Forest Service appeal regs exempting CE’s dinged again by federal courts

A federal court ruling yesterday one again enjoined the Forest Service regulations that exempted Categorical Exclusion (CE) decisions from notice, comment and appeal.  According to one of the attorney’s who worked the case,  “This certainly means any new CE’d decisions must be subject to notice, comment and appeal – beyond that, and how this will affect (or be affected by) any new regulations regarding the HFRA-like rider, is TBD.”

UPDATE: Just to be clear, here is the Summary Judgment Decision on Merits of Plaintiffs’ Claim.  Also, the same Court issued this Summary Judgment Decision on Jurisdictional Issues.

54 Comments

  1. Today a district court in California did what a number of courts have done – to invalidate a U.S. forest service interpretation of an internal regulation which allowed them to exempt a significant portion of their projects from their administrative appeal process. They have been doing this since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit, not because we were wrong on the law – but because we didn’t have “standing” to bring the case. I had been involved in the case since the very beginning in my work with Heartwood working with Jim Bensman and attorney Matt Kenna.

    These kind of minutiae seem far removed from the public’s understanding of public land management. The public sees a green blob on the map which designates public land, and they think “park.” They don’t realize that much of the public land in this country isn’t a park at all – in fact it is highly industrialized. That can produce income in the short term, but it’s like selling the family heirlooms – once it’s liquidated, the money gets squandered and then you have nothing.

    It is incredulous to me that in all the discussion about the deficits and the need to address the long term national debt, that public lands rarely enters the discussion. Yet, with the overlapping agencies in charge of hundreds of millions of acres, including the Forest Service, the Park Service, BLM, Fish and Wildlife Service, Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, state agencies, and on and on, billions of dollars of public money is spent. Much of this money is being misspent on cockamamie notions that cutting trees, burning, spraying pesticides, and building roads are good for the forest.

    Letting nature take it’s course is blasphemy. And I agree that nature and humans don’t always have a compatible existence on the same piece of land. For example, you can’t let nature started fires burn through human communities. But the cases where humans and nature can’t exist well together are more extreme events. On a day to day level, humans and nature can get along well. It’s just that certain interests don’t want us to, because it would mean losing money to private interests. However, it likely could mean saving money – lots of money – for the taxpayers.

    If the default “management” policy for all public land managers was a hands off policy except under exceptional circumstances, nature might actually get the time across a wide enough swath of land to be able to start correcting some of the ecological imbalances through natural succession. This will move the ecosystem toward increasing stability much more than shabby “management” activities based on only superficial knowledge of the natural systems that they are impacting.

    It also would save the public from combing through lawbooks to find procedural hoops that the agency is violating and spending countless hours writing briefs and participating in lawsuits in order to get the agency to partake in one more level of paperwork – paperwork that slows down the industrial machine and thus can be important in saving nature. But it’s really a waste of time and money – as are the actual management activities that cost the public so much environmentally and economically.

    It’s always a great feeling to win a lawsuit against a federal agency. Once in a while it has a longer term impact. Often the impact is short term and the agency finds a way around it. This one will do some good, and even ever so minute good these days is a good thing!

    • California’s forests have been managed for millennia by expert Indian “wise men”. The forests evolved, side by side, with those ancient residents. With the expected exit of the timber industry from Forest Service lands, we will be left with whatever happens, including arson fires, auto accidents and massive lightning busts. We’re stuck with it until Congress can break the litigation gridlock, now forced upon rural forest communities in the Sierra Nevada. Management by service contract will fall farther behind in restoration activities. SPI has PLENTY of 10-20″ dbh trees on their own massive acreages. No need to buy them at a premium rate from the Forest Service.

      I’d bet that a 30,000 acre firestorm in the Lake Tahoe Basin might make people rethink preservationism but, I’m guessing that the blame will go to the loggers, instead, who will become nearly extinct, in today’s reality. The “trainwreck” will roll on, despite “good intentions”. There is no such thing as a “natural fire”, in the Sierra Nevada, unless it somehow stays small and goes out on its own. “Gaia”, save us from your followers!! “She” will most certainly “rebalance” forests in ways human won’t like. Re-wilding is a failed concept.

      • I don’t think Harry Reid is going to be blaming loggers Larry, I think he’ll be blaming radical enviros like that hansen dude. It’s a matter of time. It’s been my observation that most CE’s aren’t about timber cutting, they’re about things like “hiking trail construction or reconstruction”. Does this mean that we can now appeal and thus litigate those? Remember, it doesn’t matter if hiking denies lynx and grizzly critical habitat, it only matters that the USFS hasn’t analized it-we win, we make headline-we call our new group the alliance for a “wilder” rockies. Change will only come when moderate enviros are inconvinienced by NEPA and what not. But then, I think that will happen without our efforts. Little Napoleons always shoot themselves in the foot.

        • I want Mark Donham to show us where all the roadbuilding and pesticide applications are being done, as well as the tree cutting he is warning us about. WHERE is this about to happen?? WHERE are the CE’s doing “bad things” for our California National Forests?!?! If you are going to post here, you’ll need to back up your assertions with facts, or at least logic.

          There are all sorts of reasons for hands-on restoration, as forests here are overstocked, unhealthy and at-risk to high rates of mortality. It is impossible for the fallacy of “passive restoration” to produce outcomes which save endangered species habitats, while thinning out unwanted trees. It is impossible for barely-controlled wildfires to accomplish what well-designed “thinning-from-below” projects can do, in an economic way. It is impossible for prescribed fire alone to result in any kind of desired future condition. The current reality does not bear this out.

          Come on, Mark. Don’t be afraid to get your boots muddy, here. Tell us all how doing nothing will save our forests. Tell us all how 80+ years of mismanagement can be undone by doing nothing. Tell us how we can accomplish beneficial outcomes with minimal budgets. Tell us how climate change will have no effect, if we just leave our forests alone. Finally, tell us how the last 19 years of active timber management has been bad for Sierra Nevada National Forests….. please.

          • There are national forests in other places than california. I was invited to post on this list and I from Illinois. I don’t know that much about the specifics of what is going on in california, but all you have to do is go to any national forest in the southern or eastern regions’ website and click on plans and projects, and look at the projects. Forests such as the ouachita, huron-manistee, allegheny, hoosier, land between the lakes, the mississippi national forests, and most if not all of the others – all are being subject to heavy, industrialized management, including regular tree cutting, burning, and increasing, use of herbicides.

            • Yes, in the South there is lots of regular tree cutting and burning , mostly to restore ecological conditions and mostly widely supported by the environmental community. The use of herbicides, last time I checked, is mostly to control invasive noxious weeds. You can confirm this by looking at the forests’ web sites that you mention. If the harvest of trees to accomplish restoration goals is “industrialized” does that necessarily;y make it a bad thing?

              • At least you admit it. Claims of restoration by the Forest Service are superficial, untested, and unreliable. Such issues as carbon storage and other ecosystem services aren’t even considered by the forest service.

                Yeah, it is a bad thing to be industrializing our public lands.

                • It’s no wonder how the sides are polarized, when people like Mark spout preservationist rhetoric, like a trained parrot. I’ve already called you on making blanket statements that aren’t supported by facts, Mark. Yet you continue to make accusations not supported by facts. Many preservationists disregard the massive amounts of carbon and GHG’s spewed forth by millions of acres of unnatural firestorms and excessive mortality, while at the same time resisting beneficial projects that sequester carbon, improve forest health and enhance wildlife habitat. We all need to learn from Jim’s experiences with collaboration in the South, instead of increasing polarization and losing irreplaceable habitats.

                  We need to use all the tools in the forester’s toolbox, utilizing site-specific science, and within reduced budgets. This means people HAVE to compromise, even though they resist it with all their power. Pretending that some mythical entity will magically fix our forests is “fundamentally” wrong. Pretending that successful lawsuits will fix our forests is equally wrong. Pretending that doing nothing should be a National Forest policy is dangerous, as we have seen huge destructive wildfires in the last 10 years that are destroying critical habitats.

                  We will have a perfect example of “de-industrialized” forests, here in the Sierra Nevada, where “industry” is now excluded. We’ll see just HOW destructive “passive restoration” can be, in forests that have been “managed” for millions of years.

                  • I could give detailed support for my contentions, but I don’t want to spend that much time here. There is a place for that. “Leave it to the foresters” is a refrain I have been hearing for decades. My answer to that is that amateurs built the ark and professionals built the titanic.

                    As I said in a previous reply, isn’t it curious that the most incredible forests are the ones that have never been cut?

                  • Sorry, don’t mean to be disrespectful, but in my experience, your statement is simply not true, period. During the 06 revisions of the forest plans in R8 and 9, we repeatedly brought up the issue in our comments starting during scoping, and the forests all said it was outside the realm of a forest plan, and during project analysis, now use old studies that are out of date and/or make conclusory assertions that aren’t cited or don’t even address it. If you truly were interested in maximizing carbon storage and most efficiently spending public money, the agency would, for the most part, leave the forest alone.

            • Just for future knowledge, Mark, clearcutting and highgrading was voluntarily banned in 1993, here in California. For a species not on the ESA list. With no clearcutting, there is no need for herbicide applications anymore. Sadly, forestry has been eliminated from the Sierra Nevada, and there will be no timber sold this year, and maybe even the next few years. Even roadside hazard tree projects are litigated, here in California.

              I did work on the Ouachita, the Allegheny and the De Soto, and didn’t see “industrial logging”, except on private land. Much of the timber volumes in the South come from old cotton fields replanted with loblolly pines. Since they grow extremely fast, the volumes seem large. I measured one tree that added 3.5″ in radius during the last 10 years. The bottomland stands, with all that impressive diversity, remains as a legacy to historical conditions.

              Prescribed fires in the South are an amazing thing, burning exactly as projected. They have gotten so very good at accomplishing their goals, with few escapes. I’ve seen these fires in action, creeping around and reducing ground fuels.

    • Wow, Mark…

      “It also would save the public from combing through lawbooks to find procedural hoops that the agency is violating and spending countless hours writing briefs and participating in lawsuits in order to get the agency to partake in one more level of paperwork – paperwork that slows down the industrial machine and thus can be important in saving nature. But it’s really a waste of time and money – as are the actual management activities that cost the public so much environmentally and economically. ”

      What “industrial machine” are you talking about? Where?

        • I can open my eyes and see one “industry” in receivership and a bunch of mom ‘n’ pop sized mills. I see people with dead trees wanting to do something other than burn them and add to GHG’s. And geez, a job or two in a rural area wouldn’t be a bad thing, either.

          Here’s what Senator Udall (D) said in a press release here:

          These mills provide hundreds of jobs in Colorado’s rural communities and are irreplaceable parts of the statewide infrastructure we need to reduce wildfire risk to communities and remove millions of hazardous beetle-kill trees adjacent to roads, powerlines, trailheads, picnic areas, and campgrounds,” Udall wrote in the letter. “I appreciate the role the market must play in timber sales, but at this juncture in Colorado we must maintain an infrastructure to safely and economically dispose of our surplus of dead timber.”

          It’s obviously beyond partisanship, at least here. The “industrial” claim just doesn’t cut it.

  2. Mark said the court invalidated a “forest service interpretation of an internal regulation” This is not quite right. The court was interpreting NOT in internal rule, but an act of Congress called the Appeal Reform Act of 1992 which mandated that ALL projects implementing forest plans must be subject to administrative appeal. The law did not exempt Categorical Exclusions. The Bush Admin rules were plainly in violation of Congress’ mandate.

    What is truly shocking is that the FS under the Obama Admin did not change course after two lower courts provided clear guidance on the meaning of the law and the blatant violation of Congressional will. The Supreme Court threw out the case on a procedural technicality (which did nothing to weaken change the substantive holding of the lower courts) but the FS failed to change their behavior and forced plaintiffs to go back and relitigate.

    What a ridiculous waste of taxpayer resources.

      • It took Obama a full 8 months to select a new Chief, so it is clear that forests were very low on his priority list, despite the millions of dead and dying forests, across the west. 33,000 square miles is nothing to sneeze at. Obama has been hamstrung by “Clinton’s Legacy” of preserved mortality.

  3. Now if only someone could find a way to free us from the Forest Service’s damnable “objections process” on forest plans as per the NFMA Rule. In an earlier post, I highlighted the “objections process” as one of several failings in the new NFMA rule.

    I have never understood the need for [an objections process instead of an appeals process]. It is at best a minor variation on a theme that could have as easily been made to work under the more-familiar appeals process. At worst, it proves a means to dodge public deliberation responsibility—to deny collaborators an opportunity to seek redress for surprise changes in proposed action as it becomes “federal action.” The only redress then becomes court challenge. It seems to me that in an attempt to streamline the process, the forest service only made things worse.

  4. Back to the specific issues here, I have personal experience with both Mr. Penguilly and the Sequoiaforestkeepers, on a salvage project on the Sequoia National Forest. I was working on a fire salvage logging project and the SFK “had concerns” about it, and were monitoring. At the time, the Forest Service was still under an order not to cut any salvage trees with green needles. So, the SFK pretended to be Forest Service personnel, gaining entry into a closed area. They took pictures and took GPS coordinates, then supplied them to Mr. Penguilly. I was called into his office and presented with the claims of lawbreaking, and threats of an injunction.

    So, I took the data and digital pictures to the field and tried to find their issues. The GPS points were all over the place, with some of them outside of the project boundaries. I found every spot where pictures were taken. The claims of green trees being harvested were easily explained, as the salvaged trees obviously brushed against green trees, resulting in the green logging slash they photographed. I even still have the picture of a standing tree with missing branches on one side, as well as the rest of that days photos. They supplied a picture of a marked green tree, and I supplied a picture of the same tree, still standing. They supplied pictures of large logs, sitting on a landing. Yes, we cut some big hazard trees, including a huge yellow sugar pine, estimated at 75″ dbh. Yes, such a roadside hazard tree that has to be felled towards the road will hit at least ONE green tree, resulting in green logging slash. The SFK people were clearly wrong on each and every single issue they presented, and I supplied the evidence to Mr. Penguilly.

    Regarding Mr. Penguilly, I found him to be quite eager to stick it to the SFK, almost to the point of obsession. He obviously felt he had the law on his side, and was willing to pursue his point of view to the Supreme Court, for better or for worse, on another lawsuit related to the fire salvage of the McNally Fire. I was not at all impressed with the SFK organization and their borderline illegal masquerade as Federal employees from the adjacent Ranger District. Locked gates were maintained at both ends of the road going through the burned project area. The loggers let them in but, the gate was locked when they wanted to leave. I heard they spent 3 hours waiting for someone to open the gate.

    • Larry- I am trying to follow .. was Mr. Penguilly with Sequoiaforestkeepers, or on the other side? At first it sounds like he is (they took pictures and supplied them to Mr. Penguilly). Then later you said (third paragraph, that he was eager to stick it to the SFK). It’s all confusing to the uninitiated. Thanks for any clarification.

      • Mr. Penguilly was the District Ranger, and I was “internally outsourced” to administer the salvage sale. He had nothing but irritation from SFK but, he usually won in court. SFK’s leadership was not very savvy, as evidenced by their complete futility, on my project. The loggers I had were exceptional, and usually, roadside hazard tree projects often look quite messy, due to limitations on directional felling. Maybe I will do a post with pictures of their work.

        • Why not? This appears to be round two of the same (Earth Island vs. Pengilly) bout. It’s hard to believe it’s been 7 years since the last time we did this. Definitely a walk down memory lane.

  5. In 2003, as part of the so-called “Healthy Forest Initiative” the Bush Administration issued a rule change for the use of Categorical Exclusions (CE’s) that allowed the following types of logging projects to go forward without proper environmental analysis and without the citizen appeals process. The Bush Administration’s rationale was that the following types of tree cutting projects are routine and never, ever cause any adverse impacts. Keep in mind that in the late 1980s, the Forest Service limited the size of CE timber sales to 10 acres.

    • CE for Fuel Reduction that allowed 1,000 acre logging projects, also up to 4,500 acres for prescribed burning projects

    • CE for Timber Harvest that allowed logging of live trees over 70 acres and post-fire salvage logging up to 250 acres.

    What we witnessed here in the Northern Rockies immediately following 2003 was a huge increase in the use of CE’s to get the timber volume out as part of the timber sale program. I’d have to go back and check our records, but at one point I believe we documented that the Lolo National Forest had used CE’s for nearly 20 different timber sales during the first few years that the new CE’s rules went into effect. Some of those CE’s projects from the Lolo NF (and also the Bitterroot NF) can be found here: http://www.nativeforest.org/comments/index.htm.

    It seems to me that Larry, Derek and Sharon are spreading the notion that the Forest Service never really uses CE’s for timber sales and they only use CE’s to improve a hiking trail, etc. This is just not true. From 2003 until about 2007, CE’s represented a significant part of the federal timber sale program here in the Northern Rockies. Sure, the Forest Service may have not been as aggressive using CE’s over the past few years, but that’s largely because every time CE’s went to court the federal court system ruled against the Forest Service’s CE program and the agency rightfully saw the writing on the wall.

    Oh, and speaking of Categorical Exclusions (CE’s)….There once was a place called the Gulf of Mexico, a company called BP and a oil well called Deepwater Horizon….Anyone remember that one?

    U.S. exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico drilling from environmental impact study
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/04/AR2010050404118.html

    SNIP: “The Interior Department exempted BP’s calamitous Gulf of Mexico drilling operation from a detailed environmental impact analysis last year, according to government documents, after three reviews of the area concluded that a massive oil spill was unlikely. The decision by the department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) to give BP’s lease at Deepwater Horizon a ‘categorical exclusion’ from the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on April 6, 2009 — and BP’s lobbying efforts just 11 days before the explosion to expand those exemptions — show that neither federal regulators nor the company anticipated an accident of the scale of the one unfolding in the gulf.”

    Why was the Deepwater Horizon given a Categorical Exclusion?
    http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2010/05/20/why-was-the-deepwater-horizon-given-a-categorical-exclusion/

    • We didn’t need to use CE’s in California, since we already had boilerplate EA’s for fuels reduction projects, which followed NEPA. Thinning projects here have always been about fuels reductions, instead of timber volumes. Thinning projects here were, by default, always run through formal NEPA. We recognized that abuse of the CE’s would be challenged in courts, and didn’t want to rely on that shaky loophole.

      However, the eco-groups know that salvage projects have a distinct “shelf life”, and that delays and blockages impact the economics of such projects. Some CE’s sought to bring those small dead trees to market before they go bad. In essence, not harvesting trees between 10-16″ results in worse flammable conditions, and future impacts to a recovering site.

      • To say that cutting trees has “no adverse effect” is meaningless. It’s that kind of attitude that has lead to a lot of the natural imbalances in our forests. It’s it interesting that the forests that are the healthiest and which attract the most people and attention are ones that haven’t been cut, like the Smokeys, Porcupine Mts., Lilly-Cornett, Beall Woods, Yosemite, Sequoia, etc etc. Nature apparently has done an excellent job in developing those forests.

        • You might be surprised to learn that much of what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was logged and some of it farmed before it became a National Park. These practices were in fact very damaging and the park was created to stop the damage.

          I encourage you to take a look first hand at the restoration projects occurring today on national forests such as the Ouachita in Arkansas before you decide that “industrial” practices such as commercial thinning are causing damage.

            • Some exerpts from http://www.ohranger.com/smoky-mountains/history-great-smoky

              “Evidence of human habitation here goes back at least 11,000 years.”

              “Logging began slowly, but by the time it ran its course, it had radically changed the land and the life of the people. Timber, of course, was vital to the early pioneers. They used it for homes, furniture, fences and fuel. They only began cutting it for cash in the mid-19th century. This had little noticeable effect on the forest, however, because men and animals could only carry so much.”

              “Not so by the turn of the century. Technological advances and the eastern United States’ need for lumber nearly eliminated all the southern Appalachian forests. Railroads were the key to the companies’ large-scale logging operations. Railroad tracks reaching deep into the mountains made the timber readily available. Steam-powered equipment such as skidders and log loaders also contributed to cost-effective tree removal.”

              “Some 15 company towns were constructed in what is now the park, along with a like number of sawmills. Mountain people who had once plowed fields and slopped hogs began to cut trees and saw logs for a living, abandoning their farms. They were attracted to logging by the promise of security and the stability of a steady paycheck.”

              “Their security was short-lived, however. By the 1930s, the lumber companies had logged all but the most inaccessible areas and were casting their sights to richer pickings out West. Some of the mountain people returned to farming while others left to seek jobs in mines, textile mills and automobile factories.”

              “Lumber companies were bought out in agreements that phased out operations over several years and some people living within the proposed park boundaries were allowed lifetime residency rights. Most people moved, and consequently were paid more for their land. On June 15, 1934, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was officially established, preserving the land for generations to come.”

              BTW “High in virgin attributes” is not the same as “virgin”. Much of what looks “virgin” in the East has been managed by American Indians and later Europeans. The cut-and-run clear-cutting that occurred here was devastating at the time. The creation of the park protected an area that today has incredible biodiversity and scenic values. It would be misleading to characterize it as “virgin” however.

              • Jim, Your response was a big yawn. Of course there was lots of logging in the apps. But not so much (although some) in what is now the park. Sounds like you haven’t been there. It’s not the areas that were logged with steam machines that are now the most popular in the park – it’s the ones with the huge trees like Chimney tops and Albrights Grove.

                Apparently you haven’t read the document the park service prepared when it acquired the park on the conditions of the lands. The park happens to be a favorite place of mine. The notion that native americans “managed” the land and that somehow is at all akin to what western culture has done is absurd.

                The fact remains, and it is indisputable, that the most popular and awesome forests are the ones that haven’t been cut across the board. And folks like you find that frustrating and somehow try to twist that truth – but it can’t be twisted. It is what it is.

                • People often describe Lake Tahoe as “pristine”, without realizing that some of the forests were clearcut, right down to the water’s edge. This fact still doesn’t discount the fact that “the Jewel of the Sierra” is worth restoring. Also, about half of the true firs there died during the bark beetle infestation during 1989-1993, as well as a large amount of pines. Serious amounts of those dead trees have fallen over but, show no sign of “turning into topsoil”. Indeed, fuels don’t rot much in the Sierra Nevada, waiting, instead, for the next inevitable wildfire. I was a lookout there, for two years, and counted 30 fires during those wet years. None of this leads people to say that Lake Tahoe was “destroyed by logging”. Today, people in the know fear that “unmanagement” will lead to accelerated erosion, reducing the lake’s famed clarity.

                  I, too, have been to Asheville, NC and the Park. Most of the terrain there was too extreme for much logging but, other parts were surely logged in the distant past. It also doesn’t look like those areas had the logger’s favorite trees. I agree with Jim’s description and point of view. Mark, you seem to be against the thinning projects within the old, recovering cotton fields. Of course, they planted them rather thickly, and with less-preferred species (loblolly). It is unclear what should be done in the name of “restoration” but, I’m happy that work is actually getting done, down there.

                • You’re right that the higher, less accessible elevations of the park were mostly not logged. I haven’t read the document that you cite but I have been to the park quite a few times. I never meant to equate the sort of management practiced by pre-European inhabitants with what came later, just wanted to point out that people have been having an impact on Eastern ecosystems for a long time. I don’t know which forests are the most popular, but according to Wikipedia “Cades Cove is an isolated valley located in the Tennessee section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, USA. The valley was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. Today Cades Cove is the single most popular destination for visitors to the park, attracting over two million visitors a year, due to its well preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and abundant display of wildlife.” I don’t know how Albrights Cove compares.

                  I guess “awesomeness” is in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I much prefer places with big trees and fewer people to places such as Cades Cove, but I may be in a minority. My experience in other parks such as Yosemite and Yellowstone is that the vast majority of visitors rarely get more than 50 yards from the paved roads. As and ecologist, I see beauty not just in big trees, but in a place’s ecological values, which may not be apparent to a casual viewer but have an elegance and beauty of their own. Consequently, I like to see healthy ecosystems left alone unless the absence of disturbance (e.g.fire) will lead to degradation. I also like to see unhealthy ecosystems restored through appropriate management actions which may include the cutting of trees, prescribed fire, or herbicide control of invasive plants.

                  • Cades Cove is a cultural attraction. Supposedly the oldest stand in the Smokeys is Albright’s Grove – which is a nearly 10 miles hike in and out – up the mountain to get there. The most beautiful silverbell trees are up there. WOW!

                    Now, let me address “restoration” briefly: Restore to what? April 11, 1767 at 2:33 am? The whole premise is based on this kind of faulty assumption. And then, if an area has been so disturbed that it needs “restoration” then likely, as is the case in this part of the country, actual physical aspects of the environment that were there back at the arbitrary time that you are choosing to “restore” to are missing.

                    An example: Once Max Hutchison, who lead the Illinois Natural Areas inventory – the first in the nation back several decades ago – was working on “restoration” of the Cache River refuge. They were trying to figure out what acquired row crop fields that were in the bottomlands should have planted in them. There were some nearby areas with similar landscape that had old forest on it, and they took soil samples from both places, only to find that whole layers of soil were missing from the row crop field. How do you restore what is missing?

                    You can’t – you have to let the environment react to the changing conditions – and you can’t do that if you keep trying to manipulate it. You need to read Odum and the science of ecological succession – which finds that if nature is allowed to take it’s course unimpeded, that it will gradually move to a more and more stable environment. A study written by about dozen researchers mostly from the northwest has found that botanists and other scientists routinely fail to consider ecological succession in their analysis.

                    The climate is different, the population distribution of critters on earth (including us) is much different, the physical make up (such as the growth of cities around the world) is different – the idea that you can look back to an arbitrary point in time and recreate some kind of environment that matches that which then becomes the “correct” environment for a particular place is an absurd notion in my opinion. It’s just an excuse to do something – makework – which is a lot of what the forest service does in order to keep their budgets flowing.

                    • “which finds that if nature is allowed to take it’s course unimpeded, that it will gradually move to a more and more stable environment.”

                      Like the Biscuit, the Wallow, the Heyman, the McNally, the Rabbit Creek, the Rodeo-Chedeski and other firestorms, eh? Gradual?!?! Natural?!? Stable?!? We don’t have 500 years to wait for our public lands to be “restored” by doing nothing. The idea of ecological succession was “overwritten” by Indian cultures, throughout most of our forests. Their landscapes were a LOT more stable than today’s “unnatural” forests, which you want to “preserve”. I contend we can manage forests back into more stable and healthy forests, which increase human survival and prosperity, while providing for enhanced wildlife habitats.

                      Once again, Mark, you are ignoring the present, while pushing for “humanless forests”, the most “unnatural” of forests of all!!!

                    • Larry, At least you admit that the forest could restore itself in 500 years. The earth has the time. The notion that we “don’t have the time” to wait is ridiculous. Time is perpetual and eternal. And ultimately, it will be nature that shapes the forests long after humans have become either extinct or a minor part of the ecology.

                      And this notion that somehow a few individuals know exactly what to do to make our forests perfect is one that I simply can’t accept. It isn’t supported by history.

        • Apparently, you haven’t been to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. American Indians had VERY significant roles in shaping those forests. Additionally, logging did, indeed, happen in those parks. I have a railroad spike from one of the many railroad grades within Yosemite. Preservationists are so very fond of using the past to block the future. You won’t even give foresters and Forest Service “Ologists” a chance to even EARN trust. Pretending that wildfires are “natural and beneficial” is the bread and butter of today’s opposition to active forest management. Labeling all foresters as evil, destructive people hurts your cause. Doing nothing, while rural residents suffer the intense impacts, isn’t very human. I only ask that the Forest Service be judged by science, and not by irrational emotion about now-dead foresters, who did “bad things” during the last century.

          • Won’t give the FS a chance? Hah! I live in about as rural an environment as you can get. The Forest Service and us have a common land boundary and we have lived with them for going on 32 years now. It’s because of that long experience that I have developed the mistrust. It’s because of the repeated bad decisions, false assumptions, bad results, misspent money and coverups that I don’t have faith in the forest service.

            As far as “professional foresters” go, I know a few that are enlightened, such as former dean of the forestry school at Southern Illinois University, Dr. Paul Yambert. But vast majority have little clue of the complexities of the ecosystem, are arrogant and condescending, and are wrong.

            I could sit here and write for hours about huge mistakes that the forest service has and is making that have caused everything from ugliness to extirpations to invasive species outbreaks. But I would just get depressed, so I’ll leave it at that. We need to get the “professional foresters” out of public land management in my opinion, and the sooner the better.

            • Yep, the REAL target of the preservationists is forestry, itself. Yep, blame the past to block the future without regard to the unintended consequences of eliminating science from our forests, through extreme prejudice and namecalling. Yep, just call ALL Forest Service people “forest rapers” and “tree murderers”, while embracing high-intensity wildfires. Yep, 33,000 square miles of dead forests simply isn’t enough to convince people that we have a problem. Yep, doing nothing is the proper way to use science, in the face of climate change, bark beetles, arsonists, auto accidents, railway fires, barred owls, loss of cultural resources, illegal activities in our forests, loss of water quality and quantity, loss of rare and endangered habitats, loss of botanical sites, rural economic disaster, rural child poverty, closed schools, deteriorating roads, closed hospitals and clinics in rural areas, higher rural crime rates, loss of rural emergency services, and even human dignity (one can only be truly humble if they are penniless) through a lack of employment. All in the name of removing forestry from our public forests. Who knew that all those PHD’s and scientists have been wrong for so long? Now, we can stop “clearcutting our Roadless Areas” and “destroying wilderness”, if only we could remove all foresters from public forests..

              Let’s take it a step further and turn all our farms back to idle grasslands and forest. Turn those combines and farm tractors into abstract art sculptures, putting shovels and rakes back into the hands of farmers, to feed just their own families. Yep, let’s import everything we need from places that have no environmental rules and protections, at great costs in energy, jobs and lives. It’s all so simple now, Mark. Thanks for the solution to all our forest problems, bud!

              • Larry, Calm down. First, most of what you attribute to me I didn’t state at all. And as far as the agency doing it’s job in regard to trail maintenance, law enforcement, campground administration – things that actually benefit the public directly – I support those things. In fact, we have a very good relationship with the FS law enforcement officers on the Shawnee, and have literally gone to DC to lobby for more resources for them.

                What I’m talking about is vegetation management. I am against most of that and think it is a waste of time and environmentally damaging. In the eastern forests, there is simply not a need to spend public money on vegetation management for the most part. It is makework, and apparently you must be benefitting financially from it to get so upset.

                • In addition, there is private land on which “forestry” can be practiced. In the eastern US that is overwhelmingly the majority of the forest land base. But even on that land, most of the so-called “forestry” is poor and based strictly on trying to squeeze more money out of the land that it can reasonably give.

                  • Since Lewis and Clark didn’t see tens of millions of acres of dead forests, why is that desirable for today? Why is inaction a good thing? I stand by the need to be proactive, and I have said my piece, lining out all the problems with letting “whatever” happens, happen, for good, bad or disastrous. Few people would demand such horrific outcomes, in the name of “environmental protections”. It’s time to let other chime in on your fantasies, Mark.

        • I think the highest visitor use of the national forests is the White River; perhaps that’s just an R-2 conceit. Not clear to me that visitor use is correlated with lack of past cutting. Probably related to proximity to urban areas or ski resorts.

  6. Larry, You actually do a pretty good job of making our case for us.

    You state, “We didn’t need to use CE’s in California, since we already had boilerplate EA’s for fuels reduction projects, which followed NEPA.”

    I agree with you, but that’s also the case in the Northern Rockies, Southern Rockies, Upper Great Lakes, Northeast, Southeast, etc…The fact of the matter is that the Forest Service could always chose to use a simple EA for fuel reduction projects or smaller timber sales.

    You also said, “We recognized that abuse of the CE’s would be challenged in courts, and didn’t want to rely on that shaky loophole.”

    Again, I agree with you. The abuse of CE’s by the Forest Service would be challenged in court and has been challenged in court. That’s what this lawsuit is about. Therefore, it’s sort of surprising that you don’t support the lawsuit.

    Finally, the reason the Forest Service hasn’t been using CE’s for timber sales recently as much as they did during the period 2003 to 2007 is exactly because the USFS realized the CE’s for timber sales were a “shaky loophole” just like you said.

    • I call em as I see em. However, Matt, I do seem to remember you trumpeting HFRA as reducing litigation, as intended, in your neck of the woods. Changing your tune, yet again?!?!

  7. Larry, WTH are you talking about? Where have I ever trumpeted the Healthy Forest Restoration Act in any way, shape or form? I also rather enjoy your propensity for avoiding the substance of the issue. Dance, Foto, dance! Fact is, EA’s for timber sales or fuel reduction projects are allowed outside of California’s borders too. Jeez….

    • I could search for it, on this site but, I’m sure others have seen your remarks, too, when discussing the GAO report. I contend that YOU are the one who is dancing, bringing the BP issue into talks about forests. I’m not saying that CE’s are without problems but, we NEED action, and the preservationists have their “anti-CE’s”, in the form of some misguided belief in a “do no harm” Hippocratic Forest Oath. Short term impacts can be localized and mitigated. Longterm impacts, like catastrophic wildfires, cause intense damages in places where timber projects never go. We’re in an emergency situation, and losing habitats every single year. Do you find it hard to ignore the impacts, when it is right in the public’s face?!?

      I never was a very good dancer but, your disco moves are quite passe, Matt.

  8. Mark said, “Larry, At least you admit that the forest could restore itself in 500 years.”

    I forgot to qualify my statement, requiring that humans be eradicated from said forests. Yep, if only we could unnaturally eliminate all humans (and their impacts) from forests, it would take as long as 500 years to “restore” such humanless forests, as existed before the dawn of man. One problem with that is that no one knows what those forests “should” look like, since no one was there.

  9. Pingback: Lawsuit filed against CE logging in IRA’s, WSA’s, RNA’s and Old-Growth « A New Century of Forest Planning

  10. Pingback: Forest Service withdraws controversial CE Decision Memo « A New Century of Forest Planning

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