“A Modest Proposal”- Certification for National Forests II

NFCertificationStudy_PIC 1

Yesterday’s discussion was interesting, and I think we need to carry it forward. But my first thought was that I was proposing a solution to what many perceive to be a problem. It occurs to me that we may need to back up to understand how people think about whether there is a problem or not.

IF cutting trees and selling them can be done in a sustainable way (as environmental folks seem to think about FSC) (I know there is controversy about SFI vs. FSC, and I also don’t like the idea of public forests being managed to standards developed by third parties, still, the reason I brought it up is that it says that environmental groups think timber harvesting is OK in specific places, with specific practices).

I think it’s well worth a read of the Pinchot Institute’s National Forest Certification study Executive Summary here. If you have more time, you might be interested in the other documents.

This is from the Executive Summary of the Pinchot Institute study about forest certification:

This represented an important breakthrough in the contentious arena of forest conservation.
No longer were forest industry and environmental activists simply locked in a legal and policy stalemate over whether timber harvesting could take place, but how it could take place while ensuring that it is ecologically sound, economically viable, and socially responsible. These developments also held out the promise of calming some of the public controversy around forest management, by providing citizens with credible assurances that the forests in question were not being overexploited, and adequate protection was being provided for forest areas of exceptional importance for conservation values such as biodiversity, wildlife habitat or water quality

During the time period I was reviewing this study I always considered this to be MBWT “or management by wishful thinking”, but it is asserted in the study (also the Executive Summary):

This report describes the results of independent audits of five units of the National Forest System ranging from 500,000 to 1.5 million acres in size. This case study is the culmination of what has become a ten-year research project that ultimately involved forest certification audits on state forestlands in seven states, 30 areas of Native American tribal forestlands, and one national park. It should be noted that, in each case, the independent audits identified needs for corrective
actions, and in each case these were successfully addressed by the agencies’ forest managers. A general conclusion among the agencies themselves is that the reduction in costs associated with public controversy and legal challenges—not only on agency budgets but on the spirit and morale of their forest managers—more than offset the time and expense associated with the certification process.

(Italics mine)

So here were a couple of my concerns:

1) FSC practices are (were) all over the map. It would be better to certify to publicly developed practices (the equivalent of the broad labor union contract in conflict resolution?). But environmental groups are attached to FSC; we could have the public develop the practices and have third party audits, but then it wouldn’t be “FSC”. With all the technical and scientific folks in NFS and R&D and all the folks with practitioner knowledge, the State wildlife folks, etc. it just seems like you could do a better job with standards than FSC did.

2) It would be better for the FS to have a broader third party audits in terms of its management (beyond vegetation management, the whole enchilada, recreation, grazing, oil and gas, ski areas) (not so sure I still think that).

Now, some may think that everything is fine now. But I would ask everyone to “listen with the ears of the heart” as per Benedict of Nursia to a previous comment on this blog here by Rob DeHarport, where I think he articulated “the problem” clearly:

In my humble opinion the problem is two-fold. The first part is the utter failure of President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP). Of the five stated priorities or goals in the NWFP, none have been fulfilled. Lawsuits and the potential of lawsuits on virtually every timber sale in the NW have resulted in the “Gordian Knot” that former USFS Chief Jack Ward Thomas has referred to in his assessment of the failed NWFP of which he was a key player. The state of Oregon, timber dependent counties, cities and schools continue to struggle to replace lost revenues that occurred soon after the Northwest Spotted Owl (NWSO) was listed as an endangered species.Neither the NWSO or local and state economies have been able to replace lost revenues despite the best efforts.
However, budgets have tightened, increased taxes are not likely in already poor counties. Curry County is virtually bankrupt. Lane County can not afford to hold violent criminals in jail, etc. etc. Meanwhile, the Federal government Rural School Funds have dried up as the nation continues to print and borrow money at a record and unsustainable pace. The NWFP was supposed to find a “middle ground,” it did not happen. Yet, here we are nearly 20 years later living with a failed plan. Governor Kitzhaber created another committee of stake-holders to find a solution with little or no success.
Mac McConnell’s statement is true. In US House District 4 there are nearly 5 million acres of National Forest. Since the NWFP logging has been scaled back far below what the NWFP called for due to continued protests. The logging that is occurring on these lands will essentially create a 5 million acre spotted owl reserve. As the thinning projects leave trees that are less than 80 years old to grow to age 80 and older- thus becoming “Old Growth Spotted Owl Habitat.”
I live in the Oakridge area of the Willamette National Forest, I have walked with USFS staff through a couple of thinning timber sales as I mentioned in the previous paragraph. These sales take years of planning and navigation through the “Gordian Knot.” There is also the excellent Jim’s Creek Oak Savanna Restoration Project near my home that has been stymied at a little more than 400 acres due to the very real risk of litigation or the lack of commitment by USFS upper management to allow such good sound forestry.
Here are two paragraphs from Wikipedia concerning the Elliott State Forest:
Controversy arose in 2011 in response to changes in the way the forest is managed. Adopted by the land board in October 2011, a new management plan aims to increase annual net revenue from the forest to $13 million, up from $8 million. It would achieve this by increasing the annual timber harvest to 40 million board feet culled from 1,100 acres (450 ha), of which about three-fourths could be clearcut. The former management plan, adopted in 1995, called for 25 million board feet from 1,000 acres (400 ha), half of it clearcut.[5]

The plan also changed the way in which the forest is managed to protect threatened and endangered species such as spotted owls, marbled murrelets, and Coho salmon. Supporters of the new plan say it will benefit wildlife by making more acres off-limits to logging than had been reserved for owls, murrelets, and watershed protection under the old plan. Opponents of the plan say it will damage habitat and harm wildlife. They would prefer a plan that promotes thinning of young trees, avoids clear-cutting, and seeks other ways of raising revenue from the CSF lands.[5]
In July 2012 despite the great recession the US imported $216 million dollars of softwood lumber from Canada. (according to the Sept. 17, Globe and Mail) Meanwhile rural Oregon timber counties have a unemployment rate that is actually over 20%, and our forest continue to be passively managed at best.
I am the Mayor of the small community of Westfir and serve on the Oakridge, Oregon School Board. I know first hand how failed policy has impacted rural Oregon timber towns and counties. There is a middle ground, we have not come close to finding that sweet spot in managing our forests.

I’d be interested in hearing

If you don’t think that there is a problem, and why..

What you think about whether certification alone would solve “the problem” in your opinion.
Apparently some in the environmental community doesn’t want NFS to do certification, I’d be interested in their rationale, if anyone knows.

32 Comments

  1. Here are some additional links and information regarding certification for public lands following a 3 minute on-line search:

    FSC certification of US public forest lands: the warnings from Michigan
    http://www.fsc-watch.org/archives/2008/03/10/FSC_certification_of_US_public_forest_lands

    USFS: Forest Certification and Its Implications for America’s National Forests
    http://www.fs.fed.us/projects/forestcertification/qas.pdf

    FSC commits “major blunder” by certifying clearcutting in California’s redwoods
    http://www.fsc-watch.org/archives/2013/02/22/FSC_commits__major_b

    ——————

    (Note: This comment was left at the “major blunder” article)

    I want to share with you some of the wording buried in the FSC certification process. t comes from Indicator 6.3.g.1.b and was drafted to inform SCS, third party auditors who do FSC’s on-ground inspections for approvals on the West Coast, when it is appropriate to practice even management, specifically in Pacific NW forests (which obviously includes redwoods).

    It states: “To specify that the required conditions for the use of even-aged management are the following: 1) where it is necessary for establishment and development of the site’s native species composition (given that some tree species are shade intolerant); or 2) where even-aged management is the ecologically most appropriate management regime for the site’s native species or to restore the native species; or 3) where there is a current under-representation of openings compared to historical conditions.”

    Green Diamond was certified in accordance with this indicator. However, redwoods prefer shade and large canopy openings (beyond natural disturbances) invite invasive species, not natives, as the understories of these forests are typically quite shaded. Green Diamond is very familiar with the invasive species their clear cuts invite, so while they have (thank goodness) stopped using Atrazine, they do still use a host of herbicides post-clearcut .. many of which have been found to damaging to salmon populations.

    Furthermore, in the Green Diamond FSC certification report it states that 271,000+ acres of their land holdings are slated for clear cuts – – – and their rate of harvest is “confidential.”

    FSC and SCS refuse to let us see any of the actual auditor reports from SCS, refuse to consider redacting the reports for confidential material and won’t even provide a list of what documents are being withheld from this process.

    Green Diamond can be reached at: 707-668-4400, and corporate at 206.224.5800
    FSC can be reached at 612-353-4511

    For the Wild,
    Bobby Shearer
    Concerned Citizen of Humboldt County, CA

  2. It’s about the practices.. reasonable people could develop a zone of agreement about practices, have them audited, have the results public; but if litigation is the baseball bat wielded at the end of the day by those who do not get their way.. we may not have made progress.

    • Wow, Sharon, you have taken your anti-litigation (just from enviros, of course) rhetoric to new heights. Yes, it’s all so about “not getting their way.” Lawsuits have nothing at all to do with citizens of the United States of American ensuring that the American Government follows the laws of this country. Perhaps some “reasonable people” have issues with FSC and/or SFI certification, even on private lands, much less expanding that to public lands.

      • Sometimes they do have to do with “following the laws of the country. ” Sometimes they have to do with “not getting your way, and rolling the dice. ”

        I didn’t support the current litigation of the planning rule either- I wanted them to give it a chance to see how it works.

        I can only go by what some groups say themselves..say in Bevington’s book.The Rebirth of Environmentalism. here’s a quote from page 16.

        “They found that a small handful of determined activists could achieve significant environmental protection through litigation without having to engage in a broad mobilization of the public.”

        It’s not framed as “making agencies follow the laws”. Litigation is a tactic to pursue an agenda. Folks like Kieran Suckling are pretty open and honest about that.

        But as I’ve said before, I don’t think we should get rid of lawsuits.

        I think we should carve out a basic “zone of agreement” in terms of forest practices, and as long as projects fall within the zone of agreement, there should be a presumption of correctitude (I made that up) legally. Now I don’t know how you would do that, or if you could do that because I am not a lawyer. Outside the “zone” people could litigate away…again the concept being “let’s make a general agreement, like a labor agreement, instead of renegotiating wages every workday.”

        • So one sentence in one book is proof that environmentalists don’t really want the government agencies to follow the law?

          Also, who gets to determine the basic “zone of agreement?” A bunch of paid special interest group representatives, industry representatives and local government officials who are paid to sit around a table, have lunch together, talk about their children’s sporting events and nod in agreement when the Forest Service offers up their projects? Really, we should assume that a group like this comes up with projects that have a “presumption of correctitude” legally? And scientifically?

          Hey, how about this concept as a decent alternative: The Forest Service and other federal agencies follow NEPA, NFMA, ESA, etc when managing America’s public lands?

  3. “I’d be interested in hearing

    “If you don’t think that there is a problem, and why.”

    I think there is clearly some kind of problem – various problems – with regard to western forest management. Indicator species continue to decline, and both conservatives and progressives express high stress about the state of things.

    I am not convinced, based on evidence, that “the problem” is so simple as insufficient logging. I do not think logging is a meaningful end in itself. Logging is an instrumental activity, done to serve other purposes.

    I think there are several important goals, related, potentially related, and/or believed to be related to forests and logging, and that we need to think more deeply and accurately about how to better meet these goals in this new century.

    These goals, many of which are broadly shared, could be sketched to include (in scrambled order):

    • Preservation of native and old growth forest as dominant habitat types over what now remains of their historical range. (to the extent feasible under climate change)
    • Increased prosperity and health for residents of forest-related rural areas.
    • Maintaining or increasing the contribution of western forests to natural local, regional and global ecosystem services and biosphere vitality and stability, including watershed dynamics, key species, rare species, carbon sequestration, etc.
    • Supporting regional wood products industries that all Americans can be proud of.
    • Providing supplies of wood to meet needed rather than desired amounts.
    • Supporting traditional ways of living related to fish, forests, etc.
    • Improving the budgetary situations of rural local governments.

    To me, “the problem” is how to best to meet these and other important forest-related goals, with more, the same, or less logging, as true integrated solutions should dictate.

    • Kevin: If you look at my list of “why more logging is needed” you will see we are mostly on the same page. Logging is just a tool to obtain other objectives. The problem is, no one is agreeing on what those objectives might be anymore.

      Where we part ways is when you begin using terms such as “ecosystem services” and “biosphere vitality,” and promoting forest carbon sequestration as something needing to be “maintained or increased.” As a forest scientist, I really don’t know what these terms mean and/or why they might be important. As a taxpayer, the same doubts exist.

      But that borders on quibbling and a personal distaste for pseudo-scientific terminology and the odd discussions and crippling litigation that follow them about.

      What are the true objectives in maintaining public forestlands, and how can these be stated and agreed upon? You’ve listed several I’d agree with, but I am certain others would not. Whatever their feelings on logging

      • Bob, thanks for focusing on areas of agreement as well as divergence. Together, these build a creative conversation!

        Interesting point about the dimensions I listed that seem to extend out past the realm of forest science as such. Very interesting. I think you’ve called out an important attribute of “the problem.” It calls for observation and synthesis of a full spectrum of knowledge and viewpoints to really move forward.

    • Providing supplies of wood to meet “needed rather than desired amounts”. Hmm. That’s an interesting concept.

      We could apply it to other multiple uses…

      Needed rather than desired wildlife species
      Needed rather than desired amount of wilderness areas
      Needed rather than desired number of ski areas
      Needed rather than desired campgrounds or trails

      Or even “needed rather than desired number of pets within a household.”
      “Needed rather than desired number of microbreweries within Missoula”
      “Needed rather than desired number of general practitioners in rural areas”

      I think you get my point.

        • I don’t know how many paper mills there are working from federal timber in the west right now.. but I’m sure someone on our blog knows…

          is what I hear you saying is a “public lands should only produce things that couldn’t be more environmentally sensitively produced elsewhere?”

      • Sharon, Beautifully skewered. This whole rambling philosophical debate about ethereals has gotten out of hand. Can’t we just get back to reality? Have you guys ever cut a cord of pulpwood, set a choker cable or backfired a line? With quibble-fests like this shaping the management of our resources it’s no wonder they’re are in such sorry shape.

        Sharon, I just had to get this off my chest. You can edit it out and I won’t be offended.

    • What about those of us who live in areas where there are no “regional forest product industries” in our areas? All we have is Sierra Pacific Industries, one of the largest private landowners in the country.

      “Preserving” current old growth forests here also means preserving the ladder fuels which now dominate an understory where there wasn’t much before California’s statehood. We have been experimenting in very limited logging in some overstocked stands, within wildlife PACs. Imagine thinning out some of the trees 10-15″ dbh, in advance of prescribed fire. The old growth in that unit was pretty scattered, and the unit was surrounded by much better habitat. We need to be open-minded and creative to get some things done.

      • Larry: “Preserving” (I like the quote marks) old-growth means controlling competition and ladder fuels — which means logging. Here’s a 3-minute video I did on that topic near your old-stomping grounds on the trail to Babyfoot Lake:

        The main problem, of course, is that the area is in a double-whammy Botanical Preserve and Wilderness zone, so that the “new” forest will be a solid canopy of Douglas-fir and snags (assuming another fire doesn’t strike sooner), shading out and further endangering via crown fire the few remaining “protected” old-growth Brewer’s spruce and sugar pine in the area. If it keeps releasing the Beargrass and scouler’s oak, though, I guess that’s a reasonable trade. Not sure about the birds.

        • Bob, I’ve found that when people talk “old growth” much of the time their image is of West side Doug fir that kind of stays that way stably through time.

          I wrote a song parody about old growth reserves once, to the tune of the song “They Call the Wind Maria” from the musical “Paint Your Wagon”.. I think this was about 95 or so, when I worked in RPA. As I recall it might have been an issue in the ill-fated 1995 RPA Program. There was discussion of the term “areas” versus “reserves,” hence the song.

          Reserves

          Way out west they’ve got a place
          For big and fat and old trees
          We draw a line around the place
          So they don’t become “sold trees”

          But old trees die, and then fall down,
          and we’ve got premonitions..
          Still we’ll do fine, we’ll move the lines,
          or change the definitions

          Reserves, Reserves, they call those “areas,” Reserves.

  4. Do we agree with these objectives?

    10. MULTIPLE-USE SUSTAINED-YIELD ACT OF 1960
    1
    (Public Law 86–517; Approved June 12, 1960)
    AN ACT To authorize and direct that the national forests be managed under prin-
    ciples of multiple use and to produce a sustained yield of products and services,
    and for other purposes
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the
    United States of America in Congress assembled,
    That it is the policy of the Congress that the national forests are
    established and shall be administered for outdoor recreation, range,
    timber, watershed, and wildlife and fish purposes. The purposes of
    this Act are declared to be supplemental to, but not in derogation
    of, the purposes for which the national forests were established as
    set forth in the Act of June 4, 1897 (16 U.S.C. 475). Nothing herein
    shall be construed as affecting the jurisdiction or responsibilities of
    the several States with respect to wildlife and fish on the national
    forests. Nothing herein shall be construed so as to affect the use
    of administration of the mineral resources of national forest lands
    or to affect the use or administration of Federal lands not within
    national forests.
    The Secretary of Agriculture is author-
    ized and directed to develop and administer the renewable surface
    resources of the national forests for multiple use and sustained
    yield of the several products and services obtained therefrom. In
    the administration of the national forests due consideration shall
    be given to the relative values of the various resources in particu-
    lar areas. The establishment and maintenance of areas of wilder-
    ness are consistent with the purposes and provisions of this Act.

    In the effectuation of this Act the Secretary of Agriculture is authorized
    to cooperate with interested
    State and local governmental agencies and others in the develop-
    ment and management of the national forests.

    As used in this Act, the following
    terms shall have the following meanings:
    (a) ‘‘Multiple use’’ means: The management of all the various
    renewable surface resources of the national forests so that they are
    utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the
    American people; making the most judicious use of the land for
    some or all of these resources or related services over areas large
    enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in
    use to conform to changing needs and conditions; that some land
    will be used for less than all of the resources; and harmonious and
    coordinated management of the various resources, each with the
    other, without impairment of the productivity of the land, with con-
    sideration being given to the relative values of the various re-
    sources, and not necessarily the combination of uses that will give
    the greatest dollar return or the greatest unit output.
    (b) ‘‘Sustained yield of the several products and services’’
    means the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-
    level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable re-
    sources of the national forests without impairment of the productiv-
    ity of the land

    • ‘’‘Sustained yield of the several products and services’’ means the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairment of the productivity of the land.”

      I wish they meant what they said. We haven’t managed for let alone achieved perpetual high-level output of water quality, trout, carbon storage, black-backed woodpeckers, spotted owls, roadless values, old growth, large snags.

      Also, DeHarport presents a lousy “problem statement.” For starters, it’s factually off-base in many ways. The NWFP has succeed in many ways that his messaging advisors refuse to recognize: watersheds are improving, habitat loss has slowed, the NW economy grew and created jobs while the timber industry was weaned off of their old growth addiction, and the agencies have met their timber targets most of the time (except when they failed to follow the law like they did with survey and manage and the Aquatic Conservation Strategy).

      • Tree. interesting perspective.. so even the low levels of timber production currently are not enough..there needs to be more roadless areas.. there are not enough snags for black backed woodpecker..?

        Also it’s interesting that you use the “term” addiction for “timber industry”. I guess you could say that TWS has an “addiction” to wilderness.. it just seems kind of pejorative.

        Was Survey and Manage really “the law”? I thought it was a regulation that was part of the Northwest Forest Plan. Formerly known as the President’s Plan. So it would be more appropriate to say that the “agency did not follow their regulations.”

        I suspect it was a bit more complicated than “gosh durn I don’t feel like following that regulation”, and I know that there are excellent folks in R-6.

        PS I doubt whether DeHarport has “messaging advisors” .. it’s really kind of disrespectful of his experience to call someone “factually off- base” for talking about real impacts to real people in real communities.

        As I have said before “the economy growing in the Northwest” does not say “it grew everywhere in the Northwest.” If you used the same logic, people in New Jersey don’t have a problem with recovering from flooding, because on the whole the state wasn’t flooded.

  5. I think it would be very constructive to talk about real impacts to real people in real communities, concretely and with sound evidence.

    I also think it is important to differentiate all that realism from the artificial constructs of frankly timber-industry-dominated county givernments, like that in Lane County and several other so-called O&C counties.

  6. Hmm. Kevin “timber industry dominated” county governments.. that’s bad..

    I wonder how you measure that?

    I personally noticed that Senator Wyden seems to care more about rural counties than he did when he was a congressman from an urban area.

    Is this because he is “dominated by timber industry” or because he’s “listening to his constituents?”

    Maybe those county governments are also listening to their constituents.

    Wyden Opening Statement on Forest Service Budget

    April 16, 2013- Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) gives opening remarks on the Forest Service budget at a Senate Energy hearing. Wyden specifically pointed to the unacceptability of proposed cuts to the timber program and the impact of sequestration on the Secure Rural Schools program.
    .


    Here’s
    a link.

  7. Sharon, do you know much about what is and has been going on in Lane County government recently?

    Just taking as an example, what is often the largest timber producing county in the largest timber producing state in the US.

  8. Is Oregon really the largest timber producing state? I must admit, you’ve made me curious so I emailed a couple of colleagues..
    There are many Oregonians on this blog and I will defer to them..

    I hope my point stands..

    Senator Wyden thinks that increases in timber harvest would help rural communities without damaging the environment..
    Senator Wyden is not “in the pockets of timber industry.”
    Senator Wyden is a Democrat.

    Therefore, seeing that we could increase harvests (to some extent) cannot be a simple function of a) partisan politics, nor b) being in the “pocket of the timber industry.”

  9. Seriously, Sharon? A diversion on a diversion? Might we agree, at least, that Senator Wyden is not an O&C county commissioner?

    I continue to think it would be very constructive to talk about real impacts to real people in real communities, concretely and with sound evidence.

  10. Kevin, I don’t know what the county commissioners are doing. It does seem like many people are looking for more timber production from O&C lands, not just the county commissioners.

    So if Senator Wyden says..

    That solution must increase timber harvests and economic activity on some lands while permanently conserving others. It must guarantee funding for schools, law enforcement and roads. And it must lay the foundation so rural communities can strengthen their private economies and rely less on the federal government.

    http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2013/03/better_policy_for_oc_lands_can.html

    We can suppose any version of bad behavior from the county commissioners.. they are all in jail, they smoke marijuana outside Colorado, they make little children read planning rule directives… etc.

    Not clear that any bad behavior is relevant to the issue at hand. Because what we are arguing is the idea of increasing timber harvests, not the behavior of any subset of people who agree with the idea. If all the people who agreed with increasing timber harvests exhibited bad behavior, we could say “they only have this idea because..” But that doesn’t appear to be the case.

    Hope this is clear.

    As to real impacts, we had a discussion in the past on this blog.
    Here is the link

    And below is an excerpt

    Case studies, two in California and three each in Oregon and Washington, were conducted to better understand socioeconomic changes and current socioeconomic conditions “on the ground.” Some key findings from these cases include in California:
    • Siskiyou County lost all its saw mills, has seen its population age, and has lost eight schools, challenging the county to provide for the remaining students and reverse the loss of young families.
    • In Humboldt County there are powerfully suggestive relationships between mill closures and student impoverishment as reflected in Free and Reduced Price Meal (FRPM) enrollment rates. This county has suffered dramatic declines in its goodsproducing sector, with the manufacturing subsector losing 65% of its 1990 jobs by 2011.
    In Oregon:
    • Tillamook County has 24% of its children living in poverty, and 39% living in singleparent households, almost double the national average.
    • Douglas County has 31% of its children living in poverty – twice the national average and 34% in single-parent households.
    • In both of these counties, but especially in Douglas County, there are significant declines in manufacturing jobs, particularly since 2008. Free and Reduced Priced Meal participation rates increased over the last four years as well, some schools by almost 20 percent.
    • Josephine County, over the last several decades saw forestry and logging jobs decline by 80%. Wages have stagnated and are two-thirds of the Oregon average. The county now ranks near the bottom of Oregon counties in health indicators and FRPM participation rate for the county is 70%.
    In Washington:
    In Washington:
    • Grays Harbor County Natural Resources and Mining jobs declined by over 50% and
    forestry and logging jobs by just under 70% from 1990 to 2010. The county is near the bottom of the health rankings for counties in the state. FRPM participation rates for the county exceed 60%, with one school district at 92% in 2011 and another at 88%; the lowest rate is 41%, reflecting the considerable differences across the county.
    • Skamania County has 90% of its land in federal ownership, and 59% of the land in the county is designated as critical habitat area. Natural resource and manufacturing jobs have declined by over 50% over the last 20 years, though service industry jobs have increased dramatically during this period.
    * * *

  11. Frankly, none of those sincere hardship stats mean a thing about logging volumes, in and of themselves.

    For sure, rural communities are suffering all over the country, as population continues to shift to urban areas. Mechanization in the woods, automation in the mills, growing log exports, and a growing rural recreation sector have all helped decouple timber harvest levels from rural employment.

    And in Oregon, sequential near-elimination of taxes on industrial timber holdings (though not so much on holdings of 5000 acres or less) had a roughly-comparable impact on O&C county budgets, over about the same time frame, as NWFP harvest restrictions. Yet this is almost never mentioned.

    Yes, this is all outside the realm of forest science, per se. But that does not mean it isn’t someone’s science. Here’s one serious study by a leading mainstream economic outfit of the costs and benefits of harvest level changes in the Pacific Northwest:

    http://pages.uoregon.edu/whitelaw/432/articles/SkyDidNotFallFull.pdf

    I think it is pretty clear, based on evidence, that “the problem” is rather deeper than simply insufficient logging. I think clarifying the goals for logging, to such an extent that the appropriate level of logging can be effectively evaluated, is fundamental.

  12. So here is my logic path.

    A. These rural communities are suffering. (you agree)
    B. They are surrounded by natural resources from which they could develop employment.
    C. The owners of the surrounding lands, through MUSYA, say that it is part of the mission of the lands to provide for public needs.
    D. Wood is a public need.

    E. Therefore we should help them develop employment in a sustainable way.

    So what would be wrong with establishing or reestablishing these businesses? As long as they follow environmental laws.

    You say that there are other bad things that have happened to rural communities, but that doesn’t mean that we should necessarily not do what we can to help them. Lots of bad things happen to urban communities and I think we have the generalized concept that we (taxpayers) should help out poor urban communities when they run into trouble.

    If you used the same argument for spotted owls, you might say,” let’s not bother with protecting land, barred owls are going to get them anyway.”

    The title of the article you cite seems to be talking about the past, but the question that the Senator is trying to deal with is not about the past.

    The question to economists would be “regardless of the past, would more available trees mean more jobs at this point in time?” And I think we all agree that jobs are good things in poor local economies, but maybe not.

    I like owls and I like rural businesses and people employed. Like I think President Clinton said awhile back, I think we can have both.

    The mechanisms we are currently using are not working to bring that about. So I think we need to tweak/change the mechanisms; that’s adaptive management. Which I think was part of the NW Forest Plan?

    • Seriously? With all your background in science and strategic planning, Sharon, you think that such a complex integrated system problem can be reduced to a simplistic, effectively-arbitrary logic path?

      It doesn’t seem to leave a lot of basis for a really constructive conversation.

  13. I am also willing to consider your logic path. I just think if we show each other what we are thinking we can tell better when our thoughts diverge and help understand each others’ thinking. In fact, I think that there might be a conflict resolution school of thought that talks about it.

    The world is certainly complex, and I believe that our goal as experts is to help the public understand the complexities.

    Here’s a quote from George Washington Carver, my hero when I went into the profession of science:

    “The primary idea in all of my work was to help the farmer and fill the poor man’s empty dinner pail.. My idea is to help the ‘man farthest down’, this is why I have made every process just as simply as I could to put it within his reach.”

    • 🙂 Point of personal trivia: Rackham Holt, author of “George Washington Carver: An American Biography,” was my great aunt. Always a family favorite, and a timeless source of inspiration!

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