Whether a project would have helped.
Here is a link to the article.
Below are some excerpts.
But Stewart, a participant in the thinning project from its inception in 2008, said Tuesday the group’s appeal relied on hazy technical details that nobody had a specific answer to. The reason the reversal was upheld was that there was not enough historic data for the area to establish natural conditions and allow the team to speak from a position of expertise, he said.
“It’s a lot about interpretation,” he said. “There’s not a set template for describing the effects of old growth as there is for goshawks and other endangered species. (The project) got turned back, more or less saying we did not analyze the effects enough to make a professional recommendation for treatment.”
Regulations and rulings clearly define what is required to maintain habitat for endangered species, but decisions on old growth typically relied on site-specific data, though the plan did have goals to encourage old growth, loosely defined as multi-age tree stands, to expand, he said.
Issues with erosion brought up by the environmental groups also were based on a lack of historical data, he said.
“We were in the process of beefing those (reports) up, gathering data on the soil and for the old growth to show a more in-depth analysis,” he said. “We expected to do treatments this year. To have it appealed put it on hold, and we were expecting a new decision by the end of this fiscal year, in September.”
With the new information, Stewart said the project was “at the door, waiting to go,” requiring no changes from the original draft. “We were getting more justification for what we had already proposed.”
Without an appeal, thinning treatments would have begun possibly as soon as spring of this year, continuing through the summer, he said. Timber contracts would have been issued during autumn, though few areas would be worth the expense of logging, he added.
It sounds like another project that is not about “logging” in the sense of the dictionary definition.
Lininger said that the thinning project would have harmed Bonito Lake by causing sediment to fall into the lake from the slopes where temporary roads were to have been cut.
Bird added that with the shift in typical conditions in the Southwest to a dryer, drought-ridden landscape, he questioned whether thinning would be effective, or feasible in the backcountry.
“The bottom line is that you can fire-proof a community, but you can’t fire-proof a forest,” he said.
According to the Wild Earth Guardian’s website, the group seeks to “transcend this paradigm of fear-driven fire policy,” and protect communities with “common-sense safety measures and financial incentives from state and federal governments.”
“Our forests were born of fire and, just as rainforests need rain, forests need fire’s rejuvenating properties to perpetuate and thrive,” the website states.
Specific directives to maintain old growth and the “largest, healthy green trees” per acre were included in the thinning plan, though the minimum number of trees could dip if there was an excess of mistletoe infesting the trees. Base levels of mistletoe would be maintained, according to the report.
A diverse landscape of mixed meadows and both light and heavy tree stands to “reduce crown fire potential,” “protect and enhance the watershed” and increase biodiversity and habitat was prescribed for the area, according to the report.
The groups also pushed for a 16-inch cap on tree removal, which was taken “under consideration” by Robert Trujillo, supervisor for the Lincoln National Forest.
“It’s hard to put a dollar cost on (appeals), because it’s people’s time,” Stewart said. “I think the cost is, more or less, what else could (Forest Service workers) be working on aside from this appeal?”
He added that thinning projects already were hampered by cost-cutting concerns. Hand crews cost upwards to $1,200 per acre, mechanical thinning ran at about $300 per acre and controlled burns typically cost $90 per acre, but could only be applied in areas without a significant concentration of ladder fuels, he said.
“(Thinning) has to take a more holistic approach, and I have to do this across the entire forest,” he said. “The Bonito (project), to me, was almost heartbreaking. We knew it was going to be important, we knew it was a municipal watershed for Alamogordo and we knew that if there was a fire, it was going to be devastating. And we got it, unfortunately.
Note from Sharon: I looked for a copy of the EIS or EA for this project on this site but couldn’t find it. I did look at the list of projects for the forest and noticed a bunch of CE’s and not many vegetation management projects. That adds to our database of “what projects do people use CE’s for, and is it good public policy to require notice comment and appeal for all CEs?”
Also, having spent most of my career working in western pine forests, it’s hard for me to believe that any FS project or a cumulative impact of FS projects could result in a dearth of mistletoe. Just sayin’