Legalization Does Not Stop Illegal National Forest Pot-Growing

fall pot

Thanks to Bob Berwyn for this one and the nice fall photo, here’s the link:

FRISCO —Colorado’s legalization of marijuana may mark a new era on the state level, but some things haven’t changed. Each year, profiteering outlaws try to use public lands to grow and harvest marijuana, which remains illegal under federal laws.

This week, law enforcement officers with the U.S. Forest Service eradicated a major pot farm on national forest lands near Ruedi Reservoir after it was reported to the Forest Service by the public. After uprooting more than 2,600 mature plants, Forest Service officials estimated the value of the plants about $6 to $8 million based on the average value of $2,500 per pound.

Since 2009, 34 illegal marijuana grow sites and more than 65,000 marijuana plants have been eradicated from national forests in Colorado, but the agency emphasized that most national forest lands are safe and free of illegal marijuana activities.

Each plant is estimated to yield 1 pound of processed material. Crews removed the marijuana plants, dismantled the irrigation system and removed items left in a make-shift camp. The marijuana plants were pulled up and removed from the area. No arrests have been made and the case remains under investigation.

You Got Mail


Click on the image of the envelope above that arrived recently in FSEEE’s mailbox and take a close look. Any idea what it might be? A credit card solicitation, perhaps? Some other type of junk mail?

Nope. The envelope contained an official letter soliciting our views regarding the Kisatchie National Forest’s plans for prescribed burning. We get notices like this all the time; one of our jobs at FSEEE is to keep an eye on what the Forest Service is up to across the national forest system.

Our concern is this: How would a member of the general public who is interested in a project on national forest lands have any idea what’s inside? There is no clue that the letter is from the Forest Service. Not knowing what “Solv” is, it seems likely that many would toss the letter into the round file, unopened. Solv, it turns out, is a consulting company based in McLean, Virginia, that counts among its clients a number of government agencies.

The Forest Service, of course, has long contracted out tasks it is required to do. Think national forest campgrounds, for example—the fireside chat by a friendly ranger is a thing of the past. For-profit companies run most Forest Service campgrounds these days.

A key part of the Forest Service’s mission is to keep the public informed about how it manages our public lands—it is, in fact, legally bound to issue notices about its projects to members of the public who ask for the information. It would help if the agency put its notices in envelopes that say “Forest Service.”

Webinar at 12:15 Today MT on Wildfire Mitigation CU

Sorry I am late with this.. could not figure out how to upload from my phone. This is 12:15 MT about 20 mins from now.
Here is the link to the webcast. Log in as guest.

Monday, September 29
12:15 – 1:15 PM
CSTPR Conference Room, 1333 Grandview Avenue
More Info

by Deserai Crow, Center for Science and Technology Policy Research and Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Adrianne Kroepsch, Elizabeth Koebele, and Lydia Dixon, Environmental Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Abstract: Colorado residents, local governments, and non-governmental organizations are becoming increasingly aware of damages that wildfire – and especially catastrophic wildfire – can inflict on their communities and watersheds. Because wildfires are expected only to escalate in frequency and destruction in the American West due to regional demographic and climate trends, it is important for policymakers and water resource planners to understand how to best promote effective wildfire risk mitigation techniques among residents who choose to live in the wildland-urban interface (WUI). What types of wildfire mitigation information do homeowners in WUI zones receive, how is information distributed to them, and what effects does that information have on individual behavior? This study uses data from in-depth interviews and focus groups with fire professionals, wildfire-focused watershed groups, and homeowners in two communities in Colorado that have recently experienced historic wildfires, as well as a cross-jurisdictional survey of fire professionals in the American West, to examine programmatic efforts used to encourage homeowners to mitigate their wildfire risk. The results provide insights into constraints on individual and collective capacity, the effectiveness of formal versus informal roles for government, and other findings that may inform more effective wildfire risk mitigation policies in Colorado and across the American West in the future.

Biography: Deserai Crow is an Assistant Professor in the Environmental Studies Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she works with Adrianne Kroepsch, Elizabeth Koebele, Lydia Dixon, Rebecca Schild, and Katie Clifford, all doctoral students in Environmental Studies and Geography. The Crow research group studies local environmental policy processes and the role that information plays in those processes, with a geographic emphasis on the American West. In addition to the wildfire-related research presented here, members of the Crow group are actively studying water governance, climate change, oil and gas extraction, wolf restoration, and environmental citizenship. Crow is affiliated with the Center for Science & Technology Policy Research at C.U., and is also the Associate Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism.

Check out our Noontime Seminar Series webcast page where we have past webcasts availabl

Urgent Action Needed to Save Sierra Forests

This viewpoint shows more of the reasons why the desire to have larger and more intense wildfires, in the Sierra Nevada, is the wrong way to go.

In this picture below, fire crews were run out of this stand, and back into the “safety zone”, on this fire I worked on, back in 1988.


Air quality the past two weeks has been several times worse than some of the most polluted cities in the world due to smoke from the King fire. Last year’s Rim fire emitted greenhouse gases equivalent to 2.3 million vehicles for a year.

Also, the lost habitat and recreational opportunities from major fires like these are significant. It is not an exaggeration to say that virtually all Californians are affected when these “megafires” occur.

The report points out that wildfires are getting larger and burning at higher intensity than ever before. The Rim fire burned at nearly 40 percent high intensity – meaning virtually no living vegetation is left – covering almost 100,000 acres. More acres have burned in the first 4½ years of this decade than in seven decades of the last century.

What can we do about it?

The main bottleneck in treating more acres is in implementation. The Forest Service is unwilling to increase the size of its Region 5 timber management staffs. They use some of the usual excuses, some of which are beyond their control but, not all of those issues are really significant, looking at the big picture. Yes, it is pretty difficult to implement extremely-complex plans when you are constantly training new temporary employees, hired right off the street.

Science: Recent Front Range fires not fundamentally different from similar events that occurred historically under extreme weather conditions.

Fire Study
A new scientific study titled Historical, Observed, and Modeled Wildfire Severity in Montane Forests of the Colorado Front Range should be of interest to blog readers. The study is by Rosemary L. Sherriff, Rutherford V. Platt, Thomas T. Veblen, Tania L. Schoennagel, Meredith H. Gartner.  View the full study here.


Large recent fires in the western U.S. have contributed to a perception that fire exclusion has caused an unprecedented occurrence of uncharacteristically severe fires, particularly in lower elevation dry pine forests. In the absence of long-term fire severity records, it is unknown how short-term trends compare to fire severity prior to 20th century fire exclusion. This study compares historical (i.e. pre-1920) fire severity with observed modern fire severity and modeled potential fire behavior across 564,413 ha of montane forests of the Colorado Front Range. We used forest structure and tree-ring fire history to characterize fire severity at 232 sites and then modeled historical fire-severity across the entire study area using biophysical variables. Eighteen (7.8%) sites were characterized by low-severity fires and 214 (92.2%) by mixed-severity fires (i.e. including moderate- or high-severity fires). Difference in area of historical versus observed low-severity fire within nine recent (post- 1999) large fire perimeters was greatest in lower montane forests. Only 16% of the study area recorded a shift from historical low severity to a higher potential for crown fire today. An historical fire regime of more frequent and low-severity fires at low elevations (,2260 m) supports a convergence of management goals of ecological restoration and fire hazard mitigation in those habitats. In contrast, at higher elevations mixed-severity fires were predominant historically and continue to be so today. Thinning treatments at higher elevations of the montane zone will not return the fire regime to an historic low-severity regime, and are of questionable effectiveness in preventing severe wildfires. Based on present-day fuels, predicted fire behavior under extreme fire weather continues to indicate a mixed-severity fire regime throughout most of the montane forest zone. Recent large wildfires in the Front Range are not fundamentally different from similar events that occurred historically under extreme weather conditions.

Blog Volunteers Wanted!

Rowers Wanted!

Rowers Wanted!

I’m in the middle of a full course load this quarter and following that, in November, I plan to start a new blog for my new work, which will reduce my time available for this blog. I’ll continue to be around posting and commenting at a reduced level, and will continue to do the administrative work. To that end, I’m going to ask for a couple of volunteers.

Volunteer Poster. This person would post things I have been sent by people who don’t have access to post. You wouldn’t have to decide if they were post-worthy, I would decide that and all you’d have to do is format them and maybe look for appropriate photos to go with them. Perhaps one of those who reads the blog but does not comment.. a kind of in-the-background kind of person might volunteer for this. I suspect that it would take less than an hour a week. I would help you learn to post things on WordPress, as the other contributors can tell you it’s really easy, and even silver-haired retirees can learn to do it (but students might enjoy it as well!)

Additional Contributors Since at the end of this year I will rotate off my volunteer work with SAF, I will no more be on email lists with interesting topics. It would be helpful if one more person with this background would offer to contribute.. you don’t have to have big ideas about it.. just post interesting things you find. Since I am interested in the difference between local press and the national media (which tend to be on the coasts), I think it would be interesting to have a contributor from the South or the Lake States. It might be nice to have another female voice or other sources of diversity.

Note for current Forest Service employees – I’m not sure that being a Contributor is a good idea for you. Originally, we started this blog as an official Forest Service/ University of Montana collaboration. Turns out that apparently we weren’t supposed to do that, but I didn’t realize that there was a policy in development that said that. After some discussion with folks in the WO, I knew I had to stop doing it officially (somebody from the Dept was not happy), but because I couldn’t figure a way to stop it without the FS sounding bad (“shutting down communication again!”), I decided to go ahead and do it in my spare time, and have it not be official. Note: this may not have been the best idea, in retrospect, in terms of my career in the Forest Service, but I was very aware when I started the blog that I was Retirement Eligible.

While it is considered to be free speech in your spare time, it may not make you very popular with the powers that be. Around this time, I became very unpopular with my superiors, bad things happened to me, and I had to file a grievance to get the bad things reversed. Was it this or something else I did or didn’t do? Who knows? The people who know aren’t telling. It worked out well for me, as I am now on my true path, but I would not wish my experience on anyone.

My old Regional Forester used to say that new ideas attract “organizational antibodies,” so maybe now blogging is part of the landscape there is not an issue. Nevertheless, my experience makes me cautious in advising anyone about blogging, and also very careful about preserving the privacy of those who send me information. Still if you want to take the risk, we’d be delighted to have you.

National Parks in Colorado Increase Fees

ESTES PARK, CO - SEPTEMBER 25: Cars drive into Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, CO on September 25, 2014.   National park fees may be going up.  (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)

ESTES PARK, CO – SEPTEMBER 25: Cars drive into Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, CO on September 25, 2014. National park fees may be going up. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)

This showed up today in the Denver Post.

Dig a little deeper if you are planning to visit a prominent national park next year.

The National Park Service is proposing to boost entrance fees at 131 of the 401 public properties it manages.

“The proposed increases in park entrance fees will allow us to invest in the improvements necessary to provide the best possible park experience to our visitors,” said Park Service director Jon Jarvis in an Aug. 14 memo to regional directors urging them to foster public support for the first fee increase since 2008.

With an eye toward sprucing up for the Park Service’s 100th anniversary in 2016, Jarvis is asking regional directors to conduct public outreach this fall and winter so fees can be implemented as early as next summer.

Park superintendents will set their own schedules for rolling out the new fees.

Public meetings surveying community leaders and local politicians should be completed by early March 2015, according to Jarvis.

The proposed fee increases for Colorado range from 50 percent at Rocky Mountain National Park to more than 150 percent at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Increases that big should not be rushed, said Kitty Benzar, a Durango public lands advocate whose Western Slope No-Fee Coalition lobbies for unfettered access to undeveloped public land.

Benzar and her group are not opposed to fees at national parks.

There is too much to excerpt that is good, so take a look at the whole thing.

This reminded me of a previous post here comparing Rocky Mountain Park and the nearby heavily used Brainard Lakes.

It also makes me think.. the idea is to transfer land to the Park Service because they have more money. They may have more money because they charge for access. People with dogs, ATV’s, hunters and others can find themselves locked out. Then the Park Service increases fees, because it does cost money. IMHO, from the balcony, this doesn’t make sense. What would make sense is to standardize approaches to recreation and access across FWS,NPS, BLM and FS. There is a site called for reservations, but wouldn’t it be effective and efficient and easy for the public to understand if policies were harmonized? I see a “federal recreation commission” suggesting ways to harmonize with recommendations for Congress.

During R administrations there are always efforts highlighted to make government more efficient. This would be something a D administration could do that would be good for people and for the taxpayers’ bottom line.

UC Berkeley Gets it Right, and Gets it Wrong

A Cal-Berkeley fire scientist shows his unawareness of current Forest Service policy but, his other ideas favor active management of our Sierra Nevada National Forests.


The situation is compounded by the gridlock between environmentalists and commercial foresters. The former favor thinning, but they want all logging plans to leave the larger trees, particularly those with trunks over 30 inches in diameter. But the timber companies maintain it is necessary to take a significant number of bigger trees to fund thinning and restoration programs.

Stephens generally favors the enviro position. Landscape-scale wildfire damage is driven by vast acreages of small-diameter, closely-packed trees, he says. By leaving the larger trees, the essential character of a natural forest can be maintained, even accelerated. And he thinks markets can be found for products produced from thinned, scrawny trees.

Of course, there has been a ban on the cutting of trees larger than 30″ dbh, since 1993. Ditto for clearcutting! These are two big hot-button issues for most “conservationists” but, there are still people out there who want timber sales banned, altogether. There are others who would love to go back to the Clinton rules of the Sierra Nevada Framework, which would shutdown much of Region 5’s timber management programs. A 22″ dbh tree, underneath a 36″ dbh tree cannot be considered “scrawny”.  Generally, most of the thinned trees are in the 10-18″ dbh size, averaging about 15″ dbh.

Litigation Weekly September 2, 2014

I am willing to upload the court documents cited here if someone wants them.. I would be willing to upload them all anyway, if someone would help me work through my issues with Google docs. Better yet, if the FS would just post them themselves :)…Maybe a reader with a good relationship with their Congressional office could dash off a letter?

1. Wildlife ǀ Region 4
Court Dismisses Challenge to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Wolf Control Activities in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness on the Payette National Forest in Maughan v. Vilsack. On August 27, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho dismissed the case without prejudice upon reviewing the parties’ Stipulation of Voluntary Dismissal. The case arose from Plaintiffs, Ralph Maughan (private citizen), Defenders of Wildlife, Wilderness Watch, and Center for Biological Diversity’s challenge of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s wolf control activities carried out during the winter of 2013 in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness on the Payette National Forest. (14-00007, D. Idaho)
2. Forest Management ǀ Region 1
Court Lifts Injunction of the Pilgrim Creek Timber Sale on the Kootenai National Forest in Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Bradford. On August 28, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Montana, finding that the Forest Service had addressed violations identified in its June 30, 2014 order through a Clarification/Amendment of the Record of Decision (stating that all new permanent roads constructed for the project will be closed with a permanent closure device consistent with the Grizzly Bear Access Amendment and Kootenai Forest Plan), lifted its injunction against the Pilgrim Creek Timber Sale on the Kootenai National Forest. (13-00199, D. Mont.)

Litigation Update
1. Travel Management ǀ Rehearing En Banc ǀ Region 10
Ninth Circuit Grants Appellant’s Petition for Rehearing En Banc in Organized Village of Kake v. USDA. On August 29, 2014 the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit voted to rehear the case en banc. On March 26, 2014, the Court had ruled favorably for the Forest Service in the case which challenged the Tongass Exemption to the 2001 Roadless Rule. In the March ruling the Court stated, “The panel reversed the district court’s order, which invalidated a 2003 United States Department of Agriculture regulation temporarily exempting the Tongass National Forest in Alaska from application of the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. The panel held that in its 2003 Record of Decision, the Department of Agriculture articulated a number of legitimate grounds for temporarily exempting the Tongass Forest from the 2001 Roadless Rule. The panel concluded that these grounds and the Department of Agriculture’s reasoning in reaching its decision were neither arbitrary nor capricious. The panel remanded to the district court to decide whether a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement is required in the first instance.” (11-35517, 9th Cir.)

New Cases
1. Tongass Plan Amendment ǀ Wildlife ǀ Region 10

Plaintiffs Challenge the 2008 Amendment to the Tongass National Forest Plan in Southeast Alaska Conservation Council v. United States Forest Service. On August 22, 2014, Plaintiffs, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Alaska Wilderness League, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska alleging that the 2008 Amendment to the Tongass National Forest Land and Management Plan is in violation of NFMA, NEPA, and the APA. On NFMA, Plaintiffs claim that in applying the deer habitat capability provision as a guideline rather than a standard, there is no support in the record for the Forest Service’s conclusion that the 2008 Plan Amendment will have a high likelihood of maintaining viable wolf populations. On NEPA, Plaintiffs claim that the 2008 Plan Amendment FEIS contains misleading information and fails to adequately disclose the impacts of the amendment. (14-14, D. Alaska)
2. Forest Management ǀ Region 10
Plaintiffs Challenge the Big Thorne Timber Sale on the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska Conservation Council v. United States Forest Service. On August 22, 2014, Plaintiffs, Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Alaska Wilderness League, and Sierra Club filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska challenging the Big Thorn Timber Sale on the Tongass National Forest. Plaintiffs allege: (1) that the Forest Service approved an unnecessarily large timber sale based on erroneous projections of market demand in violation of NFMA, MUSYA, and the Tongass Timber Reform Act; (2) the Project’s EIS contains misleading information regarding the market demand for timber and that the Forest Service’s erroneous market demand projections caused the Agency to neglect smaller volume alternatives in violation of NEPA; (3) the Forest Service’s approval of the Project based on significant errors in projecting market demand will cause unnecessary harm to subsistence users in violation of ANILCA; (4) that the Forest Service failed include updated wolf population information in the EIS in violation of NEPA; (5) that the Forest Service failed to explain why isolated areas outside of the Project area will meet the Tongass Forest Plan’s standard and guideline to provide for sustainable wolf populations in violation of NFMA. (14-13, D. Alaska)
3. Forest Management ǀ Region 10
Plaintiffs Challenge the Big Thorne Timber Sale on the Tongass National Forest in Cascadia Wildlands v. Cole. On August 26, 2014, Plaintiffs, Cascadia Wildlands, Greater Alaska Conservation Community, Greenpeace, Center for Biological Diversity, and The Boat Company filed suit in the United States Court for the District of Alaska challenging the Big Thorne Timber Sale on the Tongass National Forest. Plaintiffs allege: (1) that the Project fails to comply with the wildlife viability requirements of the 2008 Tongass Forest Plan Amendment in violation of NFMA; (2) that the Project EIS failed to disclose information on the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects on the viability of Alexander Archipelago wolves in violation of NEPA; (3) that the Forest Service failed to prepare a supplemental EIS to address highly uncertain and controversial findings regarding the Project’s potential impacts on wolves; (4) the Standards and Guidelines of the 2008 Tongass Forest Plan Amendment fail to ensure viable populations of the Alexander Archipelago wolf in violation of NFMA. (14-15 D. Alaska)

When Trees Go Bad – NY Times Op-ed


Who knew that forests were actually bad for the environment? That should be good news, because we can always use more subdivisions and agricultural land. Let’s check out this recent NY Times op-ed.

First the title…”to save the planet, don’t plant trees.” I get it, it’s hard to write a headline that’s absolutely accurate. I think Matthew and I had a discussion about one of mine a while back. But climate change is only one thing that is bad for the environment. And, of course, “the planet” will actually be fine, with or without trees, humans, or cockroaches. At the worst of potential climate change, we will have made conditions more favorable for some creatures and less favorable for others, including (some of) ourselves. Anyway, ’nuff said on title-pickin’.

Now, like many on this blog, I am not an atmospheric chemist or modeler but I have been observing both forests and scientific idea-slinging for the last long time period. It seems like the idea of the pieces is that “more forests might not be good.” I think it might be hard to argue that “more forests might not be good for climate” without including “converting forests to brushfields or agriculture or homesites might be good for climate.”

Here’s a link to the op-ed and here’s a link to a scientist’s rebuttal. Now it seems that the climate industry is having some big doin’s this week which appears to be why this op-ed showed up.

so let’s just go through the arguments from an observer’s perspective.

In these paragraphs there is some history:

AS international leaders gather in New York next week for a United Nations climate summit, they will be preoccupied with how to tackle the rising rate of carbon emissions. To mitigate the crisis, one measure they are likely to promote is reducing deforestation and planting trees.

A landmark deal to support sustainable forestry was a heralded success story of the last international climate talks, in Warsaw last year. Western nations, including the United States, Britain and Norway, handed over millions of dollars to developing countries to kick-start programs to reduce tropical deforestation. More funds are promised.

Deforestation accounts for about 20 percent of global emissions of carbon dioxide. The assumption is that planting trees and avoiding further deforestation provides a convenient carbon capture and storage facility on the land.

That is the conventional wisdom. But the conventional wisdom is wrong.

“Wrong” is perhaps different from “only true based on our models (?) in some places and not in others.”
The author goes on to explain:

In reality, the cycling of carbon, energy and water between the land and the atmosphere is much more complex. Considering all the interactions, large-scale increases in forest cover can actually make global warming worse.

Of course, this is counterintuitive. We all learn in school how trees effortlessly perform the marvel of photosynthesis: They take up carbon dioxide from the air and make oxygen. This process provides us with life, food, water, shelter, fiber and soil. The earth’s forests generously mop up about a quarter of the world’s fossil-fuel carbon emissions every year.

So it’s understandable that we’d expect trees to save us from rising temperatures, but climate science tells a different story. Besides the amount of greenhouse gases in the air, another important switch on the planetary thermostat is how much of the sun’s energy is taken up by the earth’s surface, compared to how much is reflected back to space. The dark color of trees means that they absorb more of the sun’s energy and raise the planet’s surface temperature.

My first question would be “how “large-scale” do the sums of money we are talking about mean in terms of afforestation? Are we taking, say, the soybean fields of Indiana or the wheat fields of Alberta and converting them to trees? Because if we look down further we find it’s not the Amazon the we are talking about, but rather temperate areas…

Climate scientists have calculated the effect of increasing forest cover on surface temperature. Their conclusion is that planting trees in the tropics would lead to cooling, but in colder regions, it would cause warming.

If this is the case wouldn’t it be logical only to fund efforts in the tropics?

say handed over millions of dollars to developing countries to kick-start programs to reduce tropical deforestation. More funds are promised.

But isn’t that consistent with what was said above? Is anyone planning to give millions of bucks to say, Colorado, or the Ukraine?

The science says that spending precious dollars for climate change mitigation on forestry is high-risk: We don’t know that it would cool the planet, and we have good reason to fear it might have precisely the opposite effect. More funding for forestry might seem like a tempting easy win for the world leaders at the United Nations, but it’s a bad bet.

But that’s not strictly speaking, true is it, if you just spend the bucks in developing tropical countries.????? So confusing!

I actually agree with the author.. I would like the all the climate change funds to go to get poor countries low-carbon energy to bring up the energy availability to the poor people there. But I think you can make that case without maligning trees and their associated VOC’s.