MSNBC and Oregon Live on Planning Rule

From the Siskiyou- interesting choice of photos by MSNBC

I forgot to post this MSNBC story sooner. I think it’s particularly interesting because of this quote:

The Natural Resources Defense Council had a mixed initial take on the rule. “It is much more meaningful about getting local officials to apply the best available science,” NRDC forest analyst Niel Lawrence told msnbc.com, and there’s “significant improvement in public participation.”

But the environmental group is also “very concerned” because the rule removes a provision ensuring that wildlife will have viable populations distributed across the forests where they are now found, Lawrence said. “It jettisons the single most important conservation protection” on U.S. forests over the last 30 years, he added.

The NRDC intends to lobby the administration and if that doesn’t work a lawsuit is “perfectly possible,” Lawrence said.

I like this because it’s pretty clear that initiating a lawsuit is really about getting the policy results you want. The actual litigation is couched as concerns over following procedures, but deciding to litigate is not really based on things like “an inadequate discussion of cumulative effects.” They are being refreshingly honest about why they use the tactics they do, and you have to appreciate that. They want to have a special seat at a special table to promote their agenda, and litigation provides them with that. No public debate, discussion nor elections.. it’s a good gig.

Now for those of you who don’t know the history of NRDC, it was started by a group of Yale University law students according to this history. I’m not sure that their views should outweigh those of everyone else, especially those who have actually worked with forest plans on both sides of the fence in the real world. You might want to check out the staff and the Board of Trustees (David you might want to check on their corporate-ness). Here’s their membership 535,000 compared to Sierra Club (1.5 million) and Wilderness Society (more than 500K). But what is most concerning is the unlikelihood that many of the NRDC staff or local groups have any experience with forest planning compared to the other groups. Could this influence their position? Or is it merely the case that “when you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail” and they are lawyers?

Check out these quotes about them on their website here.

” The New York Times
“One of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups.”
The Wall Street Journal
“NRDC is by many accounts, the most effective lobbying and litigating group on environmental issues.”
U.S. News & World Report
“NRDC’s lawyers are said by eco-observers to know more about environmental law than the government does.”
Eco Magazine
“By almost any measure, the most influential national environmental organization is NRDC.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“NRDC is one of the most effective environmental litigators on the globe.”
The National Journal
“A credible and forceful advocate for stringent environmental protection; you’d like NRDC on your side if you wanted the federal government to do something on a major policy matter . . .”
The Washington Monthly
“When an environmental cause needs first-class legal representation, it turns to NRDC.”
The Wall Street Journal
“It’s hard to find a major environmental law it hasn’t helped shape within Congress, the courts and federal agencies.”"

I went through their experts on their list here and did not find anyone who appeared to be a scientist with knowledge of the issues we discuss on this blog (in fact,scientists seemed to be mighty thin despite many references to “lawyers and scientists”). I didn’t find anyone who looked like they had participated in a forest planning effort. The below individual is the closest I could find.

SAMI YASSA is a senior scientist and director of NRDC’s forest initiative. He is an expert on forest ecology and management and efficient wood use in residential construction. Sami authored Efficient Wood Use in Residential Construction, a technical handbook for building professionals, and has written numerous NRDC reports on forest management. He has served on national committees relating to forest management, including the Interagency Technical Committee for the California Spotted Owl and the Keystone Center’s National Ecosystem Management Forum. He also serves as a lecturer in environmental science and policy at the Universities of California at Berkeley and Davis and as an Instructor at College of Marin. Sami holds a master’s degree in energy and resources from the University of California at Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree in physics from Colby College.

Now onto the MSNBC story here.. I’m going to skip right to the “what do people think” part of the story after the NRDC paragraphs above.

A timber industry group, for its part, told msnbc.com that it needed a day or two to review the rule. But, in a statement issued right after the rule, the American Forest Resource Council voiced concern. “We are very concerned about whether the agency took the comments we made on the draft rule to heart and made changes needed to avoid the mistakes of the past,” said council President Tom Partin.

The BlueRibbon Coalition, a group representing offroad interests, also said it was still reviewing the rule.

In Congress, the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, Washington state Republican Doc Hastings, said the concerns he’d raised earlier “fell on deaf ears.”

“These new Obama regulations introduce excessive layers of bureaucracy that will cost jobs, hinder proper forest management, increase litigation and add burdensome costs for Americans,” he said in a statement.

Last November, Hastings’ committee hosted a hearing where critics piled on against the draft rule.

“First, the proposed planning rule will increase the complexity, cost, and time for the Forest Service to complete forest plans,” testified Scott Horngren on behalf of the American Forest Resource Council. “Second, of greater concern, is that the planning rule will make the projects that implement the plans more vulnerable to lawsuits than they are today.”

from OregonLive


Forest Service set to adopt planning rule governing operations on national forests and grasslands

Published: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 5:24 PM Updated: Thursday, January 26, 2012, 5:35 PM
Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian By Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian

….Initial reaction has been muted.

Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resources Council in Portland, said his organization is reviewing the plan. “We hope that ecological, social and economic objectives are given equal weight in planning,” he said in a news release. The council represents mill operators and others in the timber industry.

The environmental group Oregon Wild said the state’s public lands face unprecedented threats. “It appears the Obama administration has provided a welcome vision for America’s wildlands, wildlife, and water,” spokesman Rob Klavins said in a prepared statement. However, the plan lacks clarity and enforceability, he said.

Dominick A. DellaSala, chief scientist and president of the Ashland-based conservation group Geos Institute, gave the Forest Service high marks for requiring the best science in forest plans.

Earth Justice attorney Kristen Boyles said the Forest Service “deserves credit for finally beginning to look at the forest and its waters in a new, holistic and sustainable way.”

3 Comments

  1. While the MSNBC article is chock-full of mostly polarized idiotic comments, many other articles in major newspapers are surprisingly free of any comments at all. Even in “bastions of liberal thinking”, like in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, the comments sections are pretty barren. Adding to that, even the Grist website has ZERO mention of the Rule, at all!! Ditto for the Democratic Underground site.

    I tend to think that this, being an election year, has people not wanting to be critical of such a cornerstone proposal from the Obama Administration. In the next two weeks, I’m sure we’ll be seeing further criticism that will be carefully framed to distance Obama from the new Rule. Interesting stuff!

  2. Sharon:

    That really IS an “interesting choice of photos by MSNBC!” I thought it looked really familiar, and then discovered I had used the exact same perspective seven years ago to document a minor logging trespass of Wilderness land during timber salvage of the Biscuit Fire:

    http://www.orww.org/Wildfires/Biscuit/Babyfoot_Lake/QTVR/

    The picture is taken from the trailhead to Babyfoot Lake, which is about two miles away. I think the logging error was less than 20 acres of fire-killed trees and was caused by USFS surveying error (I think). You can see that not only the MSNBC photo extremely biased in terms of perspective (notorious logging trespass into Wilderness area), but it is similarly biased in its choice of time frame (logging operation at its most unsightly). The treatment of snags and dead trees in purposefully abandoned log decks in this salvage and the ones adjacent to it were odd.

    A better title for the photo would have been “Kalmiopsis Wilderness survey error.”

    Bob Z.

  3. Here’s another negative view of the Planning Rule from the Sacramento Bee, a newspaper which spawned bumperstickers saying “Save a Tree, Cancel the Bee”.

    http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/02/4234851/new-forest-management-plan-weakens.html

    They claim that the Forest Service would be free to go back to clearcutting with “weakened protections for wildlife”, and “increased discretion”. Of course, there continues to be a voluntary ban on clearcutting and old growth harvesting in California National Forests!!!! We’ll see a lot more of this anti-management rhetoric in the next few weeks, just as I predicted. The preservationists have to get their stories straight, as they will get only one small chance to discredit the new Rule. After that, litigation will be their last hope to avoid consensus and compromise.

    Also, the trick of using a fire salvage project as an example of modern timber projects has already been used by the Bee. Tom Knudson’s 1992 Pulitzer Prize winning series in the Bee had a color picture of salvage logging on the front page, labeling it as “business as usual” for green timber sales. At least the Bee isn’t as hostile to the Forest Service as the LA Times, though. Barely!

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