Visionary

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Imagine my relief when I read on the Forest Service’s homepage that our federal government has a “vision” to ensure there will be future generations.

Oops, turns out to be not quite so ambitious, only a “2020 Vision” to ensure that future generations “can enjoy wilderness.”

Curious to know more, I read the press release looking for the 2020 Vision, or at least a link to it. Not there. Nor can Google find it. Nor is it where the news release says I “can learn more” at wilderness.net.

Maybe 2020 refers to its release date?

RMEF Letter on Public Land Transfer

RMEF logo high resolution
Here’s a link to the press release:

Here’s the link to the letter:

Below is the letter:

Dear Senator XXX:

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has a growing concern over the continual proposals and rhetoric regarding the wholesale disposal, transfer, or sale of federal land holdings. The notion of transferring ownership of lands currently overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or any other federal land manager to states or worse yet to private interests, is not a solution to federal land management issues and we are opposed to this idea.

Federal land management policies and actions are of great importance to our 203,000 members. Federal public lands are vitally important habitat for elk and many other species of wildlife. They are also where we hunt, camp, hike, and in some cases, make our living. Transferring public lands to states to manage will not work for two primary reasons. First, states are not equipped or prepared to manage these additional lands. Second, transferring ownership of public lands does not address the real issues.

Calls for transfers of federal land are rooted in disappointment and disgust with the lack of balanced use and management of these lands today. Over the past decade, there has been a shift in the multiple use approach for the benefit of the most people and wildlife to a preservationist agenda advocated by small radical groups. Actively managed lands benefit people and wildlife, and in a specific case, reduce the impacts of wildfire, a national crisis at this time.

We urge you, as a leading member of Congress, to not only stand up for the ongoing federal ownership of land, but just as important, stand up for the implementation of sound, active federal land management. Enact legislation that creates specific strategic goals for the Departments of Agriculture and Interior on what is expected in terms of stewardship and active management of our public lands.

Throwback Thursday, Yosemite-style

I’ve found my hoard of old A-Rock Fire photos, from 1990! I will be preparing a bigger repeat photography article, after I finish selecting and scanning. Like several other fires this summer, the A-Rock Fire started in the Merced River canyon, burning northward. I really believe that this is the model of what will happen to the Rim Fire, if we do nothing to reduce those dead and dying fuels. Active management opponents never want to talk about the devastation of re-burns, as an aspect of their “natural and beneficial” wildfires. Most of those snags have “vaporized” since this 1989 wildfire. Indeed, this example should be considered when deciding post-fire treatments for both the Rim Fire and the King Fire, too.

It should be relatively easy to find this spot, to do some repeat photography, along the Big Oak Flat Road.

Above-Foresta-web

Lawmakers vent to feds, assert forest fire inaction

The article, “Lawmakers vent to feds, assert forest fire inaction,” might have been titled “Lawmakers vent to feds, assert Congressional inaction.”

“If you are going to be the landowner, the landlord, we look to you to for the responsibility in taking the lead,” said Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville.

I understand that view, but the main problem is that the USFS and BLM are hamstrung by protracted environmental planning and collaboration processes, too-frequent lawsuits or the fear of them, and inadequate funding or misplaced funding priorities.

Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed nationwide by AWR in 25 years

According to this article, “3 Montana environmental groups file 200 lawsuits against federal agencies,” in the Ravalli Republic, “The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council are the three conservation groups that have been the most litigious in recent years [since 1989] in the Helena region. The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

UPDATE NOTE:  I just edited the title of this post because the original title used by Steve Wilent was factually incorrect. Steve’s original title was “Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed in Montana.” That title was clearly factually incorrect because as the article clearly points out (and ironically as Steve’s post lated point out):  “The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Garrity: Taxpayer subsidized logging make no sense

An excerpt from an op-ed by our old friend Michael Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, entitled “Taxpayer subsidized logging make no sense“:

“The Gazette found the Forest Service in Montana generated $5.4 million in revenue 2013, of which $4.1 million came from timber sales. But here’s the rub: that amounts to only about 2.2 percent of the $179 million the Forest Service spent in Montana in 2013 on discretionary projects, timber sale preparation, salaries, and transportation. Maintaining campgrounds and trails and cleaning outhouses represents a small portion of the Forest Service budget in Montana and that was mostly off-set by the $1.3 million in revenue the agency collected from recreation fees in 2013. In other words, the Forest Service in Montana spent $179 million, mostly on timber sales, in Montana but only received $4.1 million in revenue from these sales. They lost millions on logging.”

How much of the “subsidy” is spent on the additional planning to avoid lawsuits by groups like Garrity’s, and defending itself from same?

Fall in the Forests

I had the pleasure of doing forest inventory work on the Sumter National Forest, 12 years ago. I had to dredge up all that “brain sludge” from Dendrology class, to identify eastern hardwood species. Some of those stands were rather uniform pine stands, as replanted cotton fields. In the “drains”, as they are called, you see great variety in hardwoods. I found 40 different hardwood species, with 20 of them being oaks. Another difference from western National Forests is that they still use metes and bounds to designate boundaries. I did enjoy the fabled “Southern Hospitality” but, I never did develop a taste for grits and red-eye gravy, and BBQ in South Carolina is a very different kind of animal.

The fungi was abundant and diverse, due to the warm and wet conditions.

fungi1-web

Star Wars Comes to the Olympics

Wedgetail Flares Test

Olympic Mountains, that is.

The Navy wants a Forest Service special-use permit to deploy mobile electromagnetic radiation emitting vehicles on Washington’s Olympic National Forest. To the Forest Service’s credit, it has extended the public comment period (until tomorrow) to accommodate concerns of local folks who don’t read the Seattle-area newspapers where the scoping notices were published originally.

As is the case with most special-use permit applications, the applicant (Navy) hired a consultant to write the environmental assessment. The Forest Service now must decide whether to adopt the EA as its own and issue the permit. In this case, that would be a dumb idea for the reasons explained in FSEEE’s comments.

In a nutshell, the consultant ignored the Olympic’s Forest Plan (written in 1990) because the Plan bars issuing special-use permits for any use that can be accommodated on private land. Thankfully, NEPA requires a public comment process, as based on conversations I had with Olympic staff, they were quite unaware of this Plan standard.

Is NEPA supposed to be democratic?

This article on the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan raises this question based on a rather extreme case of intimidating government documents.  But it comes up on much simpler NEPA efforts where the agency states that the NEPA process is not about the number of “votes” received on a project.  My legalistic response is that NEPA is about getting the facts right to form opinions, not about the opinions themselves, and that opinions can be offered at any time based on any set of facts (or lack thereof).  But NEPA is also about providing both useable information and sufficient time for both the decision-maker and the public to understand it before a decision is made.

(I don’t know if there are many NEPA-nerds on this blog, and I don’t remember seeing any previous discussions, but I saw it was a ‘category.’)