Feds oppose environmental group’s request for $1.4 million in legal fees

Here’s the link…

Below are a couple of excerpts..

The federal government is opposing an environmental group’s request for nearly $1.4 million in attorney fees stemming from a lawsuit over grazing in eastern Oregon.
The request is “prodigious” and “excessive” because the environmentalists have exaggerated their victories and inflated the amount of time they spent on the lawsuit, according to the government.
The Oregon Natural Desert Association challenged cattle grazing in the Malheur National Forest, claiming the practice was harming threatened steelhead.
Last year, ONDA reached a settlement with the U.S. Forest Service in which the agency admitted the group won several points of law during nearly a decade of litigation.
The group is now seeking about $1.4 million in compensation under federal laws that allow plaintiffs to recover their costs when they succeed in certain types of lawsuits against the government.

Maybe someone who understands this can help…
OK, so I get why their expenses are involved, but how does “exaggerating their victories” affect the taxpayer bottom line? Is it that if they win 1 of 3 counts, they get 1/3 of their expenses paid?

And

According to a litigation expert with the Forest Service, ONDA also wants to bill the government at premium rates for “work that does not require specific environmental expertise,” like scheduling.
For example, Becker seeks $315-$350 per hour for duties for which attorneys usually receive about $170-$185 per hour under federal law, the government said.
A Capital Press call seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Ranchers who were involved in the litigation have already settled their claims for attorney fees with the government. Last year, the government agreed to pay the ranchers $120,000 in attorney fees and costs.
A judge agreed that the federal government should have included them in the consultation process that determined how grazing affected protected species.

Again, there must be a story as to why the grazing folks were left out of the consultation process. I’m sure some random FS person didn’t wake up one morning and say, “hey, I know we should include them, but let’s leave them out!”

62 Comments

  1. Hmmm. Enviro lawyers want US taxpayers to give them $1,400,000 because of a claim that grazing somehow affects steelhead populations in eastern Oregon. Meantime, the actual experts on grazing are not allowed to participate in the discussion and their lawyers only need $120,000 from taxpayers.

    What a racket. Great for lawyers and not so good for cattlemen, people who eat cheeseburgers, and most other taxpayers, too.

    I’d be curious about how such a relationship was even established in the first place (fish vs. cattle), what “science” may or may not have been involved in the decision, and how this modern form of ambulance chasing benefits US citizens, steelhead, or anything else not a lawyer or an opportunistic “non-profit.”

    When, and how, does this charade come to an end?

    • Bob,

      With all due respect: it sounds like you don’t know anything about the case other than what you read in a snippit from a news article that doesn’t capture the enviros’ side of the story. It hardly seems appropriate to pass judgment with such little knowledge of the topic.

      As to your “ambulance-chasing” comments: I humbly suggest you take a look at the “Recommended Comment Considerations” on the right.

  2. I will agree with John and say that Bob’s characterization of things leaves a lot of the facts on the floor. Anyway, if Bob really wants to go after a “charade” and a taxpayer “racket” how about the entire federal grazing program on public lands?

    Bob, do you really think for one second that those (mainly) well-to-do western ranchers really aren’t sticking it to the US Taxpayers and public lands ecology day-after-day with their hoofed locust running wild on our public lands at $1.35 per animal unit month?

    • Matthew- You know it’s interesting the different ways you could look at this…
      Grazing is a traditional use of the land. Running cattle in the summer in the mountains is part of folks’ operations and help them maintain a business that provides food for people in about the only way that high and dry places can provide local food.

      You could argue that campers and hikers are often well to do and leave imprints on the landscape (often “running wild” and federal taxpayers don’t even get $1.35 per person month. Or hunters.. or…fishers or …

      I don’t know where you get information about “well- to-do” ness, but I guess to be fair you would have to compare that to other users of the land.

  3. Sharon, When I mentioned that many western ranchers are “well-to-do” I was thinking not only in terms of economics, land-ownership, etc, but also in terms of being politically well-to-do.

    An extremely disproportionate number of ranchers hold public office on the federal, state and county/local level…thereby helping to make these large, public land ranching outfits a very politically (and economically) formidable force. Montana is a great example, but I’m sure there are other examples out west.

    I’m also not sure you can compare a private ranching corporation receiving a sweetheart deal of being able to run a cow/calf on the taxpayers public land at $1.35 per animal unit month with taxpayers who happen to hike or hunt or fish on public lands. Those are not commercial, money-making activities that the hiker, etc are engaged in, so I think that’s a bit apples to oranges there.

  4. First, if my comments reflected too much snark or hype, I apologize. Yes, I was only responding to the snippet — and hundreds of very similar snippets to it that I have read over the past 30+ years. And, yes, I do think this is a racket that has had a debilitating effect on our forests, grasslands, rural communities, and wildlife.

    So far as leaving “facts” on the floor — what “facts?” This all appears pretty cut-and-dried after a few decades of this stuff (next — Crater Lake logging; then, murrelets again; then wolves, then . . . Global Warming?). Were the dollar figures wrong? The basis for the suit? That’s what I was commenting on. Most of the relevant stuff — as almost always — is hidden away somewhere and not open to consideration or discussion. What were these decisions based on? More parsing of regulatory language? Actual steelhead deaths? What?

    Matthew, are you arguing that ranchers — and the people that work for them, the businesses that they help support, and millions of cheeseburger eaters — are any more “well-to-do” than the legal teams that have taken over management decisions on our nation’s forests? Or that the owls, trees, fish, and people they are striving to “protect” are any better off for all of the $billions and decades spent arguing their “needs” in US courts? I’d like to see any evidence in that regard.

    My opinion remains the same — forest and wildlife management should be (for the most part) left to experts, not self-anointed protectionists and their legal teams. This industry didn’t exist when I was a young adult working in the woods to support my family, and I really can’t see what good it has accomplished through the years. And I can see a lot of ruined forests, dead animals, and and crippled rural economies in their wake.

  5. It would be QUITE interesting to see an itemized list of costs that the lawyers want refunded. The rate should be set at the level of the cheapest lawyer. If a group wants to pay more, for a better one, they have to pay the rest. All refunds should require itemized costs, with full documentation.

    • Larry, why should the government get to pay market rates and the public have to accept less than market rates? try thinking it through. the idea of the “equal” access to justice act is to level the playing field so small corporations and small non-profits face the US DOJ on more equal terms.

      Bob Z, The “experts” are fallible. Remember when the forest experts ruled the roost, but placed too much emphasis on “efficiency” and we ended up with waaay too many clearcuts, resulting in endangered species, and polluted streams, and public outrage. There have to be accountability – checks and balances. EAJA is part of that.

      • Tree: Actually I remember very well the period of time from the 1950s to the late 1980s in which forest management was left to foresters — and they did great. Jobs, homes, recreation, clean water — you name it, and they did it. Small communities blossomed, schools benefited, deer and fish were everywhere, campgrounds were great places for families to spend the weekend, and so on.

        That’s how I remember it — and I have the pictures to prove it. As an historian, I can say that process probably started at the turn of the century or before, with Pinchot and Rooseveldt and other great “conservationists” of that time. Nearly a century of beautiful, highly productive forest and grasslands with great and diverse wildlife populations.

        Then NEPA, EPA, ESA, NFMA and a host of other acronyms began taking everyone to court. Yes, mistakes were being made, but we’re people, dammit, and that’s how we learn. Bald eagles, American bison, and condors have been brought back from a point nearing extinction. Logging and milling methods have improved dramatically. This was the work of concerned citizens, scientists, and engineers — not civil disobedience and court decisions.

        Since the 1980s: Yellowstone, Silver Complex, Biscuit, B&B, etc., etc., and now we have a real mess on our hands. Maybe akin to the 1880s, if we’re looking back and being objective.

        Yes, Tree, experts ARE “fallible” — but so are policies, regulations, politicians, “Eco-warriors,” lawyers, and well-intentioned inexperienced citizens. I just know who I’d rather have managing our nation’s resources — and who has (by far) the best track record for doing so.

        Not sure how many market-driven clearcuts are/were “too many,” but that is an easy to resolve problem — if it really is one. The stuff about polluted streams and endangered wildlife are other topics with similar societal values at their basis. I really don’t think the “public” is “outraged” — I think the far greater problem is that it remains ignorant. They really don’t seem to understand where their homes, fuel, food, clean water, and recreational opportunities come from — and it is NOT from the courts or lawyers.

        That’s my perspective. Way different from yours.

          • John: That is not the reason NFMA was adopted. And my point was that — in my opinion — we were doing a far better job of managing our nation’s resources then than we are doing now. Plus, in the process, I think the American public has been disenfranchised by the environmental activists and their legal teams.

            I’m not too sure Bolle would be impressed with the state of our forests today, or the methods by which they are being managed. I’m not seeing public involvement, I’m seeing a hostile takeover, engineered through the courts.

            So far as taking reading advice from an anonymous source:

            1) I was in my 20s and running a reforestation business when the Bolle Report came out, and remember it fairly well (mostly in regards to terracing, which was an unusual practice at the time);

            2) When I click on “John” I get the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, with off-the-grid John Meyer as lead attorney. If you’re that John, I can see why we have differing perspectives on this issue. I respect your lifestyle choice, but think your organization’s “victories” only have a positive effect on a very small part of our population — and a very negative effect on many of the rest of us.

            • Type in the word “Bolle” in the search engine at the top right of this page. UM Professor Martin Nie’s blog post comes up. Here is one relevant excerpt.

              The “Bolle Report,” as it became known, criticized the
              Bitterroot’s “overriding concern for sawtimber production”
              from an environmental, economic, organizational, and
              democratic standpoint. Other multiple uses and resource
              values were not given enough serious consideration
              according to the Report: “In a federal agency which
              measures success primarily by the quantity of timber
              produced weekly, monthly and annually, the staff of the
              [BNF] finds itself unable to change its course, to give
              anything but token recognition to related values, or to
              involve most of the local public in any way but as
              antagonists.” The subculture of forestry, it seemed to the
              Committee, was out of step with shifting American values
              and goals. Though professional dogma was partly to
              blame, the Bolle Report also found that “[t]he heavy timber
              orientation is built in by legislative action and control, by
              executive direction and by budgetary restriction.” The
              Report also focused on the economic irrationality of
              clearcutting and terracing on the Bitterroot, and the serious
              lack of democratic participation in forest management.

              The American public has not been disenfranchised by enviros challenging less than 1% of all timber sales in court. They are upset that the government can’t seem to follow their own laws.

              I appreciate you mentioning my organization’s victories–but how do our wins pertain to fees being sought on a grazing case in Oregon?

              • Are you the same John that used to be linked to the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, or just one more nameless troll? And yes, “John,” I know how to use Google and have been familiar with the Bolle Report since it first made the news about 40 years ago. And please note that I used quotation marks when I referred to your organization’s “victories” — because I was quoting from the website that used to be linked to “John.” Nothing like an anonymous man with the strength of his convictions.

                • Bob, take a damn chill pill, OK? John is not a “nameless troll” or an “anonymous man” on this blog and never has been….unlike some of the other regular commenters. For you to call him a “nameless troll” and “anonymous man” and then also about his organization, etc tells me you know full well who he is and what group he is with. Senseless and childish behavior there Bob. Thumb down all you want…..

                  • Matt: No, I really don’t know who “John” is, and he certainly isn’t the only poster to use that name. There are two “Johns” responding to this post — one linked to the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center (which has an Executive Director named John), and one with no link at all. Still don’t have ESP, and still don’t like responding to lecturing, unidentified posters who are somehow offended by terms such as “ambulance chasers.” Yes, I can put 2 and 2 together, but I still can’t put 2 and ? together. And neither can anyone else who is new to this blog. Most of us use our real names, just like Letters to the Editors in the newspapers, or have links that clearly identify who we are. “John” does not. Take your own damn chill pill — and let “John” speak for himself, whoever he is.

                  • Thanks, John: I appreciate the clarification. Once “spotted skunk” jumped into the fray at the same time as Cottonwood John lost his link, I was beginning to lose interest in continuing the discussion. So — just to be clear — you’re the John that is Executive Director of Cottonwood Environmental Law, and I can stop using quotes around your name?

                    This is a little more confusing than Matt seems to think. Both my father and grandfather were named John, and there’s hundreds of you guys in the city newspapers, always getting arrested. My concern was the abrupt loss of an identifying link in your posts. So we’re back to being polar opposites on the litigation issue? I’m guessing there’s not a lot of middle ground between us, but it’s always a good set-up for a debate; which is a key reason I enjoy posting to this blog — lot’s of differing perspectives.

              • Yes, we CAN blame the distant past for their “eco-sins” but, that should not block all future projects, which do include non-timber values in their plans. With nearly 100% of salvage sales being litigated, are those the “1% of all timber sales…”??

                By all means, show us where the Bitterroot is still terracing and clearcutting, please.

                • Larry, I’m pretty sure nobody is saying that the Bitterroot NF is still using bulldozers to terrace entire mountain sides. However, as a frequent hunter, hiker, fisher, morel picker and user of the BNF, I can tell you 100% for certain that those 1960s to early 1970s era terraces on the BNF are still there, still causing all the same problems.

                • Sorry to trouble you Larry, but can you please provide evidence that “nearly 100% of [national forest] salvage logging sales are litigated?” Thank you, I ask because I sincerely doubt the accuracy of your statement and we should all strive for having conversations and debates bracketed by reality.

                  • I challenge YOU to find recent salvage sales that HAVEN’T been litigated, Matt! I have worked on many projects over the last two decades, and every one of them were litigated and/or appealed. These include some of the largest and most damaging of wildfires between 1990 and 2008. The Biscuit Fire and McNally Fire were only cutting dead trees, yet they were still litigated. Clearly another example of “Do No Harm”, while ignoring (and preserving) future impacts.

                    • Larry, this is the problem I have with trying to have an adult debate with you about these issues. You repeatedly toss crap out here on this blog as if it’s fact, but then when pressed for evidence or supporting materials, you always seem to either fall way short or change the subject.

                      You claimed here that “nearly 100% of [national forest] salvage logging sales are litigated.” I asked you for evidence and you can’t provide any.

                      If you want me now to do your own homework and research because either you are caught spreading false information or too lazy to do it, fine.

                      For the record, the Lolo NF has had one timber sale lawsuit in the past 6 plus years. During that time there have been numerous post-fire and post-insect salvage logging sales on that forest. The Bitterroot NF has had only 3 timber sale lawsuits in the past 13 plus years and during that time there have been numerous post-fire and post-insect salvage logging sales on that forest.

                      Another example is the way you characterize the Biscuit Fire logging project. You claim, “The Biscuit Fire were only cutting dead trees, yet they were still litigated.”

                      Not only is the “only cutting dead trees” false, but you completely ignore the nature of the very real substantive issues, which lead to the Biscuit logging project going to court.

                      For example, the truth is that the Biscuit “recovery” plan called for logging 370 million board feet of trees from 30 square miles of the Siskiyou National Forest – enough trees to fill 74,000 log trucks lined up for over 600 miles. In addition, that would have been 20 times greater than the annual logging levels on the Siskiyou National Forest during the previous decade.

                      And just consider where the logging was slatted to take place: 19,000 acres of ancient, old-growth forest reserves and pristine roadless wildlands in a forest of global ecological significance.

                      To make matters worse, 90% of all acres proposed for logging are within the watershed of the spectacular National Wild and Scenic Illinois River – a source of clean water for wild salmon, and pride and tourism dollars for local residences and businesses.

                      Of course, ignore these other aspects of the issue all you want Larry. Other Americans – who are equal owners of these public forests – fortunately don’t ignore these other substantive issues so they take actions to hold you and other Forest Service people accountable.

      • I also remember eco-groups fighting against clearcuts (which have been banned here since 1993), using them for fundraising. Yep, they don’t want to say that Region 5 has banned them, preferring to let the public think they are still used. I question those eco-groups ethics, to say the least.

        Also, lawyers just have to win on just ONE issue, to win their windfall. It is QUITE easy to convince a Judge that “more analysis is needed”. It is a lot more difficult to educate a Judge about the extremely complex science and what a human-occupied forest needs. Then, if you add the Judges’ political and emotional bias and you see what we are up against in the legal arena.

        “Level the playing field”?!?!?!?!

          • Of course, if you toss many multiples of rhetoric against the wall, something is likely to stick. For example, just saying that “logging harms goshawks” is often enough to cause Judges to side with them, even if it isn’t true for that particular piece of land. Plaintiffs win, without having to prove the specifics of that project. Indeed, most Judges and lawyers can’t even describe the differences between nesting habitat and foraging habitat.

            Another potential example might be on the Colt Timber Sale. It was ruled that just one aspect (out of all of them) of the project needed more attention. Were the court costs paid to the plaintiffs, just for “winning” that one issue?? I don’t know the answer but, maybe someone else can tell us who “won”.

            Additionally, any new “studies”, funded by plaintiffs to bolster their case, should not be part of their court costs. Chad Hanson did this on my own salvage project, ineffectively sampling hundreds of trees for live cambium. Now, I don’t know if that “study” was part of the court costs when the Ninth Circuit shut us down. However, the “study” was fatally flawed, due to his inept techniques.

            Some people have adopted a kind of “Do No Harm” policy in National Forests. There is harm in every decision made, and some of those folks (including Judges and lawyers) don’t recognize the many forms of “harm”, short term or long term. It is always a trade-off in forest management.

            • EAJA fees are awarded only for the claims plaintiff prevails upon, only for qualifying plaintiffs (as defined in the law), and only when the government’s litigation position was not substantially justified. That last criterion is an important one. Winning is not enough for plaintiffs to be awarded EAJA fees. The court must also find that the issue wasn’t a close call.

              • Andy: Wasn’t the EAJA originally established for minority populations in urban environments to address industrial pollution? One of the complaints I’ve heard is that this program was hijacked by Environmental nonprofits who fashioned their own uses for the program, to the disadvantage of the intended users. Not sure if any of that is accurate, but it seems you might know the answers.

                • My understanding, having looked at the history of EAJA a number of times over the years (when debates like this pop up) is that the US Chamber of Commerce and business groups were actually some of the most vocal, early supporters of EAJA. Apparently, business groups were upset with some of the new laws and regulations coming down from the Feds and business groups were sick and tired of having to fork over big money to battle the Feds and DOJ in federal court. So, business groups looked to “even the playing field.” Ironic, eh?

                    • I have no idea Larry.

                      But the way you even phrase this, “Did any plaintiffs receive any cash from the current Colt Summit project decision” is very much misleading and incorrect with how EAJA even works.

                      Plaintiffs don’t receive cash through EAJA. Sometimes, when a plaintiff(s) prevails against the US Government and DOJ the plaintiff(s) get their attorney fees covered. That’s an important distinction to remember, I would think.

                    • Well, someone must know whether they received “compensation” for their efforts on Colt Summit. Either they did, or they didn’t. Bottom line.

                      Another question about EAJA is whether the plaintiff can recover costs from the lower court’s decision when their appeal wins in a higher court. This situation seems to happen quite often, and a strategy of losing in the district court, then winning in the Circuit Court could reap more “compensation” in keeping their lawyers busy and working. There needs to be consequences for the losing plaintiffs.

                    • Two thoughts:

                      There should be a document somewhere “how EAJA works” that has all these details. When what where and why. Any of our commenters know of such a document? I can also ask around when I go to DC next week.

                      Perhaps, Colt Summit isn’t “over” enough for folks to claim fees.??? Since they issued a new analysis??

            • Once again Larry….I’d pay good money to watch you take the stage and debate Dr. Chad Hanson and his supposed “inept techniques.” He’d mop the floor with you Larry. In fact, I’d even bring the popcorn.

              • Matt: Last December I paid good money to listen to Dr. Hanson (and others) make presentations at the Association for Fire Ecology Congress in Portland, Oregon, where I was also presenting a couple of papers. After listening very closely to what Hanson to say, my money would be on Larry. I’ll bring the root beer. Not sure who would do the mopping.

              • Then WHY would he direct his people to sample for live cambium on dead trees at dbh?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! That goes against the most basic of scientific principles in fire ecology. Of course, he might have been “gaming the system” hoping he would find live cambium where he would expect it to be. Either way, he looks inept, or devious. You choose what his intent was, Matt.

  6. John, as I recall NFMA was passed in 76..I worked in the FS from 79 to 2012 about 32 years. I would hypothesize that an idea formed as reaction to FS activities in the 70’s might not have all the current thinking that would help us move into the 2020-2050s. Scientific information has changed, the economy has changed, the population has changed, what people do in the woods has changed…We didn’t know about climate change, etc.

  7. I’ve worked and lived in and around the Malheur NF since the 80’s. I’ve seen chronic over use go unheeded. As living in cities one used to see 2X4’s and old growth doors,beams what not tossed in the dumpster…we recycle now – Why? because a critical mass of people noticed. We are too used to not valuing what we have and wasting wasting wasting.

    Doing stream surveys – there are areas that the FS range cons continually ignored reports that the riparian vegetation was down to bare soil and a Mullen plant. I was also dismayed to see how many rivers and streams have a road following them and crossing them – causing additional damage and rushing the water fast out of here…okay some but so many for so long? It’s too much.

    Grazing isn’t the only problem but there are areas where it is and has been too much for too long. Bust and Boom happens and usually caused by too much until it isn’t rewarding any more for some. Our way of living has led us increasingly too much. and are we satisfied? Are we fat enough? shall we fight for the spoils?

    We need growth cycles and we need control cycles. “experts”. We are learning. we don’t know as much as we think we do. Air water earth – how can we not care if we notice heavy wasteful use. Most your cheeseburgers are coming from huge feedlots in the mid-west- let’s not go there – would that we kept our individual and collective consumption in order so we could have working sustainable pastoral land to live on. but that is more a doing choice than an opinionating choice… good luck to us or see you on mars!

    and whatever happened to zero population growth?

  8. Sharon,

    Bob said that forest management was “great” from the 1950s to the late 1980s. I disagreed and pointed to the Bolle Report as evidence to the contrary.

    Our longing for the good old days, changes in scientific information, population, and forest uses is largely irrelevant to the topic of whether an organization should be compensated for the ten years they spent working on a lawsuit.

    This thread seems likely to continue devolving unless someone gets more info than just part of a newspaper article.

    • So, John, where could we get more information… is the information public on the fees requested and hours, etc. available to the public? Are there other news stories? Should I write the plaintiffs and ask them for their side of the story?

      • Almost all documents filed in federal court are available on-line to the public through PACER. You have to create an account which is billed the modest per page fee that finances this government website (i.e., user pays). Court orders and decisions are free to download.

        • Thanks Andy..I knew that but it seems so awkward to use. It seems to me if it is a case against the FS , that once the inhouse (federal) folks get copies from Pacer, they should just post them on the web for everyone. In fact they could send me and I would post them on the blog here. That would be “one keystroke for public access.”

    • John: You may be right about the “devolving” bit. “Spotted skunk” just chimed in and now you are misrepresenting my own statements to a third party. Nothing like a bunch of anonymous experts touting their own perceptions as “facts” and presuming to speak on behalf of the American public. Or presuming to understand my own interests and motivations without even bothering to ask. So much for your “humble” suggestions.

      For the record, I don’t “long” for the old days — I just think that forest managers did a far better job then than the courts and lawyers are doing now, and that’s what I said. Something needs to be done about the current mess that’s been created with our nation’s forests the past 20 years and an answer to that conundrum is what I’m truly longing for.

      So far as “changes in scientific information” are concerned, as a forest scientist I am fully aware of that fact and probably don’t need a public reminder from an unidentified lawyer that only uses one name. My discipline is Historical Ecology and my focus is documenting and analyzing changed forest conditions during the past five centuries — and particularly since white discovery and settlement. And no, just because some organization initiates an action that they spend 10 years litigating, I don’t think taxpayers should be stuck with an inflated bill for such unrequested “services.” You and I are at polar opposites in that regard.

      • Bob,

        How is your remembrance of the past different from your ideal vision of the future in terms of forest management? Back then the agency had wide discretion–is that not what you are advocating for now? That is why I thought you were longing for the good old days. I apologize if I was wrong.

        I wasn’t reminding you or anyone else that there have been changes in scientific information. I actually said it was largely irrelevant as to whether the amount of attorney fees in question was appropriate.

        Do you think that if the government is found to have broken the law, the attorneys that worked on the case should be compensated for their time?

        • John: I think it is almost impossible under the regulations of the past 30+ years for the feds NOT to “break the law.” This massive infusion of acronym-laden regulations seem to have very little to do with putting people (other than lawyers) to work, and even less to do with maintaining productive and aesthetically pleasing forests and grasslands and the wildlife populations that inhabit them. “If” the government is found “breaking the law,” then why is it up to “Eco-warriors” and their attorneys to make that decision? And the courts? The new “laws” have failed miserably and the evidence is everywhere you look — whether across the landscape or in our crowded legal dockets. Time to try and patch the boat up before it sinks on all of us. Attorneys and activists, too. That’s my opinion.

  9. Matt said “For example, the truth is that the Biscuit “recovery” plan called for logging 370 million board feet of trees from 30 square miles of the Siskiyou National Forest – enough trees to fill 74,000 log trucks lined up for over 600 miles. In addition, that would have been 20 times greater than the annual logging levels on the Siskiyou National Forest during the previous decade.”

    In reality, as per the GAO report, “For the sales conducted through 2005, purchasers harvested almost 60 million board feet, which is much less than the 367 million board feet proposed for sale in the EIS.” Many of the units I worked on hadn’t been visited by the local staff, and volumes “were grossly over-estimated”. Additionally, the only paint we used was orange, designating leave snags. Also, within the LSR’s, we were directed to mark the largest and “best” snags to be left in place. You may have meant that green hazard trees were cut during the initial hazard tree projects, which weren’t included in the salvage sales. You also accuse the Forest Service of allowing the cutting green trees. There were a few mistakes, including a large fine but, the trees in question were left in place. Trees were cut using a “Designation by Description”, with the requirement being that the trees were dead. Nowhere were green trees cut on purpose.

    Finally, only 4% of the Biscuit Fire was salvaged, and MUCH more acres could have had fuels reduced. In the end, the decision to only harvest dead trees was of mixed value, as there was an intense bark beetle bloom from the multitude of fire-weakened dying trees. There are now large amounts of snags that died after the loggers finished their work.

    • Larry, I was referring to the numbers in the actual Forest Service EIS. You are referring to the numbers that actually ended up being logged. Both are fine to point out, however, the enviros that sued on Biscuit (including our organization) were dealing with the numbers and analysis in the official Forest Service EIS….not the way things ended up playing out years later.

      It’s interesting that you share with us the admission that:

      “Many of the [Biscuit logging] units I worked on hadn’t been visited by the local staff, and volumes “were grossly over-estimated”.”

      Isn’t that a big problem then with how the Forest Service went ahead with an EIS? I mean, if an EIS supposedly does a full and complete job with all the environmental effects analysis through NEPA how in the world can a Forest Service EIS be so out of whack with actual conditions on the ground? Could it be, perhaps, that the USFS’s “grossly over-estimated” timber volumes contained in the EIS were actually one of the major reasons why the timber sale was litigated?

      Also, thank you for confirming that some green trees were logged as part of the Biscuit project. I knew about the big, green “hazard” trees that were cut down, but you also admit that “there were a few mistakes” and green trees were cut down as part of the official Biscuit plan as well. Sure, there might have been a big fine and sure maybe those big, green trees were left in place. But my point is that they were cut down in the first place. Thanks.

      • Matt and Larry: One of the huge problems I had with the Biscuit is that it was a predictable result of the mismanagement of fuels following the Silver Complex, 15 years earlier. Mismanagement of the Biscuit salvage process just followed the established pattern — but when everyone commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the Biscuit, they had already forgotten that it was also the 25-year anniversary of the Silver, which made the Biscuit possible in the first place (if you don’t want to acknowledge the Kalmiopsis Wilderness designation that made both fires possible).

        One of the interesting things that happened was a trespass that I documented near Babyfoot Lake, in which the team laying out the sale couldn’t tell a ridgeline from a drainage. So much for field forestry expertise.

        Despite (or — more likely — because of, in my estimation) the double “protection” afforded Babyfoot with a Botanical Reserve designation overlayed by subsequent Wilderness zoning, the Lake was fried to an entirely avoidable crisp, killing a number of rare Brewer’s Spruce and a stand of old-growth pine and Douglas-fir along the formerly beautiful trail. A patch of Scouler’s oak and beargrass was rejuvenated by the process, only to be discounted by the USFS ecologists and the Forest Supervisor I visited the site with the following year. They laughed at the idea that these plants were indication of past use by local Indian populations, or that the invasive Douglas-fir in the previous century that made the crownfires possible could technically be considered “weeds.” (Side note: the Supervisor was one of the most ignorant and arrogant individuals I’ve dealt with through the years — I’m not sure that even his staff liked working with him).

        The worse problem was the legal salvage project adjacent to the trespass. Apparently the loggers had decked a number of snags of the “wrong” species during salvage, and were not allowed to sell them as a result. Solution? The decks were burned in place under USFS order — frying the soil and polluting the air while wasting valuable logs in the process. The whole thing was a joke and a waste of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. Now it’s an ugly mess, waiting for the next fire.

        Here’s some documentation of the project (including trespass):
        http://www.ORWW.org/Wildfires/Biscuit/Babyfoot_Lake/index.htm

        All of the USFS links and most of the media links are now broken, but the video clips and QTVR files tell the story.

        • I was working there when another crew had laid out that area. They really, REALLY wanted to blame that on the Enterprise Team I worked for but, we had other units. I saw a more recent picture of that area near the main Eight Dollar Road, and saw that despite harvesting some of the dead trees in that LSR, a huge amount of new snags are currently there, adjacent to private lands and residences.

          I tend to think that another re-burn is in store for this area, again.

      • The hazard tree projects were NOT a part of the Biscuit EIS. That work was accomplished expeditiously and green hazardous tree were, indeed, rightly cut. Just because a tree is green does not make it stable. Also, I saw the the eco’s were not looking on the uphill sides of bigger hazard trees, not seeing the cat-faces and rot. Almost any large, old green tree next to a road can be justified as a hazard, if you look close enough. Most of the time, even USFS personnel miss trees that really are hazardous. I did see a picture of the green trees cut as part of the Biscuit project (not hazard trees). They weren’t very big, compared to the 60″ dbh trees in the area.

        I could tell, without taking plots, that the EIS volume was WAY off. The Flattop area was quite thin in volume, due to the rock and minerals in the area. I’m guessing that they took the plan’s acreage (including plantations and low sites) and applied an over-inflated volume per acre to the full desired acreage. Certainly more areas were deleted, due to other issues, as well.

        • “The hazard tree projects were NOT a part of the Biscuit EIS.”

          Larry, I know that…and I never said that they were.

          Also, once again thanks for confirming that the Biscuit timber sale EIS was “WAY off” in terms of timber volume estimates. Is this common? Is this a problem? Does the FS being “WAY off” with timber volume perhaps set up unrealistic expectations with the timber industry, politicians and their supporters? Or how about within the enviro community when they read the EIS?

          • It isn’t very common but, with the Biscuit being such a big media thing, along with the shenanigans of the ineffective eco-groups, the spotlight did shine brightly. I do think that such numbers worked against the Forest Service. I also think they were too quick and unprepared to “do battle”. Frankly, I was kinda embarrassed for them, seeing some other significant mistakes that really didn’t become public. Painting leave tree unit boundaries with a helicopter was just plain DUMB!

            I saw nothing wrong with the hazard tree projects. Keeping them apart from the Biscuit EIS was the right thing to do. Just because large rotten trees were cut, that doesn’t mean any wrong was done. One of the pictures of a big marked tree didn’t tell the story of the big catface behind it. Either the eco’s didn’t look, or they misrepresented the issue.

            • Larry, it’s funny how you complain about the “shenanigans of the ineffective eco-groups”…..and complain about how the eco-groups supposedly “misrepresented the issue.”…..

              But then all you offer up is examples of the “shenanigans of the ineffective Forest Service” and how the Forest Service actually did “misrepresent the issue.”

              I’d certainly be interested in learning more about the “other significant [Forest Service] mistakes that really didn’t become public. But, hey, again, the enviros should never question the Forest Service, right?

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