Planning in HR 1526 – Guest Post by Jon Haber

This recent article on the ‘Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act’ got me to look at the actual bill.

Neither the Administration nor the previous discussion on this blog really addressed the ‘forest planning’ implications of this bill.

Section 505 is titled ‘Clarification of National Forest Management Act of 1976 Authority,’ and it addresses tree marking. Actually, this bill could exempt the entire tree-growing portion of National Forest System completely from NFMA, except for designated wilderness, national monuments and where there are statutory prohibitions.

In Section 103, the Forest Service is required to identify at least one Forest Reserve Revenue Area on each national forest, and such areas must include at least half of the commercial forest lands (there is no upper limit). This is to be done ‘notwithstanding any other provision of law.’ The acreage may never be reduced. This designation must be completed in 60 days, and there is no requirement for public participation.

These areas must then be managed to achieve an ‘annual volume requirement’ of 50% of their sustained yield, which is to be determined as the ‘maximum annual growth potential of the forest.’ This sustained yield does not reflect the needs of any other resources. In comparison, the ASQ in current plans is based on a long-term sustained-yield capacity that reflects many other resource needs, and very few national forests are harvesting anywhere near their ASQ. The 50% figure seems arbitrary and very likely unobtainable (and/or unsustainable) most places without the kind of impacts that NFMA was intended to mitigate.

The bill specifically exempts management of these areas from the NFMA prohibition against choosing clearcutting primarily for economic reasons. It also states, “The Secretary may modify the standards and guidelines contained in the land and resource management plan for the unit of the National Forest System in which the covered forest reserve project will be carried out as necessary to achieve the requirements of this Act.” The management of potentially the majority of the National Forest System would thus effectively be exempt from the direction in existing land management plans, the requirements of the 2012 planning regulations (including collaboration), and NFMA itself (and presumably the Roadless Area Conservation Rule if it interferes with achieving the volume requirement).

For any lands not designated under Section 103 (and over 200,000 acres), Section 402 requires the Forest Service to establish Community Forest Demonstration Areas if requested by an advisory committee appointed by state governors (with only requirements to represent governmental, commercial and recreational interests). “The administration and management of a community forest demonstration area, including implementing actions, shall not be considered Federal action.” Again, NFMA and forest plans would be irrelevant to the selection and management of these areas.

Section 205 allows a state governor to designate ‘high risk areas.’ “Designation of high-risk areas shall be consistent with standards and guidelines contained in the land and resource management plan or land use plan for the unit of Federal land for which the designation is being made, except that the Secretary concerned may modify such standards and guidelines to correspond with a specific high-risk area designation.” The exception swallows the NFMA requirement for consistency with a land management plan.

In sum, this would return national forest planning and management on probably the majority of national forest lands to dominant timber use for economic gain– which is what triggered the National Forest Management Act in 1976. I can see why this rearview mirror approach can’t be taken very seriously.

Jon retired from the Forest Service at the end of 2012 after 32 years as a forest and regional planner in Regions 6 and 1. His background is in forestry and natural resource management and includes a law degree. The last half of his career focused on rewriting the NFMA planning rule, planning for threatened/endangered/sensitive species, and large landscape conservation planning efforts.

26 Comments

  1. Section 505 opens the door to having purchasers mark the timber, or having logging personnel select the trees “on-the-fly”. The committee realizes that using temporary employees to do more and more labor-intensive work isn’t going to work if cutting is accelerated. This brings up the issue of who would you rather have marking timber? Industry personnel, or a revolving door of on-the-job temporary trainees? Some choice, eh?!? Of course, there would need to be inspectors, and those might also be temporaries. Who will be administering these huge projects over massive acreages? Trainee Sale Administrators? There is no career ladder currently in place.

    Section 507 is more controversial, exempting certain projects from EA’s and EIS’s. I believe this would include thinning and salvage projects, as stated in Committee. Someone was saying that this is a “wish list” for pro-logging folks, and I would have to agree. This just makes the probability of it passing even lower than it was before the amendments. Western Democrats do seem to want some of these ideas but, partisan politics will prevent them from voting for the bill, as passed by the House. We need reform but, this bill will fail in the Senate. We are wasting time pushing such laws, propelled by partisan politics, and fought with opposing partisan politics.

  2. I also don’t see anyone talking about the new Wilderness in this bill, either. I guess since it isn’t going to pass, then we’ll just have to wait and see if those lands ever get protected, eh? Down the road, we can rightfully say that Democrats voted against new Wilderness, eh??? *smirk*

  3. Wow, it’s like you’ve just discovered how far the timber industry extremists want to go. Yet you remain unaware that the anti-environmental, anti-regulatory, limitless-discretion views expressed by many participants on this blog actually help further those very interests.

    Did you all happen see the Congressional R’s down on the mall today – shocked that the monuments were closed?

  4. Re: “In Section 103, the Forest Service is required to identify at least one Forest Reserve Revenue Area on each national forest, and such areas must include at least half of the commercial forest lands (there is no upper limit). This is to be done ‘notwithstanding any other provision of law.’ The acreage may never be reduced. This designation must be completed in 60 days, and there is no requirement for public participation.
    These areas must then be managed to achieve an ‘annual volume requirement’ of 50% of their sustained yield”

    Please tell me what I am missing:
    Re: “one Forest Reserve Revenue Area on each national forest, and such areas must include at least half of the commercial forest lands”
    –> = as little as half of the commercial forest acreage can be in the reserve
    Re: “These areas must then be managed to achieve an ‘annual volume requirement’ of 50% of their sustained yield”
    –> = 50% of sustained yield on as little as 50% of the commercial forest acreage
    –> = 50% times 50% = the minimum harvest is only 25% of the sustained yield of the commercial forest acreage less wilderness and other timberland acres declared off limits.
    Re: “The acreage may never be reduced”
    –> Maybe so, but if it all burns up on day 2 of enactment, then long term sustained yield drops accordingly and so does the cut until it can be ramped up in future years as a result of regeneration. Short term is usually 3 years or less, Mid term is usually 3 to 9 years and Long term is usually >= 10 years.

    Tell me why this is such a horrible thing or tell me what I got wrong?

    Tell me why this is such a horrible thing when Uncle Sam owns 57% (84/146million acres) of the timberlands in the west and only owns 8% (29/368million acres) in the east.

    The east with its 234million people is doing just fine in terms of respecting the environment with most of its timberland owned and managed by private individuals and timberland enterprises. What is so different out west? If you are really interested in the environment and so convinced that federal ownership is the answer why aren’t you forgetting about the west and raising hell about the lack of federal protection for the environment in the east?

    Are westerners just a bunch of selfish people who are just using environmentalism to set aside an acre of federal timberland for each one of you. Why are you better than the people in the east who only get 1/8th of a federal timberland acre per person? Why should the people in the east pay taxes for you to have 8 times more access to federal timberlands than they do? Are westerners so irresponsible that you can’t trust yourselves to own timberland? Are the people and timberland enterprises in the east that much more responsible than you? Why can the timberlands in the east be logged and the timberlands in the west can’t? Are the people in the east more reasonable and pragmatic? Someone, please explain.

    Forgive me for deliberately provoking you. I don’t mean this literally, I am just trying to get you to see how ridiculous your protestations are.

    Look at this map of Federal Ownership and tell me how you justify so much federal ownership out west?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federalland.gif

    • The funny part is, gilde, the enviros are pretty much Easterners — or at least urbaniks. I don’t know how many non-resident students come to the UM environmental studies program from out of state, but it’s a very high proportion. You know, they’re cruising along the Interstate with mom and dad at Firstview, have an epiphany, find a new God of Nature, then try to save the church.

      • Is “urbanik” a term in use now? I Googled it and didn’t come up with much, besides a last name. I assume the term is meant to paint “enviros” as out-of-touch residents of urban areas, is that it? But how is that helpful for dialogue purposes on this blog (or elsewhere), or even accurate in most cases? I would probably fall in your “enviro” category, but I grew up in a rural area and have since lived in communities both large and small. My holidays are still spent in small towns or out in the country with relatives. So I don’t know whether I’m an “urbanik” or not in your book, but I don’t feel a need to categorize myself in that regard. I know people across the political spectrum that live in both rural and urban areas, with views on public lands management across the spectrum as well, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban areas (or somewhere in between). So why stoke the notion of a rural-urban divide that for many of us is not a reality? Often we have lived in both settings at various points in our own lives and maintain connections to a lot of areas through family, friends, recreation, etc. We live in a mobile society, and one that is increasingly urban, particularly out West. Dismissing folks due to a lack of some rural credibility, whatever the measure of that might be, is unhelpful, in my opinion.

        • Hi John: As you say, for many (many) people, there isn’t much of an urban-rural divide. For most others, though, there definitely is. I have spent many years on these issues in both urban and rural settings. About the only hard-core “environmentalists” I’ve seen in the rural areas have been marijuana growers and their sympathizers. I’m not trying to be funny, and I think a lot of rural Oregonians know the truth to that statement. It might not be a peer-reviewed “fact,” but it certainly is an obvious and apparent cultural divide — most of the major environmental activists in this State are immigrants from the east (or 2nd generation emigrants from California) and live in cities. There are also political, racial and economic subdivisions that also seem fairly obvious, especially during election years.

          • Sure, one can look at election data or census data and find all sorts of info about geographic distribution of various demographics and political leanings, but that still paints with a broad brush and doesn’t capture everyone’s individual beliefs and varied backgrounds. The public lands are likely to stay public, meaning they are all of ours, whether we live in medium-sized towns, far outside any town, or in a downtown high-rise. How does using terms like “urbaniks” bridge any divide, which I thought was an intent of this blog? Why dismiss anyone’s perspective simply based on where they’ve lived and for how long? Voters and taxpayers are going to continue to live in cities and move around the country. Using derisive labels isn’t going to change that.

            • You’re right, John, and starting tomorrow I’m going to begin complaining loudly about all the dog poop and garbage on the public streets in New York. I think the 1905 Use Book had it right, and I think there is a legitimate division between my living room wall and the nosy neighbors. And this blog isn’t going to fix that problem, and I don’t think that’s its intent — I still won’t want the nosy neighbors looking through my windows or trying to listen in on my conversations. That’s just intrusion. If they want to come and visit and make polite suggestions, that’s fine. But when they start telling me what I can and can’t do or they’ll call their lawyer — then the lines will be made wider. Human nature. Urban and rural, and the rurals are getting screwed in the deal. And that is what is being discussed.

                • John: Yep. Guilty. My bias is showing. The “nosy neighbors” are the urban dwellers, and I use that analogy because: “If they want to come and visit and make polite suggestions, that’s fine. But when they start telling me what I can and can’t do or they’ll call their lawyer” — that’s when the line gets drawn. Litigation that comes from outside the local area is both suspect and irritating. Also, costly and (often) destructive. My perspective is they need to check out their own riparian zones and animal habitat first before they start sticking their nose in mine. That was the dog poop and garbage part of the analogy.

                  I’m working on the clearcutting is good for fish discussion now and should have something ready for posting by early Sunday. I’m guessing we’re in different time zones as well!

                  • National forests are still shared by everyone, including urban dwellers. There are national forests within reasonably quick drives from some pretty big cities and metro areas, at least out west: Denver, Colorado Springs, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tucson, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Reno, Boise, Billings, Albuquerque, etc. That list would grow much larger depending on the definition of “urban.”

                    The national forest users in such cities have a say in how the forests are managed under statutes Congress enacted that allow (and encourage) public participation from all citizens that share these lands. It’s not about being “nosy neighbors” or making “polite suggestions,” it’s about constituents engaging with the Forest Service (or BLM in some places) about management of shared lands. Changing statutes to deny public participation or judicial review goes against many of our democratic principles and the rule of law.

                    I’m aware litigation is seen as suspect and irritating by some. But putting up some boundary around national forests, outside of which live “urban dwellers” whose opinions matter less, just isn’t realistic. Arbitrary lines between rural and urban, or local and non-local, seem unworkable. The west side of Wasatch-Cache National Forest literally abuts Salt Lake City. Should people that live just as close to that forest’s “rural” east side get more of a say in the forest’s management than those in Salt Lake City? There are a lot of scenarios where the local/non-local, urban/rural distinction just isn’t apt or helpful.

                    Dialogue and suggested solutions need to move beyond “urban = outsider whose opinions are less valid,” because shared lands like national forests will always have constituents (the general public – voters and taxpayers) that are rural, urban, and everything in between.

                    • John, you say “boundaries shouldn’t be put up” between urban dwellers and rural folks, and I agree — one of the main reasons (of several) I dislike WUI’s. However, they have been put up and they’re fairly obvious. If you want to go on precedence, I’m going with the 1905 Use Book, common sense, and the Constitution. Since I’ve already explained my own perspective a number of times here, I’ll just leave it at that for the time being.

            • John

              Re: “The public lands are likely to stay public, meaning they are all of ours”
              –> Are the public lands really “all of ours”?
              –> If this is true why do the people in the west get one acre of federal timberland per person and the people in the east (Mid Atlantic, North Central, North East and South East) only get 1/8th of an acre per capita?
              –> Why should I have to pay for the people in the west to have eight times more access to federal timberlands than I have?
              –> Why shouldn’t the western timberlands contribute more to the economy?
              –> Why do 57% of the western timberlands need to be locked up in federal ownership for environmental protection while only 8% need to be locked up in the east?

              http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/10/03/planning-in-hr-1526-guest-post-by-jon-haber/comment-page-1/#comment-19745

              • The public lands really are all of ours, in my opinion. I’m fine with figuring out a way for the east to have national forest lands. It’d take some land donations or purchases to make that happen. Budgets are tight and getting tighter, so it might not happen anytime soon. But the national forests out west are just as much yours as mine, in my opinion, and if you haven’t visited some of them, they are worth checking out. I can make some recommendations in a number of states.

                I’d argue you’re not paying for people in the west to have more national forests, we’re ALL paying for ALL of us to share these national forests. I haven’t done the math to figure out how much of my federal income taxes go to the Forest Service (has anyone?), but I don’t think it’s that much, relatively speaking. We all pay to share the national monuments in Washington, DC, too, even though we don’t all get to visit them on a regular basis. (Although I’d prefer to visit public lands, personally.) I don’t know how big a percentage the Forest Service budget is in relation to the total federal budget. Someone else has probably figured that out. I know rising wildfire costs have been discussed on this blog.

                I can quickly make some generalized statements and guesses about the distribution of public public lands. I probably will unintentionally omit key facts, but here goes, since you’ve specifically asked for answers:

                Europeans arrived on and settled the east coast first, concentrating population there initially. Then the federal government passed homestead acts to settle the west before the creation of some of the western states. State-enacting legislation typically granted states a certain amount of acreage and retained the rest in federal ownership. As a condition of statehood, most state-enacting legislation required state constitutions to disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within the state boundaries. Congress passed acts in the 1890s directing the federal government to set aside forest reserves from public lands. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 officially closed the west to homesteading and confirmed the federal ownership of the remaining public lands.

                The west generally doesn’t provide as productive land for farming as the east, given the overall arid climate (with exceptions). There are constant water supply issues for much of the west, so generally it doesn’t lend itself to as dense of human occupancy as the east, as well. The west’s mountainous terrain might keep human occupancy lower than in the east, too, and lend itself more to management as public land. So, overall, I’d say there are both historic and pragmatic reasons public land distribution is higher in the west: Europeans arrived on and settled the east half of the current U.S. first, and dry, mountainous terrain didn’t lend itself to agriculture and high density human occupancy in the west, so the federal government set aside many areas as national forests and others also remain public lands managed by the BLM. That’s not to say big cities haven’t sprung up in the west, but they generally have water woes (Denver, Las Vegas, Tucson, Phoenix, Los Angeles, etc.).

                Lots of folks would say western national forests do still contribute a lot economically, including the Outdoor Industry Association. They don’t contribute as much as they did 30 years ago when it comes to timber output, true. Someone else probably has exact economic figures. Lots of other economic sectors have changed in the last 30 years, too. The outdoor recreation industry seems to be growing. I don’t view federal lands as locked up. There is still a lot of stuff happening on them (maybe not some of these during the government shutdown): logging, oil and gas drilling, mining, livestock grazing, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, scenic driving, etc. Maybe some of those activities are not occurring at the levels you’d prefer, but they’re all still happening.

                There are a lot of factors involved in the economics of the timber industry, some directly related to management of national forests, but some significant ones that are not. I don’t think there should be an arbitrary minimum for how much national forests need to contribute to the economy. I don’t know how that’d work, given the multiple resources national forests are meant to provide by statute. Some resources have more traditionally measurable economic outputs than others, and in some situations management for certain resources will conflict. Harvest mandates don’t accommodate such conflicts.

                I’ve taken a crack at your questions. That’s all the time I’ve got tonight.

                • John

                  Thanks for your straightforward point of view. I was familiar with our western federal timberlands prior to the ’80s. I fought fires, did timber stand improvement, felled trees and re-established boundary lines on the Shasta-Trinity in the summer of ’64. I lived in San Francisco in the mid ’70s and camped in Yosemite and elsewhere in the Sierra-Nevada and I toured the sequoia and redwood forests. My work in forestry also took me to the Oregon coast forests and various types of logging jobs on varied terrains.

                  I hear and generally agree with your statements about farmland and the rest. My real interest is in what is best for the environment on 146million timberland acres in the west as compared to the 368million timberland acres in the east. That 514million acres includes all of the timberlands in the US.

                  Re: “I’m fine with figuring out a way for the east to have national forest lands”
                  –> My apologies for trying to make a rhetorical point. Rhetorical points don’t seem to work too well in this blog so I will try to be more explicit.
                  –> The east has plenty of “national forest lands”. 8% (29million acres) of our eastern timberlands in federal ownership gives us plenty of two hour access to some magnificent timberlands.
                  –> In the east we trust 339 million timberland acres to private individuals and timberland enterprises and a small number of other public timberlands. Centuries of harmony between the environment and mankind is found in the eastern US and Europe. Mistakes have been made but we learn and move on.

                  So, from the above, why can’t strategically placed clearcuts and commercial thinnings of 80 acres maximum be used in conjunction with natural management to reduce the future potential for massive areas of catastrophic beetle kill and wildfire?

                  If private ownership and a small amount of other public timberlands combined with 8% federal ownership of timberlands is sufficient to protect the endangered species and the environment in the east, why do we need to exclude sound forest management including logging from a large portion of those western federal timberlands? Federal timberlands are 57% or 84million acres out of the 146million total western timberlands.

                  The environmental laws are the same in the east as in the west. The large companies that I have worked with have lands on both coasts and have repeatedly shown their willingness to go above and beyond the law in dealing with endangered species and in complying with continuously improving state mandated Best Management Practices. This isn’t just my opinion, this is documented by independent audits and memorandums of understanding and habitat conservation plans established in cooperation with the appropriate federal agencies.

                  THE ULTIMATE QUESTION is: What is the ultimate wish of environmentalists if they could get everything that they wanted and get the USFS to do their will? What principles can be articulated to satisfy the majority of environmentalists so as to produce non-contradictory laws and policies that would allow the USFS to move from reactive to proactive management? Is control of USFS practices by legal veto all that most environmentalists want? Are they content with things as they are? What specific principles are environmentalists willing to commit to on paper?

                  • I did mean to say “I’m fine with figuring out a way for the east to have MORE national forest lands.” I’ve been to several midwest national forests and have friends that regularly recreate in the national forests east of the Mississippi River.

                    I’d agree with Jon’s comment below that there are likely species listed under the ESA in the east that aren’t thriving. The red wolf comes to mind.

                    I’d also point out that the forests in the east and west and in between have different species make-ups, different soils, different precipitation patterns, etc., so comparisons east/west simply based on acreage don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

                    You’ve explained at length your concept of “sound forest management” before on this blog, but I don’t think it has a definition that is widely accepted by all who care about these issues, even the Forest Service. In NEPA comments on a timber project, I once asked the Forest Service to define “environmentally sound,” a term used in the National Forest Management Act and cited in the project’s purpose and need, but the agency declined because the statute didn’t define the term. The 2012 planning rule tackles things like “ecological integrity” so it might be covered in that language now, from the agency’s perspective.

                    I also think there are some who’d disagree that “Centuries of harmony between the environment and mankind is found in the eastern US and Europe,” but all likely agree “Mistakes were made.”

                    I’d be interested in a state-by-state comparison of BMPs, and documentation on their rate of implementation and effectiveness.

                    • John: I continued our discussion on clearcuts and fish a few posts ago, and would like your thoughts on it. If you hadn’t been interested, I wouldn’t have done it! Newton just made it worse by having so much stuff to go through.

                    • John Persell – I think that I have addressed all of your questions and speculations

                      Re: “there are likely species listed under the ESA in the east that aren’t thriving. The red wolf comes to mind” – You are reaching by turning to speculation.
                      **See http://www.nsrl.ttu.edu/tmot1/canirufu.htm
                      –> “hybrid offspring of interbreeding red wolves and coyotes more closely resembled coyotes and the genetic identity of the red wolf was gradually suppressed”
                      –> “The red wolf was apparently extinct in the wild by 1980. However, captive breeding colonies of red wolves have been established at several locations throughout the country. Beginning in 1987, red wolves were re-introduced to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR), located on an island off the coast of North Carolina. Between 1987 and 1992, 42 wolves were released in ARNWR and at least 23 wolves were born in the wild. As of August 1992, the ARNWR population numbered at least 24 wolves. Additionally, red wolf pairs have been released on Bull’s Island, South Carolina, St. Vincent Island, Florida, and Horn Island, Mississippi, but breeding and survival on these islands have been limited. Most recently, red wolves have been re-introduced to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
                      –> So work is underway but unlike in the west we aren’t in a panic about it and are patiently working to reestablish the population in a sound and methodical way as opposed to the fear driven, panic, shoot from the hip approach used on the west coast for the NSO and other species.
                      **See http://www.defenders.org/red-wolf/basic-facts
                      –> “Today, wild populations roam more than 1.7 million acres throughout northeastern North Carolina, including Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge”

                      Re: “I’d also point out that the forests in the east and west and in between have different species make-ups, different soils, different precipitation patterns, etc., so comparisons east/west simply based on acreage don’t necessarily tell the whole story.”
                      –> Thank you for that tremendous insight. As I mentioned, I have experience on both coasts as a forester. The comparison isn’t really so much about acreage as it is that, in the east, we collaborate, cooperate, and compromise and we trust and verify that commercial timberlands obey the law. It works here. Yet it doesn’t seem to work in the west. Acreage was simply used as a tool to get the conversation started.

                      Re: “You’ve explained at length your concept of “sound forest management” before on this blog, but I don’t think it has a definition that is widely accepted by all who care about these issues”
                      –> The definition of Forestry as given by the SAF is: “the profession embracing the science, art, and practice of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources for human benefit and in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values —note the broad field of forestry consists of those biological, quantitative, managerial, and social sciences that are applied to forest management and conservation; it includes specialized fields such as agroforestry, urban forestry, industrial forestry, nonindustrial forestry, and wilderness and recreation forestry” http://dictionaryofforestry.org/dict/term/forestry
                      –> So obviously there are those who would disagree with my view but the 10,000 members of the Society of American Foresters agree with me.

                      Re: “but all likely agree “Mistakes were made.””
                      –> I agree, BUT will you agree that environmentalist groups have also made mistakes?

                      Re: “I’d be interested in a state-by-state comparison of BMPs, and documentation on their rate of implementation and effectiveness”
                      **See http://nafoalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/JOF-9-10-BMP.pdf
                      –> “The overall national forestry BMP implementation rate is
                      estimated to be 89%” – as of 2008/2009 – “mplementation shows a clear trend upward in most states.”
                      –> “Assessing national trends in implementation is complicated by different and evolving state BMPs” – As I have repeatedly stated BMPs are evolving as new established science is incorporated. This is Continuous Process Improvement as implemented by any organization that wants to do a better job today than it did yesterday (i.e. to build on basic fundamental principles as new rigorous, statistically sound, science and on the ground experience reveal opportunities to improve).
                      –> “The widespread acceptance of certification programs indicates that many companies are committed to meeting public expectations for sustainable and environmentally sensitive forest management.”
                      –> “Oregon … current rules that have strict requirements for minimum
                      numbers, sizes, and types of trees (conifer or hardwood) to be left in streamside management areas, along with minimum cumulative basal areas for the residual stands. The current riparian rules in Oregon are also adjusted for different regions, beneficial uses, stream sizes, and harvest activities. Over more than 35 years of implementation, the rules have become more detailed and prescriptive. This evolution is repeated in most
                      states that experience periodic reviews of state BMP.” So that settles another discussion in Bob’s post on Newton – Oregon has strict SMZ (buffer) requirements as part of their BMPs
                      –> “Ice (2004) found that BMPs often reduced undesired water quality impacts by 90% or more. Many states have conducted effectiveness monitoring and research to ensure that their BMPs are achieving their water quality goals.”
                      –> Sorry, but if you want anymore detailed state by state info than found in Table #2 in the above link, you’ll have to do your own digging.

                    • Hi Bob, I’ve been following your post and the comments but haven’t had time to read everything more closely and respond. Thank you though for taking the time to explain Newton’s research more thoroughly.

                    • You’re welcome, John! Since you were the primary instigator for all of this homework, I would have felt a little cheated if you didn’t even bother to read it! Seriously, I am pleased that you are taking the time to go over it fairly thoroughly. It’s an important topic and you seem fairly knowledgeable about this stuff. I liked the comments by Botkin and Newton, too, which help to put these findings in better context. Also nice to resurrect Greene’s pioneering work and demonstrate the long-term value of his findings and recommendations.

    • I think John Persell has now probably answered most of your questions about east/west and rural/urban. (My blogging skills still need some work and I missed the new little box to check to get follow-up comments.)

      Regarding the ‘annual volume requirement.’ I’ve done some timber yield modeling, and I know what ‘maximum’ looks like in comparison to a volume that factors in sustainability of everything else. I also know how well the Forest Service has not achieved even that lower level (ASQ) because of things that couldn’t be modeled well. I also can’t assume (like you did) that the minimum acreage authorized by the bill (50%) will be selected rather than the maximum (100%). So I think it is potentially a ‘horrible thing’ if allowed to proceed without meaningful oversight (as this bill would allow).

      I would also like to question your assumption that, “private ownership and a small amount of other public timberlands combined with 8% federal ownership of timberlands is sufficient to protect the endangered species and the environment in the east.” You prefaced this with an ‘if;’ I’d be interested in some facts from anyone supporting or opposing this assumption. (The only sure thing that comes to my mind is the ivory-billed woodpecker.)

  5. Jon Haber

    I don’t see where John Persell has answered my questions at October 6, 2013 at 3:50 am elaborating my main concerns when I brought the subject up. I did check the followup box and still haven’t seen anything. http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/10/03/planning-in-hr-1526-guest-post-by-jon-haber/comment-page-1/#comment-19896

    Re: “I also can’t assume (like you did) that the minimum acreage authorized by the bill (50%) will be selected rather than the maximum”
    –> I looked over my comment and didn’t see where I assumed anything. I used the minimum as an example. The 50% of 50% or 25% of total sustainable yield would seem like a very reasonable starting point and I was trying to show my willingness to be accommodating. Like you, I can’t say what will be selected. However, I can’t imagine anyone being so foolish to as to start of with the maximum or anything other than the minimum – the outrage by environmental groups would be deafening.
    –> Furthermore, I understand, your concerns about oversight. I would certainly be in agreement with setting the minimum as the maximum for a period of 10 or so years and increasing it or decreasing it according to comparing actual inventories to predicted inventories adjusted for differences between projected and actual harvest as determined by the model used to determine sustainability (i.e. reconciling the sustainability model with actuals). Every sustainability and harvest scheduling model that I have developed has been subject to this critical reality check. I would also be willing to commit to only going to the maximum in increments of 5% every 5 to 10 years thereafter depending on model performance and determination that the prior increases have have had no significant impact on the environment as determined by actual surveys as opposed to modeled conjecture.

    Re: “I would also like to question your assumption that, “private ownership and a small amount of other public timberlands combined with 8% federal ownership of timberlands is sufficient to protect the endangered species and the environment in the east.” You prefaced this with an ‘if;’ ”
    –> So you understand that I was making a supposition.
    –> Neither you nor I are aware of any significant environmental issues in the east that would require that more national forests be established in order to address them.
    –> I know that, in the south, the Gopher Tortoise and the Red Cockaded Woodpecker (RCW) are protected on commercial forests. It’s the law, we obey it and especially in the case of the RCW, my employers actually did a better job than the FWS does on the FWS Wildlife Management Area nearest to me.
    **Consider this link in regard to your question about the ivory-billed woodpecker: http://www.ask.com/wiki/Ivory-billed_Woodpecker?o=2801&qsrc=999&ad=doubleDown&an=apn&ap=ask.com
    –> I know of at least three probable but not substantiated sightings since the 1940’s. A swamp in Baton Rouge, Louisiana decades ago, Arkansas in 2004 and Florida in 2006. The above link suggest others. However, there are never any repeated sightings.
    —-> “The American Birding Association (ABA) lists the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as a Class 6 species, a category the ABA defines as “definitely or probably extinct.””
    —-> “Despite these high-profile reports from Arkansas and Florida and sporadic reports elsewhere in the historic range of the species since the 1940s, there is no conclusive evidence for the continued existence of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker; i.e., there are no unambiguous photographs, videos, specimens or DNA samples from feathers or feces of the Ivory-billed. Land acquisition and habitat restoration efforts have been initiated in certain areas where there is a relatively high probability that the species may have survived to protect any possible surviving individuals.”

    So there is nothing to do for the ivory-billed woodpecker that isn’t being done especially when sightings are all questionable and haven’t been repeated in any of the locations where it is claimed to have been seen. Its cousin, the Pileated Woodpecker moves around quite a bit. I’ve seen them every place that I’ve lived in their range but you might go a couple of years before they reappear for a series of repeated sightings of up to several months and then they are gone again and then they return again. So if the ivory billed is anything like the pleated, there is a good reason for not having repeated sightings. For now, the ivory billed appears to have more going for it in terms of “Land acquisition and habitat restoration efforts” than the Yeti and Bigfoot which have had more sightings than the ivory billed.

    Like I said, I appears to me that we are able to honor the intent of the law in the east and that we and our commercial timberland enterprises go above and beyond the law to save endangered and threatened species without the feds having to do it for us. Interestingly, those commercial timberland enterprises have significant properties on both coasts and they go above and beyond the law to save endangered and threatened species on both coasts.

    So we come back to my main question. Why do things appear to work in the east with only 8% federal timberlands while it is very obvious that even 57% isn’t enough in the west? What gives? What is reasonable?

  6. To answer your question there would have to be agreement on what ‘work’ means. I think we’re talking about forestry practices that maintain functioning ecosystems and do not contribute to loss of native diversity. While I grew up in Indiana my natural resource management experience is only in the west, but I’ll speculate a little about why things MIGHT work (while hoping an ‘ologist’ will weigh in).

    I think climate could have a lot to do with it. Warmer and/or wetter means more resiliency to disturbance, and canopy closure and old growth features needed by many species don’t take as long (and mistakes are more correctable). Resulting differences in fire regimes could also be relevant. Also, many of the ‘issue’ species in the west are aquatic or riparian species. Is there a different story for eastern brook trout and Atlantic salmon than for bull trout and Columbia River salmon (the big rivers in the east are naturally pretty muddy)? In the east, it seems to be more locally endemic species that make the news. Things may ‘work’ better in that kind of situation.

    The west also seems to have species that are more sensitive to disturbance and prefer remoteness, like grizzly bear, wolverine, and other forest carnivores. Are there similar species in the east that might benefit from public ownership for this reason? (Were there?) While the human disturbance associated with logging can be mitigated to some degree, don’t forget that private timberlands can easily become subdivisions or resorts.

    If more forests in the west were privately owned, there would probably be a bigger role for the Endangered Species Act. In theory at least, federal lands require management that attempts to avoid new species listings and promote recovery after listing. Private lands really have only the safety net of prohibition of take of species already listed. There would be more habitat conservation plans required for private landowners to allow incidental take (such as for the red-cockaded woodpecker in the south). HCPs for private or state landowners that I have seen are less restrictive than management of habitat for listed species on public lands. In part, I think that is because the public lands can be counted on to provide habitat protection; if there were not public lands, there would be greater restrictions on private lands.

    I brought up the ivory-billed woodpecker as a fairly recent example of failure of private forestry practices. I think the national forests in general and species protection requirements in particular are an attempt to learn from our mistakes.

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