efficiency. From its IRS filings, one learns that USGBC’s CEO/Founder earns $1.37 million a year (NGO envy alert!). Most of USGBC’s approximately $50 million income derives from “management fees” and “membership dues.” For example, a manufacturer of windows can pay USGBC to certify that its windows meet LEED standards and market those windows at a premium. Some federal and many state and local regulatory agencies require and/or reward LEED-certified buildings through regulation and taxpayer-financed subsidies. USGBC is the lobbying arm of the industries that encourage and profit from these governmental actions.

There’s more here than just the head of a minor U.S. land management agency promoting a private corporation’s business and lobbying agenda. What are we to make of the “illegally-sourced” wood hook? Wood cut illegally is a big deal in Third World countries where petty corruption makes timber theft easy from government-owned forests. In the U.S., however, the Forest Service institutionalized illegal logging from national forests, e.g., more than a half-century of clearcutting in violation of the 1897 Organic Act, making criminal logging a relatively minor concern. But, I digress.

To understand the full import of the reference to “illegally-sourced” wood, one needs to examine closely the new LEED standard the Chief’s press release promotes. And to understand the LEED standard, in turn, one must read the fine print of ASTM D7216-10, on which the LEED standard relies. The key sentence in this ASTM is: “Products certified to the globally recognized forest certification standards will meet the “Certified Sources” category regardless of their origin.” In other words, if a 2×4 is certified under any “globally recognized” certification system, it is deemed legally sourced and, thus, can be credited as LEED certified, too.

So who wins with this change? Check the contemporaneous and competing press releases. Ta da! The timber industry’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative (a “globally recognized forest certification standard”) is delighted that SFI-certified wood is now LEED certified, too!

Who loses with this change? Aww . . . feel sorry for the Forest Stewardship Council, which has had its monopoly on wood products LEED certification dashed by LEED’s behind-the-scenes collusion with SFI. FSC has “serious concerns” and is calling on its members to pressure USGBC to end this illicit love affair with SFI.

One wonders whether Chief Tidwell knew that his press release pisses on FSC while kissing SFI? Or did the Forest Service’s press office simply xerox USGBC’s media release because it was a slow news day in the Chief office? And how much in licensing fees and membership dues are SFI and its timber industry affiliates paying USGBC for this backdoor LEED certification? You gotta figure it’s more than FSC has been paying.

On Collaboration: Eric Anderson’s Thesis

From the Montana Forest Restoration Committee Website

From the Montana Forest Restoration Committee Website

Here is a link to Eric’s thesis on collaboration. The title is:

The Forest Management Divide: Evidence From Administrative Comments on U.S. Forest Service Projects Indicating Why Environmental Interest Groups in the Northwestern U.S. Choose Whether or Not to Collaborate

For those of you who haven’t read public comments, he has several pages of them in the thesis you might find interesting.

Below are some of his conclusions..

 

Chapter 5: Conclusions

The results of this study suggest that the interests theory variables – environmental, equitable, and economic values – may be influencing environmental interest groups collaborative strategy in a different way than the literature suggests. The evidence indicates that both participating and non-participating groups share interest in all three values, to varying degrees by region and group type. The political opportunity theory variables indicate, however, that there may be more subtle forces explaining why groups sharing all three values choose different collaborative strategies. Carmin and Balser (2002) found that the difference in this case might be explained by another factor not explored in the recent literature on collaborative strategy – environmental philosophy.
A group’s environmental philosophy relates to its normative views about how humans should interact with nature. Some environmental interest groups have a conservationist philosophy that allows for sustainable extraction of forest resources for human needs. Others have a preservationist philosophy, contending that forest resources are already overtaxed and that forest management only adds additional stress to an already
overburdened landscape. Viewed through this lens, both participating and nonparticipating environmental interest groups can have environmental, equitable, and economic values, but their environmental philosophy may drive them to different means of attaining what they both believe to be the same outcome – forest health. Thus, a group with a conservationist philosophy may be willing to utilize the political opportunity
created by the CFLR Program to collaborate with other stakeholders and the Forest Service even if the proposed outcome of the project portends “logging” of forest resources. Such may not be the case for a group with a preservationist philosophy. Rather than collaborating with other stakeholders whom they suspect will sanction commercial harvest outcomes, these groups will choose the political opportunities created by the
bedrock environmental statutes such as the NEPA, ESA, and NFMA to achieve a proposed outcome that meets their preservationist philosophy.

The results of this study appear to strongly support this theory. In addition to the comments highlighted in Section 4.1, some groups made comments capturing the essence of this study’s foregoing conclusion. For example, George Weurthner commenting on a proposed DCFP project on behalf of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies stated, “The more the natural forest is ‘managed’ the more out of whack it becomes. Logging cannot restore
‘natural’ processes because it is fundamentally at odds with nature” (DCFP -Alliance #597). Commenting on a different DCFP project, he stated “There appears to be a philosophical and pejorative bias [on the Forest Service’s behalf] against natural processes like wildfire, beetles, mistletoe and so forth that can achieve many of the goals without timber cutting” (DCFP – Alliance #809). He also states that “While there are aspects of the proposal that we fully support such as the closing of roads, reintroduction of fire as a natural process, and even some thinning of plantations in some circumstances, the main objection has to do with the means of getting to those ends—namely that all proposals except the No Action alternative recommend some degree of logging” (DCFP Alliance # 808) In addition to issues of management, a LOWD/BMBP comment illustrates the distrust among some non-participating environmental interest groups,  stating, “The West Bend timber sale is a public relations-orchestrated travesty that also gives us no hope for a good outcome. (DCFP -LOWD-BMBP #164).

In contrast, the participating groups generally appear to embrace some “logging” to achieve their forest management ends. For example, Idaho Conservation League stated, “We support the use of mechanical harvest followed by prescribed fire to achieve a shift in age structure to provide diversity on the landscape, consistent with historic conditions. We encourage consideration of a range of approaches to restoration forestry,
especially in moist, mixed severity forests to achieve this diversity” (CBC – Idaho Conservation League # 1040). Also, stakeholder context comments questioning the integrity of others are largely missing from the participant group’s comments. Instead, many comments express gratitude. For example, the Montana Wilderness association stated “We appreciate your willingness to meet with us on multiple occasions to discuss
the Colt Summit project, and we are confident that through these discussions the project has improved” (SWCC – Montana Wilderness Association #399). Comments like these, and many others in Appendix C, appear to reinforce this study’s major conclusions.

In addition to the conclusions that follow from the hypotheses, evidence from this study also supports inferences that may be helpful in crafting future collaborative efforts. The analysis at regional case study level suggests that three additional proximity factors may work in concert to influence environmental interest groups collaborative strategy.  The SWCC is proximately located near a large urban area with a high concentration
environmental interest groups that maintain a preservationist philosophy, and a judicial forum that may be perceived by some groups as empathetic to preservationist arguments.

In addition, evidence from regional analysis supports the inference that strong State based environmental leadership, supported by a large consensus, may lead to better implementation outcomes. Both the CBC and DCFP appear to fit this characterization, whereas the SWCC does not.

The analysis at the group type level also support one further inference that could prove instructive to future collaborative efforts. In the absence of larger State and Regionally based environmental interest groups, local groups (particularly nonparticipating local groups) appeared to pick up the burden. With the ubiquitous presence of nationally based groups supporting the implementation of the CFLR Program – and no countervailing National groups –the importance of local group inclusion is manifest. As noted in section 2.2.2, successful collaborations should include all interested
stakeholders, even though in reality all of the interested stakeholders are often not included due to willingness or ability to attend. Burke (2011) noted that collaboration may have the unintended effect of marginalizing local stakeholders, but while this study provides no evidence of that conclusion, future collaborative National Forest efforts should be aware of the important balancing role they may play.

This study also suggests areas of future research. To reiterate, this study was exploratory in nature, but suggests that future efforts exploring the factors driving environmental interest group’s collaborative strategy should focus on the influence of Carmin and Balser’s (2002) findings on the influence of the interaction between environmental interest group’s environmental philosophy and prescribed project management outcomes. Future research in this vein is important because it may allow forest resource mangers and interested stakeholders to understand when and where
collaborative efforts are necessary, and also aid in more efficacious outcomes.