USFS Seeks Help Identifying Inaccessible Lands- Nominations Close on March 12

I originally read about this in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, and then searched online for other information. I only found it on hunters’ and livestock sites and some local papers in Idaho and Montana, so perhaps deserves further distribution. This seems like a win-win for everybody.. except there might be more recreation environmental impacts by adding recreational access. I don’t know if anyone’s worried about that. Everyone seems to support the LWCF.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service is seeking public assistance to help identify national forest and grassland areas where the agency can provide greater access to hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities.

The agency today posted a draft list of about 90,000 acres of Forest Service land where hunters, anglers, and other recreationists are allowed but have limited or no legal access to the areas. The outreach is tied to agency efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr., Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 that mandates federal land management agencies work to evaluate how to expand access to public lands.

The Forest Service is seeking nominations that describe federal lands not on the list. The lands identified must be managed by the Forest Service, be a minimum of 640 contiguous acres, and be unreachable by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle or nonmotorized vehicle because there is no public access over non-Forest Service land, or the access is significantly restricted.
“National forests and grasslands play host to some 300 million hunters, anglers, and other recreationists each year,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “The input we receive will go a long way toward helping the Forest Service provide even greater access and opportunity for the people we serve.”

The public nomination period to identify parcels for inclusion on the agency’s priority list will close on March 12, 2020. A final priority list will be published soon after and will be updated at least every two years until 2029.
To nominate a parcel of Forest Service land for consideration, email or write to Lands and Realty Management, ATTN: Access Nominations, USDA Forest Service, 1400 Independence Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20250-1111. Nominations must include the location of the land or parcel, total acreage affected (if known), and a narrative describing the lack of access.
The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act of 2019 is a broad-based law that sets provisions for various programs, projects, activities, and studies in the management and conservation of federally managed natural resources. The law includes steps agencies must take on how federal acres that are now essentially inaccessible may be opened to the public. The collective work of the Forest Service and interested citizens will help the agency decide how to reasonably provide access through such measures as easements, rights-of-way, or fee title from a willing landowner.

OIA Study: Not Enough People Participating in Outdoor Recreation

When people design, or read the results of studies, scale is an important concept to keep in mind. Though this is not a scientific report, the choice of scale is a value choice, not a science choice. My old examples were economic studies of the effects of reducing timber harvest on federal lands in the Northwest. If your scale was Forks, Washington, the State of Washington, or the US, the conclusions about impacts were likely to be different. A national or even worldwide average may not be true in any individual place. You can take the average of apples, oranges and kumquats, but it may not be all that meaningful in understanding how to grow fruit. That’s why designing studies with the idea of how you are going to use them is so important.

In January 2020, the Outdoor Industry Association released a national study that concluded: Americans went on one billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008. Those of us who recreate on National Forests might wonder why those numbers would be so different from what we observe, which in my case, in Colorado, is definitely an increase.

This article from the Spokane Register looks at that and the author interviewed several people.

Visitor data from Washington State Parks bears those anecdotal observations out. According to a parks spokesperson the number of park visits continues to increase with no drop in attendance. For instance, in 2018 Riverside State Park logged more than 1 million visits compared to 780,000 in 2014.

Here’s one from the Steamboat Pilot in Steamboat Springs, Colorado:

Surveys collected by the Steamboat Springs Chamber suggest more people are coming to Steamboat specifically to enjoy its outdoor recreation opportunities. In 2017, 52% of respondents said they visited the area to hike, according to Laura Soard, marketing director for the Chamber. By 2019, that percentage increased to 62%.

Other activities showed similar upward trends. The number of people who said they visited to Steamboat to bike doubled from 2017 to 2019, according to Soard.

“It shows us that people are doing more of that when they stay here,” she said.

Across the board, the vast majority of people report being satisfied with Steamboat’s trails, according to the city’s trail use survey. More than 92% of respondents rated the trail conditions as a 4 or 5 out of 5.

Ironically, one of the only concerns respondents voiced, particularly as the city tries to bill itself as an outdoor mecca, is the crowdedness of local trails.

“It’s a catch-22,” Robinson said. “People are saying we are too crowded, yet we are going through marketing efforts to bring more people to town.”

While the study offers no solutions of its own for America’s nature deficit, it predicts future declines in outdoor trips. By reminding people of the value of the outdoors and making recreation opportunities accessible to people, regardless of income or ethnicity, the nation could reverse that trend. What that would do to Steamboat’s concerns of overcrowding, only time will tell.

So it’s puzzling.
Too many people or not enough recreating? Are they recreating in the “wrong” places (causing overcrowding)?
Are there not enough lower-income and people of color recreating outdoors?
But lower-income people seem to do plenty of recreating on federal lands, when they live nearby.
Perhaps it’s the cost of getting to, and staying overnight, that prices lower-income urban and suburban people out of that kind of recreating.

If so, why do recreation groups spend effort to get permanent designations for places lower-income people are unlikely to visit?

Why does the outdoor industry focus on Utah’s federal lands rather than promoting opportunities for recreation that are more affordable to non-Uthan Americans? For example, they are involved in issues like Bears Ears, even to moving their annual trade show from Salt Lake City to Denver due to the positions of Utah elected officials.

TSW folks: Please add coverage of this study from other newspapers/media if you have seen it.

NFS Litigation “Weekly” February 14, 2020

Just for the record, the Smokey Wire received two “weeklies” in November, one in December and one in January, so if you saw these you haven’t missed any weeks.  I’ve supplemented that with some other litigation news in between (including some of these cases).

Here I’ve again provided a short summary of each case, and a longer summary is provided in this document:  Litigation Weekly February 14_2020_Final for emailThe bulleted links below are usually to court documents associated with the case and provided by the Forest Service.  


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has overruled the district court and blocked the “Kids’ Climate Case” from proceeding due to lack of standing for judicial review.

The Northern District of California and the 9th Circuit court of appeals both denied motions for a preliminary injunction against the Ranch Fire projects on the Mendocino National Forest and a portion of the Berryessa-Snow Mountain National Monument.  (This case was included here.)

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld the District Court of Colorado’s decision on a case applying the Recreation Enhancement Act to recreation user fees for parking on the White River National Forest.  (We’ve also discussed this here.)

The Arizona District Court upheld the determination that the site of the proposed Rosemont Mine on the Coronado National Forest is critical jaguar habitat, and then invalidated the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion regarding the effects of the mine on several listed species.  (Additional information may be found in this article.)


Plaintiff has challenged continued livestock grazing of 30 allotments on the Apache-Sitgreaves and Gila National Forests without reinitiating consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the effects on eight listed species in riparian habitats.  (D. Ariz.)


Five different environmental groups are challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion for the effects on grizzly bears of the Upper Green River Area Rangeland Project that authorizes livestock grazing on the Bridger-Teton National Forest (including allowing the incidental take of 72 bears).

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council claim a violation of the Endangered Species Act regarding the effects on grizzly bears from the Elk Smith Project on the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest, as well as failure to consider wolverines (a species currently proposed for listing).

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, and the Yellowstone to Uintas Connection claim the decision by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest to authorize the Crow Creek Pipeline Project violates ESA by improperly analyzing Canada lynx and failing to consider three other listed species.  (This NOI described here.)


(No Forest Service summary.)  A case filed by a ranch and Idaho state officials was voluntarily dismissed because the BLM and Forest Service subsequently submitted the 2015 sage grouse plan amendment decisions to Congress in accordance with the Congressional Review Act.

The Idaho District Court denied a motion by the defendant mining company to stay this litigation while it negotiated with the EPA concerning water pollution.  This involves the Stibnite Gold Mine Project on the Payette National Forest.

The District Court for the District of Columbia remanded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to list the northern long-eared bat as threatened back to the FWS to reconsider whether it should be listed as endangered.  (Also discussed here.)



The Alaska District Court recently heard arguments regarding these sales on Prince of Wales Island. A timber harvest, “might be right next door to you or they might be a hundred miles away,” an attorney for the plaintiffs said.

Four environmental groups dropped a lawsuit filed last summer when the BLM suspended two oil and gas leases after the lawsuit was filed.  The Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs, said that the leased lands straddle the Little Colorado River and Silver Creek, home to two federally protected threatened species: the Little Colorado spinedace and the yellow-billed cuckoo, and are upstream from the largest remaining population of humpback chub in the Grand Canyon, and adjacent to the Petrified Forest National Park.


Pisgah-Nantahala Draft Plan and EIS, Tiered Approach and Live Stream Meeting Tomorrow

Tomorrow afternoon is a live stream on the “Future of Pisgah-Nantahala National Forests in North Carolina” Newsmakers Forum, from Asheville, North Carolina. It’s free and might be interesting to sit in on.

We’ve previously discussed this forest planning effort. Jack Igelman of Carolina Public Press has been following it (and doing a great job IMHO) and has a story here. Here are some excerpts from today’s piece.

Here is Sam Evans on the “two-tiered” approach.

Two-tiered approach
Another unique aspect of the plan is a “two-tiered” approach to land stewardship. The first tier identifies activities the Forest Service has the budget and other resources to accomplish, while the second tier outlines what the agency can accomplish with the help of partners.

Sam Evans, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, likes the two-tiered approach. He said that while the idea has been used before, the concept hasn’t been used to structure a forest plan and has the potential to incentivize more collaboration among user and advocacy groups.

“This is an idea that came out of the collaborative process, so it shows that the Forest Service was listening to the public,” he said.

However, Evans does have concerns about how the two-tiered approach will work, such as ensuring that clear “triggers” indicate when the agency moves from one tier to the next for a specific plan objective, such as forest restoration.

Thinking of Tier 2 objectives as “stretch goals,” Evans said, “The trick is to figure out how we can reach Tier 2 objectives in an integrated way without interfering with other goals.”

For example, he said, rather than identifying a single number of acres for timber restoration, the agency can mesh restoration objectives for specific species, such as pine and oak restoration, under a broader silvicultural objective.

“That is the No. 1 thing … to figure out what those triggers are and get them clearly written into the plan between draft and final,” he said. “That’s the biggest piece of work for the collaborative groups and the Forest Service.”

I like this general idea, as it sounds transparent and trust-building, but I can’t quite get a mental image of what “mesh restoration objectives for specific species, such as pine and oak restoration, under a broader silvicultural objective,” would look like. Perhaps Sam can weigh in on this.

I thought this example was interesting.

While Kelly believes the “building blocks” of the plan appear strong, such as the tiered approach, he’s hoping to provide feedback that will add specificity to the plan in areas where he said it’s lacking.

For example, he said, the current management plan finalized in 1994 requires the use of an aerial device to harvest trees on slopes steeper than 40% to prevent erosion and avoid landslides.

The proposed plan removes that requirement and allows an agency specialist to make a decision depending on the site and conditions.

While that may be a relatively minor detail, Evans said Kelly’s concern highlights a central tension in this plan: the balance between “certainty” and “flexibility” in management.

I see it as we can’t predict what technologies will be available in 25 years, nor what concerns will be then, and it’s best to use “best available science” for the project when the project document is completed.

I agree with Sam that:

The Forest Service is shifting its management toward big-picture ecological goals, such as restoring ecosystems and using fire, that require flexibility in management,” Evans.

“That’s admirable, but that discretion and flexibility can vary depending on the personnel and has the potential to be misapplied.”

However, IMHO the place to avoid misapplication is in real time, with real current science with the actual project document.

Anyway, lots of interesting info and quotes in this piece, so feel encouraged to find something that resonates (or doesn’t) with you and comment below.

BLM Great Basin fuel break EIS

The BLM has released its final decision to implement 11,000 miles of fuel breaks in six states.  The figure is in miles because the fuel breaks would be constructed along roads and right-of-ways.  Given our discussion of the Forest Service trend towards large landscape “condition based” management decisions, this language from an article quoting the BLM piqued my curiosity (my emphasis added):

According to Jennifer Jones, a spokeswoman for the BLM, the program will help streamline the implementation process by reducing or eliminating the need for environmental analysis. Once the plan is finalized and funding available, said Jones, “offices will be able to use it immediately and for many years to come.”

The timeline for implementation and the location of fuel breaks will depend on what offices develop plans and apply for funding.

The BLM’s notice of availability added:

… these potential treatment areas cover approximately 38 million acres within the project area boundary.

The goal of these Programmatic EISs is to significantly minimize the subsequent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) work required to approve on-the-ground projects.

(A second EIS will address “fuel reduction and restoration” over the same area.)

These statements sound like the more conventional approach to programmatic NEPA analysis (such as has been done for the use of herbicides).  They are intended to provide context for subsequent site-specific analysis that will produce overall savings in planning efficiency.  They make no pretense that this large scale analysis would necessarily be a substitute for site-specific analysis as some Forest Service proposals have stated. This kind of “merely programmatic” analysis has sometimes been given more leeway by the courts because a subsequent site-specific analysis would follow that would address site-specific issues and effects that have not been addressed.

The BLM decided also to do an EIS, unlike some of the Forest Service efforts that used an EA.  This analysis of effects of fuel breaks is also probably more site-specific than area-wide, “condition-based” Forest Service proposals because they know where the candidate corridors are, and they know the area of BLM lands where no action would be taken (away from these corridors).   (The scientific validity of fuel breaks is also discussed.)

PEER: Nobody Home at National Park Headquarters

What IF this was by design and part of the Trump administration’s plans from the beginning? I mean, what IF?

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, February 18, 2020
Contact: Peter Jenkins (202) 265-4189

Special Assistant a No-Show; Two-Thirds of Top Slots Vacant or Acting

Washington, DC — The hallways of the National Park Service Headquarters now open onto empty offices or those filled on a temporary basis. At the same time, a senior official has gone AWOL according to a new complaint filed with the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General (IG) by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

Two-thirds of the top NPS slots lack a permanent official — an unprecedented leadership vacuum. While the Trump White House is notably reluctant to submit nominations for Senate confirmation across the Executive agencies, many senior NPS vacancies are for positions that do not require Senate confirmation. Besides having neither a confirmed Park Service Director nor a nominee for that key job, currently –

• Ten of 15 Deputy, Assistant, and Associate NPS Director slots are entirely vacant or temporarily filled by an “acting” appointee;

• Several Superintendent positions at major parks, such as Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Grand Teton, also are filled by “actings” on an interim basis; and

• P. Daniel Smith, who was brought out of retirement in 2018 and given an NPS Deputy slot in which he “exercised the authority of the Director,” then was moved out of that slot last summer to serve as a teleworking special assistant, but he apparently has not been seen at NPS Headquarters since.

“The Park Service is suffering from a multi-billion-dollar maintenance deficit and it can ill afford high-salary ghost employees,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse. “Keeping so many leadership slots unfilled by permanent jobholders hobbles management and means that major decisions affecting our national parks are increasingly made by political appointees in the Interior Secretary’s office.”

The PEER complaint asks the IG to determine the whereabouts of Smith. He draws a top salary as a Special Assistant to the Director, but there is no confirmed or acting Director. One of the ironies involving P. Daniel Smith is that he appears to be in violation of a restrictive telework policy that was adopted under his aegis when he was still in NPS Headquarters.


See NPS’s 2/3rds leadership vacancies

Vacant, Director
David Vela, Deputy Director, exercising the authority of the Director
Lena McDowall, Deputy Director, Management and Administration
Shawn Benge, Acting Deputy Director, Operations
Vacant, Deputy Director, Congressional and External Relations
Chris Powell, Chief of Staff
Shane Compton, Associate Director, Chief Information Office
Vacant, Assistant Director, Communications
Joy Beasley, Acting Associate Director, Cultural Resources, Partnerships and Science
Tom Medema, Acting Associate Director, Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers
Charles Laudner, Assistant Director, Legislative and Congressional Affairs
Ray Sauvajot, Associate Director, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science
Mike Caldwell, Acting Associate Director, Park Planning, Facilities, and Lands
Reggie Chapple, Acting Assistant Director, Partnerships and Civic Engagement
Marlon Taubenheim, Acting Associate Director, Workforce and Inclusion
Vacant, Associate Director, Business Services
Louis Rowe, Acting Associate Director, Visitor and Resource Protection

Read PEER’s complaint on Smith filed with Interior IG

Look at checkered history of Danny Smith

Defining Recreation and Tourism Impacts on Federal Lands. I. The Outdoor Recreation Economy and Wilderness

Categories included in OIA 2017 Study

This is the beginning of a series in which we will explore current trends in recreation and tourism and their impacts on federal lands.

I’ve noticed that when people write op-eds about Wilderness, they tend to talk about the value of the “recreation industry.” But are those figures really relevant to their argument?

In this recent op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette, for example, John Stansfield, of Wild Connections, wrote
“Colorado’s public lands are a major economic driver for the state’s economy with our outdoor recreation industry generating $28 billion annually, supporting 229,000 jobs.”

I tried to find where this figure came from and found this Denver Post article.

The value of Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy has grown to $62.5 billion, almost double what it was just five years ago, and now supports about 511,000 jobs across the state, says a state report released Friday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper joined staffers from several different state and federal agencies, outdoor businesses and conservation groups along the South Platte River in Lower Downtown to unveil the latest survey of the state’s outdoor recreation economy. Hickenlooper noted the big increase in the overall economic contribution — to $62.5 billion from $34 billion in 2013.

“This puts it as one of the top economic drivers of our economy,” Hickenlooper said. “That’s a $35 billion contribution to our GDP (Gross Domestic Product). That’s more than 10 percent.

So I looked into the Colorado Parks and Wildlife report which was based on information from the Outdoor Recreation industry (I’m not criticizing this approach, just pointing out that getting information from industries should not be a “bad” thing or a “good” thing depending on our views about that industry). Also, it’s probably true that CPW is not unbiased either, but that’s OK, because we can read the report.

The DPW study used a broader definition than the OIA study, so that’s why their figures are higher. Here’s a link to the OIA study.

But is it really fair to argue for Wilderness based on recreation figures from skateboarding, to RVing to snowmobiling, most of which don’t take place in Wilderness? If you were designing an economic study to argue for Wilderness, wouldn’t you want to include ($ paid by people who would only visit if this area were Wilderness) – ($lost by people who could no longer recreate in this Wilderness)? How would you design an accurate estimate? I’d start with a survey that asks “in these specific areas (in the Wilderness Bill under consideration) are you more or less likely to recreate there if it were Wilderness? Then there’s the related impact question of “how much more impact would these recreationists have, both in terms of the land and wildlife, and in the travel to get there?”

These are all the questions that might be asked and answered in an EIS, but Congressional designation is political (in this particular case it appears to be a symbolic political act).

Here’s another quote:
“Frequent surveys show a majority of Coloradans prefer to permanently protect our public lands for present and future generations to enjoy.”
This leaves out “exactly what are we protecting them from? from other members of the public enjoying them?” and “by designating Wilderness, are they adequately protected from recreation impacts?”. What are the mechanics of that? If it is narrowing down the user pool (to only hikers and equestrians) permanently, I guess that makes sense, but of course they have their own impacts, sometimes fairly significant. It’s just confusing to me that there is the “protection from people” language in the same argument as “the outdoor industry makes lots of money.”

Public land developers getting financial pushback

An interesting observation from the Washington Post.  As investors become more enlightened about the financial risks caused by climate change they are starting to hold corporations accountable.  That includes their operations on public lands – and litigation is part of the risk.

A dozen-and-a-half senators wrote letters to 11 of the largest U.S. banks asking them to back down from financing any oil and gas activity in an unspoiled expanse of Arctic wilderness.

“The scale of your banks’ assets individually, let alone together, give you the ability to drive change in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and in shifting towards a U.S. financial sector that effectively analyzes and plans for climate risks,” the group of a senators, led by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), told Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and six other banks in a letter sent last Thursday.

Democrats hope these banks follow the lead of one key peer: In December, Goldman Sachs said it is ruling out financing new drilling or oil exploration in the entire Arctic.

The world’s largest asset management firm, BlackRock, said last month it would divest from coal burned in power plants and make climate change a “defining factor” of its investing strategy.

And just last week, a group of investors representing nearly $113 billion in assets under management issued a similar letter to energy, mining and timber companies. Their warning: Don’t invest in certain federally controlled areas once protected but now open to development by the Trump administration.

These areas include not only the oil-rich Arctic refuge but also Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest where the U.S. Forest Service wants to allow new logging, (discussed here) and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (the Twin Metals mine litigation is discussed here), a popular lake-pocked forest near where the administration wants to allow a copper and nickel mining operation.

The institutional investors, which include several religious funds as well as a fund established by the late oil heir David Rockefeller, warned companies that many of the administration’s rollbacks of public land protections are legally precarious, and may be struck down by the courts or the next presidential administration. The letter went out to ExxonMobil, the timber company Weyerhaeuser and 56 other firms, according to Reuters.

“Many of these projects are mired in litigation,” the letter stated, “challenging the legality of any current or future industrial activity initiated in these regions and providing evidence of the risks associated with conducting commercial development on lands that the American public has deemed valuable for protection.”

The institutional investor letter also mentioned other areas, including protected sage grouse habitat (litigation discussed here) and the national monuments that have been reduced in size by the Trump Administration that are also under litigation (discussed here).  Here’s the latest on that.

Rural vs. Urban Voters on Environmental Issues

The “urban-rural divide” has been discussed for years, especially in the western US. Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions has a new report on the issue. Here’s a press release….

Dividing Lines — and Common Ground — Between Rural and Urban Voters on Environmental Policy

DURHAM, N.C. — Rural and urban Americans are divided in their views on the environment, but common ground does exist, says a new report led by Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.

“The urban/rural divide on the environment is real, but it centers not on differences in how much people value environmental protection but on divergent views toward government regulation,” said lead author Robert Bonnie, executive in residence at the Nicholas Institute and a former undersecretary for natural resources and environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Rural Americans, across party lines, are less supportive of governmental oversight on the environment than their urban/suburban counterparts.”

The study was conducted over two years by the Nicholas Institute with assistance from the University of Rhode Island, the University of Wyoming, Hart Research Associates and New Bridge Strategy. It involved extensive outreach to rural constituencies, including a national survey of more than 2,000 registered voters, focus groups with more than 125 rural voters and in-depth interviews with 36 rural leaders.

Rural Americans have an outsized impact on national environmental policy, from strong representation in the halls of Congress to management of vast swaths of lands and watersheds, the authors note.

Polling results indicated broad support for conservation and environmental protection among both rural and urban/suburban voters. The study also found rural voters to be relatively knowledgeable about environmental policies and the potential economic trade-offs that come with them.

“Americans living in rural communities showed a powerful commitment to protecting the environment, motivated in large part by a strong place identity and desire to maintain local environmental resources for future generations,” said study co-author Emily Diamond, assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island.

Rural voters significantly diverged from urban and suburban voters over attitudes toward federal regulation, the study found. In the polling, rural voters across political parties expressed more skepticism for government policies. Participants in focus group conversations often voiced strong support for conservation and environmental protection in the abstract but raised concerns about the impacts and effectiveness of specific policies.

Climate change proved to be another dividing line between rural and urban/suburban voters.

“Our focus groups and interviews echoed this sense that rural opposition to climate change policies may be tied to negative experiences they have had with other federal environmental regulations,” Diamond said.

“Climate change is a polarizing issue in rural America, but there is a path forward that can win rural support,” Bonnie added. “Our study shows that engagement and collaboration with rural stakeholders will be important to winning over rural support.”

There is no quick fix to bridging the urban/rural divide on environmental policies, the authors said. They recommend that policymakers, environmentalists and conservation groups engage more with rural communities when developing policies that could affect them. The authors also suggest federal policies — especially for addressing climate change — are more likely to gain rural voters’ support if they allow for state and local partnerships and collaboration with rural stakeholders.

Other key recommendations include:

* Working with trusted messengers, such as farmers, ranchers, and cooperative extension services, to convey information about environmental policies to local stakeholders
* Improving scientific outreach to rural communities
* Offering opportunities to address environmental policy priorities in a way that is compatible with rural economies

Support for the study was provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation and the Rubenstein Fellows Academy at Duke University. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions contributed seed funding through its Catalyst Program to get the project started. The full report, “Understanding Rural Attitudes Toward the Environment and Conservation in America,” is available at

The study was led by Bonnie with co-authors Diamond and Elizabeth Rowe, a master of environmental management student at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. Jay Campbell at Hart Research Associates and Lori Weigel at New Bridge Strategy conducted focus groups and polling for the study.


January 2020 Litigation, Part 2

(Court decision/update)  The Northern District of California District Court has denied plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction (and removed a temporary restraining order) for Ranch Fire salvage projects on the Mendocino National Forest using the road maintenance categorical exclusion addressed previously here.  An appeal has been filed with the 9th Circuit.

  • Atlantic Coast Pipeline

(Update)  The hearing in the Supreme Court is scheduled for February 24. At issue is the green light that the U.S. Forest Service gave the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cross the Appalachian Trail within the George Washington National Forest.  The key question is whether the Appalachian Trail comprises “lands in the National Park System,” which would preclude the Forest Service from making this decision because of language in the Mineral Leasing Act.  The pipeline is also being blocked by failure to comply with ESA for the rusty patched bumblebee, and a draft recovery plan has just been released.

(Update) This case involving the Caribou-Targhee National Forest was filed last summer, and briefing in the District Court of Idaho is scheduled this spring. The plaintiffs believe the vegetation treatments scheduled for this summer to improve forage would come at the expense of wildlife, especially sharp-tailed grouse, and that a categorical exclusion is improper due to the area’s “wilderness value and roadless value.”  Plaintiffs say this is one of the first cases where the Forest Service is trying to test the Idaho Roadless Rule.

(Update)  The BLM in Colorado has dropped some of the parcels from its planned leases because they are not available under the 2015 sage grouse amendments to its land use plan.  They were made available by the 2019 changes to the amendments, but those were enjoined in October in Western Watersheds v. Schneider.  They have also deferred other parcels as a result of an October lawsuit against the BLM Grand Junction Field Office’s new resources management plan.  (There’s a picture of the new BLM Headquarters.)

(Settlement)  Plaintiffs have settled a lawsuit filed in a California state court against Placer County’s approval of a gondola connecting two ski resorts on the Tahoe National Forest.   The agreement was finalized as part of the Forest Service’s final approval of the gondola that will skirt the Granite Chief Wilderness Area, which is home to the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog.  The proponents agreed to permanently protect 27 acres of frog habitat and contribute about $500,000 over the next decade toward land purchases and other protection efforts.