Pisgah “old-school logging project” Appeal

Here’s a project getting some attention that isn’t in the West: the Courthouse Creek Project, on the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest.

News article in the Black Mountian News yesterday:

Groups appeal to stop Courthouse Creek logging project

Excerpts:

“This is the worst possible place for an old-school logging project,” said D.J. Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The views from the Blue Ridge Parkway and Devil’s Courthouse are worth far more than the timber this project will generate.”

The logging, which could begin as early as 2015, would include 30 harvest sites that range in size from 4 to 34 acres, dispersed across the 7,000-acre Courthouse Creek area. The project would take four to five years and harvest about 6 percent of the trees in the Courthouse Creek area.

and:

“The Forest Service promised to manage this area as intact, mature forest for black bear,” said Ben Prater of Wild South. “The Forest Service bills this timber sale as a restoration project — but the pristine habitat in this area doesn’t need restoring; it needs to be protected.”

The appeal was filed on behalf of the Wilderness Society, Wild South, and Western North Carolina Alliance.

OK, so I took a look at the EA, which is here:

http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/nfsnc/landmanagement/projects

There are 10 items listed under Purpose and Need for Action. This one seems to be the one the groups object to:

4) There is a need to develop between 64-192 acres of early successional habitat in MA 3B and up to 324 acres of early successional habitat in MAs 4A and 4D (Forest Plan, page III-31). There is currently no managed 0-10 year age class habitat in MAs 3B, 4A, and 4D in the AA. Two-age and group selection harvests would provide this needed habitat.

Under the preferred alternative, the Pisgah would take these actions:

In stands harvested with a two-age prescription, an average minimum of 20ft2/acre residual basal area would be left in a non-uniform distribution, where some trees are clumped and others are scattered as individuals. Preferred leave trees are hickory species, white oak, and chestnut.

In stands harvested with a group selection prescription, small openings of 0.2 to 1.0 acres would be harvested, distributed over a stand size area, with the intent to establish three or more distinct age-classes within a prescribed rotation.

Some of these stands “would be harvested with the objective to improve golden-winged warbler habitat and would be permanently maintained as shrub habitat. The target basal area for these units would be 20 to 40 ft2 basal area per acre.”

I can’t imagine these activities would bother black bears in the least.

The EA also note that “Many of the proposed activities in the Courthouse Creek analysis area correspond to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Restoration Focus Areas, which were developed collaboratively between the National Forests in NC, partner organizations, and research scientists in August 2008.”

Of course, there’s lots more detail in the 139-page EA.

Is this an “an old-school logging project”? I don’t know anything about the Pisgah. Anyone care to comment?

My main question is why these groups would appeal an apparently benign project, one that would seem to meet the “developed collaboratively” objectives? I can see a lot that I imagine these groups would support. If this was an “old-school” clearcutting project, I could understand. Maybe these groups think all logging is bad. Or maybe they just have to make some noise.

39 Comments

  1. Yes Steve. I care to comment. Having spent 10 years as timber staff on the adjacent Cherokee N.F. and as my son was DR on the Cheoah RD (adjacent to the Pisgah RD), I’m quite familiar with the land, its history, its characteristics, and its needs.. I’m not sure what “old school logging ” is but I do know that the Pisgah, except for a few tiny isolated tracts, was clear-cut by “old school” loggers prior to large-scale acquisition by Vanderbilt and later by the F.S. under the Weeks Act. To describe this area as “pristine”, as Wild South does, would be laughable if it were not such a sad example of what passes for “public involvement” in National Forest Management.

    The proposed actions are a direct response to the well-documented and urgent need for early successional habitat; a need found not only on the Pisgah but throughout the forests of the eastern U.S. These needs and the scientific basis for the proposed action is fully documented in the proposal to the NFs in North Carolina by the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Appalachian Multiple Use Council which is linked to this web-page http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?page_id=162. The parties to this appeal are invited to read the proposal and especially the appended Bibliography.

  2. It’s not only “pristine”, it’s “intact”. But if in fact it was already logged once, that would argue that logging more primitively than today impacts neither pristinity nor intactitude (oh OK i guess it might be pristineness and intactness?). Or perhaps P and I come back after a number of years? Interesting.

  3. Pristine like the Tillamook…remember I 37 or whatever it was?
    And it wouldn’t surprise me, Westy Mac, if the Pisgah was mowed off, at least partially, more than once before Vanderbilt and Pinchot got a hold of it. Eastern hardwoods grow pretty darn good.
    That’s one of the things that struck me my last trip East, every trip, in fact. You can’t see squat in the east….the last time, the only “vista” I got in the Carolinas was where a mudslide had blown across the interstate and we got all of five seconds to look out over the piedmont. All the rest was buildings and trees, no horizons whatsover.
    I suppose it’s different in the winter, but in the spring, it was thick and close.
    Kind of ironic that this is a collaborative-sanctioned project, and the outliers still get to throw their bombs.
    I would bet money that the opponents here probably never cleaned their rooms as kids. So management of the surrounding environment is an alien concept.

  4. As someone with intimate knowledge of the project and having spent many days on the ground and in water at Courthouse Creek, I can answer a few of the questions raised here because I think that increasing understanding in the conservation community is to everyone’s benefit. If anyone here prefers to argue, rather than strive for understanding, I don’t have time for that.

    What this over-simplistic article and quotations in it don’t communicate is that there are only 140 acres of logging and seven miles of road reconstruction/construction out of 435 acres total that caused the appeal to happen. The area in question provides some of the best habitat in North Carolina for a suite of over 30 forest interior bird species, cavity nesting bats, and rare and uncommon plants as identified by biologists with Western Carolina University, the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Mountains to Sea Ecological LLC, and others. The natural communities proposed for logging are in good condition and are not likely to benefit from heavy equipment and chainsaws. Additionally, the headwaters of Courthouse Creek receive an average of 90 inches of precipitation annually and are very rugged and steep. Poorly planned and maintained roads (some never officially added to the system) from 1992 have led to two landslides and one busted culvert in this important watershed since 1998. Without adequate funding nor realistic analysis, the project attempts to reconstruct a seven mile road system that should probably never have been built to get at a measly 140 acres of ultra-controversial timber. Meanwhile, the appellants have demonstrated a willingness to work with the Forest on the Roses Creek Project, the Grandfather CFLR Project, the Brushy Ridge Project, and more, to meet the goals of the forest plan, accomplish ecological restoration, and generally get along. For some reason the Forest chose to spin its wheels and ruffle feathers with this project rather than get shit done.

    To respond to the comment about collaboration: numerous suggestions about the project, its design, and its purpose and need were given in person, in writing, and over the phone from before scoping in 2010. The Pisgah District chose not to involve others in the purpose and need or design of the project and rejected most proposals for its improvement, such as expanding the size of the analysis area. Forest Service guidance for stewardship projects directs the agency to “involve . . . key stakeholders in collaboration throughout the life of the project” including the fundamental vision for the proposal and “project location and size,” which “should be determined through the collaborative process.” (FSH 2409.19, 61.12) If the Pisgah District has the vision and courage to truly collaborate, I predict better news in the next few years.

    WVM – I look forward to reading your proposal

    Kind Regards,
    Josh

    • Josh, As I said in my original post, I’m familiar with the Courthouse Creek project only though the EA and other documents. However, the project has some similarities to the “ecological forestry” guidelines developed by Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson for forests in the Pacific Northwest. See “Does Federal Forestry Have a Future in Spotted Owl Country? Professors Jerry Franklin and K. Norman Johnson Say Yes.” Here’s an interview I conducted with them for The Forestry Source, the newspaper of the Society of American Foresters (I’m the editor):

      http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/saf/forestrysource_201111/index.php?startid=1

      One of the driving factors in their proposals is that there is a deficit of early-successional habitat. We’ve discussed (and argued over) this at length on this blog. But early-successional habitat also is in short supply in some areas in the East. New Jersey Audubon, for example, has been creating such habitat for the Golden-Winged Warbler, for example:

      http://www.njaudubon.org/default.aspx?tabid=2116

      The Courthouse Creek project has a similar early-successional habitat objective. It also would work to eradicate non-native invasive species, install or repair culverts and erosion control structures, restore fire-adapted stands, set aside patches of older trees, and so on.

      The Pisgah Chapter of Trout Unlimited found both positive and negative aspects, but on the whole found it positive, and stated in its formal comments that “As a board we felt the USFS had the best interest in the long term viability of the forest with this project and we had no major concerns.”

      That’s my view from afar, too: that the USFS had the best interest in the long term viability of the forest with this project.

  5. Sharon

    Re: “I can’t imagine these activities would bother black bears in the least.”
    –> These activities would be greatly appreciated by the black bears. Bears love berries and berries need openings with good access to sunlight to grow. This is just another case of enviro ignorance or deliberately omitting contrary facts in order to make a case. Overemphasis on old growth has negative consequences contrary to the opinions of many here on this blog and the rest of the enviros. What is being done by the SAF to expose these bald faced lies propounded by the enviros per the SAF Core Language item #2?

    Re: “My main question is why these groups would appeal an apparently benign project, one that would seem to meet the “developed collaboratively” objectives? I can see a lot that I imagine these groups would support. ”
    –> After the closed minded reception that I received in my multiple efforts on this blog to state the need for some more logging to create more balance in forest types by creating more early-seral habitat (forest type) in the PNW (per the Forestry Source ?September, 2013?), I am surprised that you have this question. Some of these people are people on this blog whom you seem to esteem very highly. As I have previously stated, repeated incidents like this have shown that their real interest has very little in terms of real concern for the environment. Imho, their real concern is about freezing their viewsheds and recreational areas in the current point of time. Environmental concerns are only a tool to gain their objective. Logic means nothing to enviros if it gets in the way of their wishful thinking.

    Re: “If this was an “old-school” clearcutting project, I could understand.”
    –> I don’t understand why you understand? Old style clearcutting is not bad. What is bad is when people stereotype clearcutting based on some situations that were the result of implementation by people who were insufficiently trained or greedy people without sufficient controls over their activities.

    Re: “Maybe these groups think all logging is bad.”
    –> Bingo, and again, you’ve seen it repeatedly here on this blog.
    –> And sometimes these groups don’t care whether it is bad or good as long as they can use this mantra to keep their viewsheds and recreation areas without considering the long term consequences to the environment that their children will have to deal with. The supreme example of such falsehood and hypocrisy was a case where a Sierra Club President Clearcut his own land in Oregon. I had to search pretty hard to find a link to corroborate my memory: “the Sierra Club President a few years ago who was claiming some sort of moral superiority about the environment and saving the “big trees”.  Turns out he clear cut his Oregon property and had all his decks built with redwood ” Corroborating link: http://sierradragonsbreathe.blogspot.com/2011/11/michael-moore-massive-hypocrite-in-so.html

    • It seems like many of the participants have either never read, or don’t care for the manners suggested on this site. As a first timer, I made at least one right move and did read the side-bar:

      Recommended Comment Considerations
      When commenting, please consider the three doors that charitable speech must pass through. The gatekeeper at the door asks, “Is it true?” The second gatekeeper asks, “Is it helpful?” The third gatekeeper asks, “Is it kind?”

      The first gate, “Is it true”, seems to have not been met by at least a couple of the comments, because they come from folks who have zero first hand experience with any of the places, groups, people, or issues involved here and yet claim to have a miraculous ability to read minds. It seems like people are taking out pent-up hostilities from there own experiences and transferring them to this situation hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles away.

      The second gate has been met, by all, because it’s always useful to know what people are really thinking. The third gate can be very difficult to achieve when people care deeply about a topic, like land, water, relationships, etc. My observation is that achieving all three gates leads to success for everyone involved. I appreciate this site for striving for that.

    • Gil, This is Steve…. I wrote “If this was an “old-school” clearcutting project, I could understand.” I didn’t say “old-school” clearcutting was or is bad. The Courthouse Creek project, there’s no clearacutting at all, so I wondered, in light of the many positive aspects of this project (my opinion, based only on a reading of the EA and decision notice), why the groups appealed. Sure, there might be aspects these groups don’t like — Josh Kelly, who’s a biologist with one of the groups, the Western North Carolina Alliance, has mentioned some of them. But on balance, this project is positive – well thought out, environmentally.

      • Andy

        Well it looks like I owe you a very tiny apology, it wasn’t the Sierra Club’s National President – It was their northwest regional director:

        –> Hypocrisy = Contrast the man’s words with his actions as shown in January 1994 article from The Seattle Times at this link here. I hope this is an acceptable reference for you.
        August 1993 – “William Arthur, northwest regional director of the Sierra Club”
        http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=19940118&slug=1890204
        “All that was left were Washington state’s per-acre minimums for private landowners: two wildlife trees, two “recruitment” trees for regrowth, and two downed logs per acre. Pictures of the site also show what loggers call “whips” – tall trees too skinny for lumber mills”

        http://www.shoshonenewspress.com/editorial/article_e2c05b1a-4adb-11e2-85b6-0019bb2963f4.html
        “then there was that Sierra Club lawyer in charge of pushing the Sierra Club’s agenda to end logging who clear-cut his own timberland in eastern Washington — in violation of his own organisation’s guidelines and over the protests of the logger he’d hired — because he had to pay for a divorce.”

        My original sources were forestry and wood products trade magazines/papers which I have thrown away in retirement and which are no longer in print or I’d supply them also.

  6. Steve

    My apologies to both Sharon and you for being confused as to which of you authored the thread.

    Re: “I didn’t say “old-school” clearcutting was or is bad”
    –> Nor did I say that you did.
    –> What you said was:“If this was an “old-school” clearcutting project, I could understand. ”
    –> What I said was that “I don’t understand why you understand?” With the implication being that I don’t understand why you understand people being opposed to ““old-school” clearcutting”.

    • Gil

      I wrote “If this was an “old-school” clearcutting project, I could understand. ” because some people dislike or even detest clearcuts (no news to anyone on this blog). So, it would not be surprising that some folks would protest or appeal a project involving clearcuts. But as I said in my post, I think it is surprising that the Courthouse Creek project drew an appeal — to me, the projects looks to be quite benign.

      For what it’s worth, I support the use of clearcutting when the practice is an appropriate silvicultural prescription.

      • Steve: The citizen appeals process was set up by the United States Congress as part of the public involvement process. However, the basic tenor of your post makes it seem like citizens or organizations or businesses filling an appeal are doing something wrong, or working outside the process.

        There is only one person currently participating in this comment thread who has intimate, specific, on-the-ground knowledge about the project and that’s Josh Kelly. And as he already said:

        “What this over-simplistic article and quotations in it don’t communicate is that there are only 140 acres of logging and seven miles of road reconstruction/construction out of 435 acres total that caused the appeal to happen. The area in question provides some of the best habitat in North Carolina for a suite of over 30 forest interior bird species, cavity nesting bats, and rare and uncommon plants as identified by biologists with Western Carolina University, the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program, Mountains to Sea Ecological LLC, and others. The natural communities proposed for logging are in good condition and are not likely to benefit from heavy equipment and chainsaws. Additionally, the headwaters of Courthouse Creek receive an average of 90 inches of precipitation annually and are very rugged and steep. Poorly planned and maintained roads (some never officially added to the system) from 1992 have led to two landslides and one busted culvert in this important watershed since 1998.”

        As such, and given these facts, I personally have no problem with local people and groups in the area using the public appeals process as part of their continued public participation in this National Forest project.

        • Matthew, filing an appeal is not “doing something wrong, or working outside the process.” In this case, as I’ve said, I think the positives of the project far outweigh the negatives, so the appeal seems to — my opinion, for what it’s worth — to make mountains out of mole hills. The proponents focus on the negatives even when they are addressed in the EA. For example, where Josh writes that “Poorly planned and maintained roads (some never officially added to the system) from 1992 have led to two landslides and one busted culvert in this important watershed since 1998.” The EA outlines the agency’s intent to “reduce long-term road maintenance costs and allow seasonal closure,” “Install or repair culverts and erosion control structures as necessary,” “address road entrenchment that is causing erosion and sedimentation issues,” and “add [non-system roads] to the system in order to efficiently manage these roads as linear wildlife openings while still prohibiting unauthorized motorized use with a gate.” The EA is very specific about where these actions would be employed. So what’s the problem here? That the agency isn’t doing enough?

          Josh, can you post the appeal here? I haven’t found a copy on the web.

          • Matthew, filing an appeal is not “doing something wrong, or working outside the process.” In this case, as I’ve said, I think the positives of the project far outweigh the negatives, so the appeal seems to — my opinion, for what it’s worth — to make mountains out of mole hills.

            Sure, so that’s your opinion Steve. An opinion from someone who has admitted “I don’t know anything about the Pisgah” and apparently has never been to the site and really doesn’t know much about the project in question.

            Yet, it appears to me that you are the one making a mountain out of molehole, which is this case is an appeal (oh my!) filed by organizations who do know something about the Pisgah NF, who have scientists on staff that have been on the ground and poured over the Forest Service documents.

            And, as Josh already pointed out, these same groups and individuals, who have been on the ground, made “numerous suggestions about the project, its design, and its purpose and need were given in person, in writing, and over the phone from before scoping in 2010. The Pisgah District chose not to involve others in the purpose and need or design of the project and rejected most proposals for its improvement, such as expanding the size of the analysis area.”

            So again, what’s the big deal with these folks using the public appeals process established by the US Congress? Anyway, I’ve written one of the groups that filed the appeal and will post it here when I get a copy. Thanks.

            • Matthew

              Re: “these same groups and individuals, who have been on the ground, made “numerous suggestions about the project, its design, and its purpose and need were given in person, in writing, and over the phone from before scoping in 2010. The Pisgah District chose not to involve others in the purpose and need or design of the project and rejected most proposals for its improvement, such as expanding the size of the analysis area.””
              –> As the opening post states, other groups had been involved since 2008 and the proposed action plan was consistent with the goals collaboratively set by those groups and the USFS. The groups that you refer to were involved in that they were allowed to provide input. The USFS choose not to include all of their suggestions because of the tradeoffs.
              —- We have responded to your specific points at these links, please respond specifically to our points and show us where we are wrong.
              http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/11/14/pisgah-old-school-logging-project-appeal/comment-page-1/#comment-25151
              http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/11/14/pisgah-old-school-logging-project-appeal/comment-page-1/#comment-25041
              http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/11/14/pisgah-old-school-logging-project-appeal/comment-page-1/#comment-25774
              http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/11/14/pisgah-old-school-logging-project-appeal/comment-page-1/#comment-25411
              http://forestpolicypub.com/2013/11/14/pisgah-old-school-logging-project-appeal/comment-page-1/#comment-25636
              —- Even Josh states: “My guess is that you and I could agree on most of the specifics and still disagree on the purpose and need of this project. That is the case locally with some conservationists that do have specific experience in the area.” So the local conservationists and other groups involved since 2008 are NOT all in agreement with those filling the appeal.

              –> Josh also states:
              – “I agree that the proposed project will not harm the locally thriving black bear population.”
              – “(I do acknowledge that ESH is declining on public land)” [ESH = Early Serial Habitat]
              — “Without adequate funding nor realistic analysis, the project attempts to reconstruct a seven mile road system that should probably never have been built to get at a measly 140 acres of ultra-controversial timber”
              —–> But the purpose as stated in Steve’s opening post is not to get at a “measly 140 acres of ultra-controversial timber” but the purpose includes: “There is a need to develop between 64-192 acres of early successional habitat in MA 3B and up to 324 acres of early successional habitat in MAs 4A and 4D” and “Some of these stands “would be harvested with the objective to improve golden-winged warbler habitat and would be permanently maintained as shrub habitat” and “Many of the proposed activities in the Courthouse Creek analysis area correspond to the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest Restoration Focus Areas, which were developed collaboratively between the National Forests in NC, partner organizations, and research scientists in August 2008.”
              –> In other words this is all about balance and tradeoffs for the health of the forest ecosystem and all of its components in total rather than maximizing a specific interior species habitat which the USFS appears to have deemed to still be sufficient after the project is completed.

              These things are never black and white. The USFS has weighed the facts and the input and, based on what has been revealed to date, their tradeoffs and proposed actions do not violate any fundamental principles. Nor does it appear that the area to be operated on is of significant size to cause any significant impact to the other species which are of concern to those who have filled the appeal.

          • Steve,

            Sorry I haven’t checked in here for a few weeks. Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

            The Courthouse Project Appeal by WNCA, Wild South, and The Wilderness Society can be found here: http://www.carolinapublicpress.org/17231/enviro-groups-forest-service-to-meet-about-national-forest-timber-harvest-appeal

            I hope these are informative. There has been much discussion about the road system and erosion concerns, which is well-founded. If the appeal does not answer your questions about the road system or other issues, I am happy to elaborate and clarify as much as possible.

            Josh

            • Josh, I continue to believe that the sale is benign. The appeal states that “The USFS “missed an opportunity to implement a meaningful restoration project through a commercially viable timber sale that would meet the needs of all stakeholders….” Based on my reading of the EA, the project would result in meaningful restoration. In a perfect world, every project would meet the needs of all stakeholders. As I said previously, I suggest that this project does meet some of your needs.

              The appeal says that your groups have advocated for reducing or eliminating commercial harvesting in the area. If the harvesting weren’t commercial, would the project be more acceptable?

              • Steve,

                Thanks for your reply. To answer your question about commercial harvesting, that has nothing to do with the problem here. The Forest Service could have expanded the analysis area to correspond to the Watershed Condition Framework and done more commercial logging, outside the Pisgah Ridge Significant Natural Heritage area, without adding 7 miles of road to the road system, and not run afoul of the appealing groups. The “old-school” things at play here are the Pisgah District’s ability to collaborate effectively and allowing the timber shop to lead this project more-or-less in a vacuum.

                Josh

      • Steve

        Re: “I wrote “If this was an “old-school” clearcutting project, I could understand. ” because some people dislike or even detest clearcuts (no news to anyone on this blog). So, it would not be surprising that some folks would protest or appeal a project involving clearcuts.”

        –> I read you loud and clear and my first thought was “Yes, I agree” but then I thought – Is it right to accept/understand irrational thoughts and actions? The question is: is understanding the same as accepting?
        –> In http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/understand?show=0&t=1384827556
        —- the definition of understanding in the intransitive verb item #4 is “to show a sympathetic or tolerant attitude toward something”.
        —- Semantics leaves a lot of room for mis-interpretation and I assume your intent was more along the lines of the transitive verb definition item #1-d “to be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of”
        –> My concern and the intent of my question was that we should show no tolerance for those who continue to insist on making decisions based on aesthetics in spite of efforts to show them that their lack of expertise and oversimplification of forestry related issues is self defeating in the long run. (i.e. I believe that the SAF has been too understanding.)

        • Gil, what do you mean by saying “show no tolerance for those who continue to insist on making decisions based on aesthetics”? How should we foresters respond? We ought to acknowledge that aesthetics is an important value or characteristic, but explain, based on the situation, that it is only one of many values or desirable characteristics.

          • Steve

            What I “mean by saying “show no tolerance for those who continue to insist on making decisions based on aesthetics”?” is that we need to challenge (SAF core language item #2) those situations where aesthetics overrules the long term health of the forest in spite of efforts to explain the science appropriate to the situation. Enviros have put their fingers in their ears when science has been used to explain why appropriate site specific prescriptions include “old style logging”. We have seen it repeatedly, even here on this site. To accept/understand this action by uninformed individuals who repeatedly choose mantras while ignoring the science is irresponsible on our part as forestry professionals.

            As I was reviewing info on Andy’s list of Sierra Club presidents, my memory was refreshed as I came across one of the big items that pushed the shut down of clearcutting in the PNW. The Sierra Club president was appalled by the aesthetic impact of clearcuts on his viewshed from a commercial flight. It was all about his right to see unbroken forest views during his flight. What was right for the forests was unimportant. We should show no tolerance for and we should aggressive challenge such foolish decision criterion when they override the health of the forests. Anything less is irresponsible on our part. Aesthetics has a role but it should not be allowed to continue to overrule the long term health of the forest.

            • I agree, Gil: as SAF members, we follow a code of ethics, which states, in part:

              “We pledge to use our knowledge and skills to help formulate sound forest policies and laws; to challenge and correct untrue statements about forestry; and to foster dialogue among foresters, other professionals, landowners, and the public regarding forest policies.”

              http://www.safnet.org/about/codeofethics.cfm

              Anyhow, the appeal of the Courthouse Creek project is about much more than aesthetics.

  7. Josh

    No disrespect meant. I am genuinely interested in explaining my reasoning and hearing your rebuttal. Please read my comments below and then explain where you find me to have fallen short on these items:
    “Is it true?”
    “Is it helpful?”
    “Is it kind?”

    Re: “The first gate, “Is it true”, seems to have not been met by at least a couple of the comments, because they come from folks who have zero first hand experience with any of the places, groups, people, or issues involved here and yet claim to have a miraculous ability to read minds.”
    –> In the mid 70’s I was the planning manager for 2+ million acres of commercial timberland from Va. to TX and was familiar with forests like the Pisgah and visited the Pisgah.
    –> With 6 years of Forest Management and Biometrics training and 38 years of experience in the forestry and wood products industry including a great deal of familiarity with the “my way or the highway” attitude of many environmental groups.
    –> Are my qualifications pertinent? Am I reading minds or am I reporting my experience in general?

    Re: “it sems like people are taking out pent-up hostilities from there own experiences and transferring them to this situation hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles away.”
    –> We can’t be experts on every situation discussed here – if that were required there would be no discussions here and even when you are an expert people don’t respect the established science behind your positions – so there is a great deal of truth to your statement – but even you have jumped to false conclusions as to people who have “zero first hand experience”. I strive to comment based on generally established and verified principles of forestry but it means absolutely nothing to the enviros in this group. As to my comments about enviros, it is based on my general experiences since some parts of the conservation movement went extreme enviro decades ago.

    So in regard to is it helpful or kind – Retired foresters like myself and others who have no vested interest in the outcome (other than our love for forests and their denizens) have bent over backwards here to try and show a willingness to accommodate and demonstrate where an overemphasis on one component can have a seriously negative impact on the long term success of the entire ecosystem that is necessary to provide habitat for the species of concern. The result has been no willingness by the enviros here to even consider our suggestions – So the answer is that nothing is helpful or kind when there are parties or non parties who will do all in their political and legal power to defeat any consensus including in this situation in which you are involved.

    • Hi Gil,

      Thanks for the introduction and your biography. I do think you experiences offer you insight into Southern Appalachian Forests. That being said, there is tremendous variation among Appalachian Forests, even if limiting one’s self to talking about oak dominated ecosystems.

      My objections about Courthouse Creek relate entirely to site specific facts. Specifics about the unique attributes of the slopes and streams beneath Devil’s Courthouse (Judaculla’s Judgement Seat – nothing to do with the Abramic devil, really), Chesnut Bald, Silvermine Bald and Pilot Moutnain. Specifics about the condition of the natural communities there and the species that benefit from the area right now. Specifics like the largest single patch of blue berries, black berries and early successional habitat (over 1,500 acres) in the Blue Ridge occurs right across the Blue Ridge Parkway running From Graveyard Fields to Shinning Rock (I do acknowledge that ESH is declining on public land). Specifics about resource damage occurring on an overbuilt, poorly designed and under maintained road system. Specifics about what the Forest’s priorities should be in a time when it is chronically underfunded and 10 years behind implementing its Forest Plan. When I talk about first hand experience, I mean in regards to Courhouse Creek as a unique place, just as you and I are unique people. I hear you on using our general experience to have substantive conversations about particular issues, like the Courthouse Creek Project.

      My guess is that you and I could agree on most of the specifics and still disagree on the purpose and need of this project. That is the case locally with some conservationists that do have specific experience in the area.

      I agree that the proposed project will not harm the locally thriving black bear population. However, I don’t agree that the part of the project I object to is in the best interests of a management area designed for forest interior wildlife species, nor is it likely to benefit bears.

      As far as where you and others have fallen short of the three gates, I think it would be valuable for you to attempt to recognize that on your own. I have a habit of proof-reading to attempt to identify word choices that I suspect might be inflammatory to those with different perspectives – things like name calling, labeling, attribution of motives, and metaphores that invoke fighting or violence. Seems like I still slip up enough to anger some people I genuinely respect. Too bad I can’t proof-speak!

      Josh

      • Josh

        I agree that I can’t know the specifics regarding “forest interior wildlife species” on the “Courthouse Creek” project. But I do know that it’s all about priorities. And I do know about the general fundamental principles that set the highest priorities in terms of the big picture which is the key to resolving conflicting goals (i.e. competition for survival). We are only fooling ourselves if we think that we have resolved conflicts while forgetting that we have violated a fundamental principle.

        My contention is that one of the most fundamental principles is that you can’t take care of minor or indicator component species in a forest ecosystem until you have taken care of the keystone species that creates the forest ecosystem which provides the habitat for the non-keystone species. Part of that philosophy includes provision for a reasonably balanced distribution of age classes in order to provide for succession and minimize the risk of an ecosystem crash due to a significant gap occurring in the succession process. This is something that I think too many enviros don’t understand when they focus on maximizing old growth or whatever. Very few non-foresters think in terms of the super long term view necessary to manage forests sustainably. It’s kind of like our current national transition from self reliance to heavy dependence on gov’t subsidies without considering what it is going to do to the freedom of our children’s children – we minimize suffering now but create more suffering when the Ponzi scheme comes to an abrupt and calamitous end. (No offense intended to anyone who holds a different political view)

        Sound Priorities come from not loosing sight of the fundamental principles that apply across all situations [i.e. gravity, succession (age class or other succession related heterogeneity), edge effect, evolution, survival of the fittest, heterogeneity to minimize catastrophic loss through disease, insects or wildfire, global change (species with high habitat and range flexibility) and etc.]. It’s the KISS principle. It’s like the story we’ve all heard where a professor showed his students that if they put the biggest rocks in the jar first and the smallest grained sand in last, everything would fit – otherwise there won’t be enough room for everything.

        From the above, I think that you can see why I believe that the project is a net positive unless you can provide me with USFS case points and your counterpoints in a way that convinces me that your counterpoints make more sense and don’t violate the fundamental principles that I hold true unless you can show me where my fundamental principles are untrue.

  8. Andy

    Thanks for the list of Sierra Club Presidents – It was a male and I read it in several publications. I’m thinking it was in the ’90s or ’80s – I’ll dig for a source to support my memory that might be more acceptable to you. I’ll get to it soon, I’ve been on the road since before this thread was started.

  9. A few thoughts on “local expertise”:

    No-one is as familiar with the area and inspected the landscape as the Forest Service field person(s) who makes the pre-sale prescription and actually visits, samples, and evaluates every stand to be treated, and makes a professional judgement on the stand conditions, its relationship to adjacent stands, assesses its needs and determines the actions that would best respond to these needs.

    No-one is better able to evaluate the priorities of competing demands than the inter-disciplinary team that meets to debate in depth the elements -environmental, economic, and social – that will result in the final EIS or EA.

    To contend that casting a fly on the local waters for 20 years, or viewing inspirational vistas from a forest trail since boyhood qualifies one to make complex resource management judgements involving multiple disciplines and competing interests seems to be a bit of a stretch.

    I must add that I don’t always agree with local Forest Service management decisions myself.

    • How about a degree in biology, region-wide respect as a reasonable and knowledgeable person in one’s field, and two weeks of field time in the area in question?

      I personally hold experience to be on par with education, if not more valuable.

    • Great, good for you Gil. Turns out that after fully participating in the entire NEPA process for the project, pouring over the documents and conducting numerous on-the-ground visits some other American citizens disagree with the Forest Service and therefore used the public appeal process established by the US Congress. Thanks.

  10. Just to round out this story, the appeal of the Courthouse Project was settled, resulting in the decomissioning of 4.3 miles of road that was discovered, upon review of our appeal, to not be an authorized system road. Associated with that road closure and a NFMA issue where Forest Plan standards were not being followed, 45 acres were removed from the timber sale, leaving ~390 acres of timber harvest in the project, about 100 of which are in the original boundaries of the Pisgah Ridge Significant Natural Heritage Area.

    http://wnca.org/conservation-groups-reach-agreement-with-forest-service-on-logging-at-courthouse-creek/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *