Update: Montana Citizens Given Zero Notice or Opportunity to Participate in Gov Bullock’s 5.1M acre “Fast Track” Logging Proposal

Last week Steve shared this article about Montana Governor Steve Bullock nominating 5.1 million acres of National Forest lands in Montana for “fast track” logging under the recently passed Farm Bill.

Since that article appeared in the Missoulian I attempted to gather basic information from the Gov’s office and the MT DNRC regarding what type of public notice or public process was used to come up with these 5.1 million acres of National Forest land.  For days both the Gov’s office and MT DNRC refused to provided the information, and then when they finally said they’d provide basic information, such as “Was there public notice? Were notes taken?” they stonewalled by telling me I’d have to pay them to answer these basic questions.  After I told them that as a Montana citizen I have a constitutional right to an “open government” (and after a reporter got involved) they finally sent me 3 pieces of paper.

Many of you may have an interest in the fact that, with zero notice given to the public and with zero notes taken, Gov Bullock’s office hand-picked a total of 7 people who met 5 times on the phone and came up with 5.1 million acres of Montana’s National Forest lands that they have nominated for priority “fast track” logging through a weakened and streamlined “Categorical Exclusion” NEPA process that also significantly reduces meaningful public input.

It’s estimated that this “fast track” logging would apply to 60% to 75% of the forested acres of the Lolo, Bitterroot and Kootenai National Forests outside of designated Wilderness areas, but would include previously unlogged forests and critical wildlife habitat.

It should be noted that with the exception of one of the 7 hand-picked people, all of them are also big supporters (and in some cases the authors) of Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

This whole situation should also lend further evidence to what I’ve been saying for years now, and that’s the fact that not all “collaboration” is created equal, and when it comes to Montana public land and National Forest issues we have some incredibly rotten examples of “collaboration.”

The Great Falls Tribune’s John Adams has the story in today’s paper.

HELENA – Critics of Gov. Steve Bullock’s recent nomination of 5.1 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land as priority for “restoration” say the public was left out of the process.

On April 7, Bullock, a Democrat, announced he submitted a letter to the Forest Service nominating more than 8,000 square miles of timber land from northwestern to southcentral Montana to increase the pace of scale of restoration on federal public land.

Bullock said the lands he nominated under a provision in the recently passed farm bill are declining in health, have a risk of increased tree deaths or pose a risk to public infrastructure or safety.

But critics of Bullock’s recent action said there was no notice of the process and no opportunity for meaningful public input on a plan that could potentially open up the majority of non-wilderness timber lands across the state to fast-track timber harvests.

“I didn’t know anything about this until I read about it in the newspaper,” said Michael Garrity, director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

State forester Bob Harrington, of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, acknowledged in an email to the Tribune that the process for choosing the lands Bullock would nominate was not open to the public.

While Harrington, in earlier media reports, couched the process as a “collaboration,” on Monday he said just six people were invited to join an “ad-hoc group” to advise him on identifying priority landscapes national forest lands.

Members selected for the ad-hoc group included Bruce Farling of Montana Trout Unlimited; Barb Cestero of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition; Sanders County Commissioner Carol Brooker; Julia Altemus of the Montana Wood Products Association; Keith Olson of the Montana Logging Association; and Gary Burnett, of the Blackfoot Challenge and Southwest Crown Collaborative.

All participants except for Brooker were involved in drafting and promoting Sen. Jon Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

According to Harrington, the ad hoc group met five times via conference call between Feb. 28 and April 4. Only the Feb. 28 meeting had an agenda, and the meetings were not noticed to the public and no meeting minutes or audio recordings were made.

“They were primarily discussions about the proposed landscape boundaries and focused on a series of maps that were produced along the way, as well as timelines for each of the collaborative groups and/or USFS staff to submit proposed changes to us,” Harrington said in an email.

Matthew Koehler is a longtime Missoula-based forest activist with the nonprofit WildWest Institute. Jake Kreilick, WildWest’s restoration coordinator, is an active member the Lolo Forest Restoration Committee, one of the collaborative groups cited by Bullock in his proposal to the agriculture department.

Koehler pointed out that the agenda for the first ad-hoc conference call, which took place Feb. 28, listed an April 1 deadline for submitting a proposal to the governor “after broader public review/input.”

But the broader public review and input never happened before the governor submitted his letter to the Forest Service, Koehler said.

“What just transpired here is that the governor’s office and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation hand-selected a group who got together, with no public notice, and over the course of five phone calls they decided that 5.1 million acres of Montana forests should be opened to logging under weakened and streamlined public input processes and limited environmental impact analysis,” Koehler said. “Over the course of five conference calls, seven people came up with 5.1 million acres of fast-track public lands logging. That’s more than a million acres per conference call.”

Bullock’s spokesman, Dave Parker, said there will be future opportunities for the public to weigh in.

[Update: The Billings Gazette newspaper reports that on 4/16/14 Bullock’s spokesman, Dave Parker, “threatened to exclude The Gazette from further advisories from the governor….” – mk]

“This is only the first step in the process, one which ensures vigorous public participation on a project-by-project basis,” Parker said. “The process of designating the landscapes was necessary due to the time frame established by the passage of the farm bill.”

Governors had 60 days from the enactment of the farm bill in February to make their nominations to the Department of Agriculture.

“Governor Bullock is proud to have an incredibly diverse coalition, from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Trout Unlimited, to the Wood Products Association and Montana Logging Association, working on this project,” Parker said. “We look forward to creating jobs, restoring the health of our forests and improving habitat for fish and game. We understand that there will be some who instinctively throw rocks at collaboration, which is their right, but they are in the minority.”

Garrity argued that there is no scientific basis for declaring the 5.1 million acres of forest outlined in Bullock’s nomination as “characterized by declining forest health, a risk of substantially increased tree mortality, or an imminent risk to the public infrastructure, health or safety.”

Garrity said the bark beetle epidemic has run its course across much of the state, and that the dead and dying trees that remain in the forest provide important habitat for birds and other native species as well as food sources for grizzly bears — which eat ants and other insects that live in dead trees — and denning habitat for endangered lynx.

“By any ecologist’s definition of what is healthy, these forests are healthy,” Garrity said. “When Teddy Roosevelt decided he wanted to protect our National Forests, he didn’t want them protected just to be tree farms. He wanted to protect them because they are important watersheds for the American public and they provide habitat for native species. Based on that they are healthy forests.”

Koehler estimates that if Bullock’s nomination is approved as it stands now, between 60-75 percent of all the forested acres outside of designated wilderness in the Kootenai and Lolo National Forests would be prioritized for timber harvests under the categorical exclusion provision, which limits the requirement for rigorous environmental analysis.

“What that means is less public involvement, and less analysis about how the timber sale could affect bull trout, or Westslope cutthroat trout, or threatened and endangered species such as the grizzly bear, and lynx, and wolverines,” Koehler said. “Does the public want a say in how their lands are managed, or do they want hand-selected groups meeting secretly behind closed doors undermining America’s public lands legacy and the ability of Americans to fully participate in the management of their public lands?”

28 Comments

  1. I think it’s really worth reading the actual text of the Farm Bill where the new categorical exclusion is described. As you’ll see, any project done under the new authority requires collaboration, along with a host of other limitations. Simply designating an area as eligible for using the new CE is in no way the same as actually designing and implementing a project using the CE. The Farm Bill also required the governor of each state to designate these areas within a 60 day period. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the MT governor did this.
    I suggest everyone just read the forestry portion of the 2014 Farm Bill. Here’s a small portion describing the new CE:


    `(1) IN GENERAL- A project referred to in subsection (a) is a project to carry out forest restoration treatments that–
    `(A) maximizes the retention of old-growth and large trees, as appropriate for the forest type, to the extent that the trees promote stands that are resilient to insects and disease;
    `(B) considers the best available scientific information to maintain or restore the ecological integrity, including maintaining or restoring structure, function, composition, and connectivity; and
    `(C) is developed and implemented through a collaborative process that–
    `(i) includes multiple interested persons representing diverse interests; and
    `(ii)(I) is transparent and nonexclusive; or
    `(II) meets the requirements for a resource advisory committee under subsections (c) through (f) of section 205 of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (16 U.S.C. 7125).
    `(2) INCLUSION- A project under this subsection may carry out part of a proposal that complies with the eligibility requirements of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program under section 4003(b) of the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (16 U.S.C. 7303(b)).

  2. I believe the USFS research says Lynx den in older, mature timber that is in a heavy blow down area, not in a burned or bug kill area with snow line rot tip over trees. The issue is the earth moved by the root ball being pulled from the ground in high wind, creating protective voids. It is not a process of bark beetle killed trees or fire killed trees. And, there needs to be an extraordinary number of those blow downs suspended in the air per acre. Fortress Lynx. They and their young are predated upon by grizzly bears, wolverines, cougars and wolves. Charismatic fauna thrown about as surrogates is old news. Lynx eat snowshoe hares, and snowshoes hares’ preferred habitat is 30-40 year old reproduction across the whole of their habitat, in land that is not steep, or complex, above the mean winter snow line, which is a broad range of elevations from coast to coast. It is a chicken or egg deal with lynx: which came first, the clear cut, wind, or the fire? Some physical process has to create the hare habitat so that lynx might survive. 30-40 year old reprod habitat has to evolve from stand removal events of some kind. Potential lynx denning areas need to be determined decades before the timing for hares is right. No salvage logging in potential denning areas, which would be determined by the rest of the landscape and its age. You leave the potential denning areas alone, in perpetuity.

    As for being endangered, lynx live from coast to coast, here and in Canada and Alaska, in a constantly evolving and moving habitat favored by snowshoe hares. Lynx are transients, as are the hares. A healthy, evolving forest can easily grow itself to NOT be lynx habitat. Forest health is good for lynx for a time period, and then it is not lynx habitat, so the transients have to move on, which does not makes then endangered, but rare in a world that is fast evolving to a preference for mature forests or barren landscapes post fire. Lynx don’t den where there are no hares to eat.
    The “mosaic” of vegetation left by fire is good propaganda. However, every fire report I read has the fire line constructed and hot shot crews burning out areas of unburned fuel within the fire lines. They are burning out the future lynx denning areas. That is where I would find fault with land and vegetation management and fire planners. They sell the mosaic concept and then burn it out at every chance. Probably the overhead team is from North Carolina or Mississippi. If lynx are of concern, then there has to be an empirical fire plan to preserve the mosaic that is as stringent as a logging plan. The fire will produce the hare habitat over time, but no denning vegetation and security cover for denning unless the mosaic is allowed. A mature stand with a new exposure to wind by loss of adjacent trees cover is just what lynx prefer, because that is where the winds will topple the recently exposed trees. Or next to a clear cut. We see wind toppling trees on the sale boundary years afterwards. In 30 years, hares in the reprod and denning habitat for lynx.

    When I was a pup in the timber game, I came across a golden eagle nest on the western foothills of the Cascades. I talked to the BLM biologist the first opportunity I had. He said that Weyerhaeuser and Willamette industrial logging had created a large area of new reproduction which was alive with small game, and food a plenty for the eagles. I saw him a few months later on timber sale day, and he told me he was watching for them and had found two more golden nest sites, because he was looking at BLM timber checkerboard ownership land which was uncut, and had nest tree opportunity. Both were adjacent to large industrial clear cut areas. Wildlife is opportunistic, with species for all ages of timber and reproduction. All they need is their optimum habitat, and in timber country, that evolves from bare ground to old growth, and species for each habitat type. Today, we litigate and express concern for values that only respond to habitat types, which will change as forests grow and mature.

    • Hey, Lyle — you as well as anyone know what’s really going on. This is campaign money for Udall and Bennet, even Hick….I have a question, however.
      Besides the mill in Montrose, what is left in Colorado that is a serious sawmill and not a boutique operator? CTIA’s website is kind of stale.

  3. So much for the constitutional right all Montanans have to an “open government” and “open records,” eh?

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Matthew Koehler
    Date: Wed, Apr 16, 2014 at 9:58 AM
    Subject: Re: Public Information Request Response – PIR-72
    To: “Richards, Lucy” , rharrington@mt.gov, tbaker@mt.gov
    Cc: sherry.devlin@missoulian.com, Rob Chaney , tom.kuglin@helenair.com, Sally.Mauk@mso.umt.edu, dan.boyce@mtpr.org, Tyler Christensen , mike.dennison@lee.net, kpuckett@greatfallstribune.com, sbrowning@missoulanews.com, asakariassen@missoulanews.com, jmayrer@missoulanews.com, llundquist@dailychronicle.com, news@keci.com, news@kpax.com, Greg Lemon , jclarke@ap.org, sgallagher@ap.org, mbrown@ap.org, phansen@blackfoot.net, John Adams ,

    Hello Lucy, Bob and Tim:

    I have better things to do with my time than to keep making “open records” requests, but I must point out that you folks continue to stonewall the public’s right to an open government here.

    For the 3rd time, can one of you please at least confirm that you have gotten my email request from Monday and Tuesday and that someone with MT DNRC or Gov’s office will provide me with the draft and final maps associated with this effort?

    Once again I will remind you that the final sentence of the sparse info you provided me clearly stated, “Draft and final maps associated with this effort are available upon request.” I’m making a request for those draft and final maps for the 3rd time.

    Please fulfill this request, or at the minimum please tell me when you will provide me with the info you folks said was available upon request.

    Thanks so much for your diligence and service to Montana citizens and adherence to our right to an open government.

    Sincerely,

    Matthew Koehler

    On Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 1:33 PM, Matthew Koehler wrote:

    Hello Lucy, Bob and Tim:

    Can you please at least confirm that you have gotten my email request from last night and that someone with MT DNRC or Gov’s office will provide me with the draft and final maps associated with this effort?

    I don’t need to remind you that the final sentence of the sparse info you provided me clearly stated, “Draft and final maps associated with this effort are available upon request.”

    Thanks so much for your diligence and service to Montana citizens.

    Sincerely,

    Matthew Koehler

    ———- Forwarded message ———-
    From: Matthew Koehler
    Date: Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 6:22 PM
    Subject: Re: Public Information Request Response – PIR-72
    To: “Richards, Lucy”

    Hello Lucy, Thank you very much for the information. I’m very sorry that you appear to be in the middle of what some other people are doing, or not doing, regarding public processes and public lands management.

    As per the information you provided, please consider this my request for draft and final maps associated with this effort. I assume since they were offered up, that they will be provided to the public free-of-charge. Have a great evening.

    – Matthew Koehler

    On Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 5:52 PM, Richards, Lucy wrote:
    Mr. Koehler,

    I have consulted with our Forestry staff regarding your April 9/10 information request. Attached is the information you requested. It took our staff under one-half hour to collect and compile. As per our policy and fee schedule, there are no charges for staff time on information requests that take under one-half hour. If you have any further information requests regarding this topic please direct them to me.

    Lucy Richards
    MT DNRC, Director’s Office
    406-444-6699
    lrichards@mt.gov

  4. From an outsider looking in, it sounds like a non-issue to me, other than breaking a promise to include the public in, on a Governor’s “request”. Just how much weight does such a Governor’s “request” carry in a Forest’s 5-year plan? With more ESA issues up there, it is very important to line up tasks, well into the future. Surveys have protocols, and some of those take up a lot of time, and often not at the same times. Some endangered plants can only be identified when they bloom. Bird surveys seek to find active nest trees. More acres means a lot more surveys.

    Frankly, it looks like some good opportunities for further polarization. These are political issues, with little seeming effect on the Forest Service’s actual plans.

    • Hello Larry, You may want to review Section 8 and Section 9 of the Montana Constitution, one of the nation’s best, when it’s followed:

      Section 8. RIGHT OF PARTICIPATION. The public has the right to expect governmental agencies to afford such reasonable opportunity for citizen participation in the operation of the agencies prior to the final decision as may be provided by law.

      Section 9. RIGHT TO KNOW. No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or to observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies of state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.

      And also, according to Montana law minutes ARE REQUIRED for these kinds of meetings.

      See: http://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/2/3/2-3-212.htm

      Montana Code Annotated 2013
      2-3-212. Minutes of meetings — public inspection. (1) Appropriate minutes of all meetings required by 2-3-203 to be open must be kept and must be available for inspection by the public. If an audio recording of a meeting is made and designated as official, the recording constitutes the official record of the meeting. If an official recording is made, a written record of the meeting must also be made and must include the information specified in subsection (2).
      (2) Minutes must include without limitation:
      (a) the date, time, and place of the meeting;
      (b) a list of the individual members of the public body, agency, or organization who were in attendance;
      (c) the substance of all matters proposed, discussed, or decided; and
      (d) at the request of any member, a record of votes by individual members for any votes taken.
      (3) If the minutes are recorded and designated as the official record, a log or time stamp for each main agenda item is required for the purpose of providing assistance to the public in accessing that portion of the meeting.

      History: En. Sec. 3, Ch. 159, L. 1963; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 567, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 82-3403; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 65, L. 2011.

      Here’s the legal definition of “meeting:”

      Montana Code Annotated 2013

      2-3-202. Meeting defined. As used in this part, “meeting” means the convening of a quorum of the constituent membership of a public agency or association described in 2-3-203, whether corporal or by means of electronic equipment, to hear, discuss, or act upon a matter over which the agency has supervision, control, jurisdiction, or advisory power.

      History: En. 82-3404 by Sec. 2, Ch. 567, L. 1977; R.C.M. 1947, 82-3404; amd. Sec. 2, Ch. 183, L. 1987.

      • While you sort all that out, Matt, I don’t think the Forest Service will change what they are doing, and going to try to do. Also, do you really expect the Governor to rescind his “request”, listen to the public, then change his mind about his “request”? Sure, it makes for good theater and “interesting” politics… *SMIRK*

          • I come from a working class family and I’ve never had, nor will I ever have, a country club membership. Mike is just lying and making stuff up, which is pretty funny to me. But hey, I guess sometimes that happens when you troll comment sections at 12:10 am.

  5. Oh, for crying out loud. I just spent the last week rooting around in the Farm Bill and the gov’s proposal.
    First, the maps are old hat, basically the Condition Class stuff that has been around forever. Letting EF alumni have a seat at the table wouldn’t change those maps at all. Just because Jake Jagoff is a member of a collaborative group doesn’t mean he’s entitled to call the shots.
    Come on, kids, this is all a life-saver for Udall, Bennet and Baucus/Walsh — dunno why Wyden was an original sponsor except in terms of senatorial buddyness and its “old growth” specifications.
    The Section 8204 is obviously directed at getting federal loot for Colorado first last and always, red dead and burnt Colorado where all those trophy homes have been immolated and thousands of voters scared spitless. The new language (inserted whole cloth without a hearing into the Senate subsitute farm bill) is actually more restrictive in WUI than even the pathetic, watered down Healthy Forest Restoration Act (that hasn’t) with the exception of a hard appropriations line of 200 mil a year (five years for a 15 year program, by the way).
    This will be just like the Legacy Roads thing that Norm Dicks backed. A disproportionate amount of the obliteration money went to Dicks’ district in the Olympics. Coincidence? Nah. Pshaw.
    Baucus obviously wanted to help focus funding in Montana, to save his can this election, just like Udall hopes 8204 would for him. And the hype is also about helping Walsh get returned to the Senate against long odds.
    Now, let’s put the 8204 in context of the GAO report out yesterday and the EIS/EA/CE timelines. CE’s still take USFS six months, THEN it goes to court and the result from litigation is anyone’s guess in terms of timely action to keep the per-acre costs down so the 200 mil actually accomplishes something.
    My attitude about this is, the political smoke is thick — this will only matter in the end once I can feel trees hitting the ground and see trucks loaded for the mills. Then maybe Mr. Koehler will have something to quibble about. But for now, I’ll wait for actual events on the ground.

    • “Baucus obviously wanted to help focus funding in Montana, to save his can this election.”

      Except that Baucus decided at least a year ago not to seek re-election in 2014. He’s not even in the Senate as he is now U.S. Ambassador to China. Regardless, after winning in 2008 by a 73%-27% margin, I doubt he had much to worry about had he decided to run.

      • Hello Andy: You likely don’t know this, but that 2008 Baucus election was against an 85 year old guy (now dead) named Bob Kelleher. Kelleher was very eccentric and a perennial candidate who previously had run as a Democrat, then on the Green Party ticket, who somehow in 2008 managed to win a very crowded GOP primary that featured 5 candidates, with 36% of the vote.

        I have a feeling that Dave would back me up on this, but I think if you pretty much asked anyone on the streets in Montana about Baucus’ chances if he would’ve stayed for re-election in 2014, most all Montanans thought he was toast.

        The Senate Dem leadership (Reid) thought so too, so it looks like they cooked up the “Send Baucus to China” stunt in order for Dem’s to retain control of the U.S. Senate. But that looks like it will backfire in Montana since Gov Bullock’s office completely bungled the appointment process (wait, another bungled process?) of Lt Gov Walsh, who’s now Senator Walsh….and he’ll be out of a job soon.

        Montana’s new Jr Senator will be Rep Steve Daines come January 2015.

        P.S.

        Nov 21, 2013
        http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/max-baucus/

        As tough as things look for Democrats in the Montana Senate race right now, they wouldn’t necessarily be much better if Max Baucus was running for reelection. Only 38% of voters in the state approve of the job he’s doing to 53% who disapprove. That makes him the second most unpopular Senator in the country in our polling, and the most unpopular Democratic Senator by a good margin.

          • I don’t doubt that Andy.

            And I’ve lived in Montana for a while and have observed the politics here during that time. I would’ve thought the same of Baucus, that he’d be our Senator forever and ever because he was “un-beatable”….even though I never voted for the guy. (I leave it blank a lot in MT.)

            What I was attempting to do above was share the more current Baucus numbers and realities, based on shifting politics and “ObamaCare.” …. And point out that using Baucus 2008 election numbers in a 2014 context doesn’t make much sense, based on 2014 realities and the 2008 “GOP” nominee.

      • Yes, I “gulp” agree with Matt that Tax Fauwkus was in trouble come 2014 after being gifted re-election by boneheaded Republican primary voters in 2008. You had to know Bob, as both Matt and I had the misfortune — Mister NP Hat Parliament.
        At the time the language (from S-745 in July 2013) was jammed into the Senate kitchen-sink substitute, Max was still raising money assidiously.

        • Senators and other congressional incumbents raise money automatically. Even those who have already decided to retire do so. Why? So that they can give their contributions to other politicians that they support.

    • Dave, you said:

      “Now, let’s put the 8204 in context of the GAO report out yesterday and the EIS/EA/CE timelines. CE’s still take USFS six months, THEN it goes to court and the result from litigation is anyone’s guess in terms of timely action….”

      You make that statement as if you have some facts or evidence that lots of CE’s go into court. At least that’s the inference that anyone would make by your statement. According to that GAO report shared by Steve, “the Forest Service reported that 78% of its 14,574 NEPA analyses from fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2012 were CEs.”

      Ok, so that means the U.S. Forest Service conducted 11,368 total CE’s during FY 2008 to FY 2012. How many of those were litigated Dave? I know you don’t know and I know you’ll blow off my request, but seriously, if you’re going to make it seem as if CE’s routinely end up in court you should have some facts/figures to back that up, right? I’ll buy you a beer, Dave, if you can document that anything more than 1% of all CE’s are litigated.

  6. First of all, Matt, you aren’t going to litigate because it’s not politically smart for you to do so. There’s a pretty big level of support for salvaging red and dead and getting fuel loads down. Sue on widely-supported projects, supported by scared people, and you risk the entire legal framework at some tipping point. That’s something Farling understands well, too. He, Cestero and others want to preserve the legal structure of the law above all else, score some wilderness next, and if that means some logging jobs survive in the companies that are kowtowing to this halfway guff, that’s the price they’ll pay — even if it really costs them nothing.
    But the CE’s do cover fairly decent patches, 3000 acres a pop, larger than the Colt Dummit fiasco, and I wonder if the usual litigants (not necessarily Wildwest). Methinks you are mostly upset because you weren’t invited to put the sideboards on the box up front like your buddies at TU and Blackfoot Challenge were. And because the sideboards weren’t set by AWR/NEC — oh, I suspect there will be litigation.
    That is, litigation on the puny share and amount of work proposed after Colorado gets its “cut.”

    • So, Dave, I take your response as proof that you have no idea how many of those 11,368 CE projects were litigated. Rather you just wanted to huff and puff to make people think CE’s are litigated all the time, when in truth they are not. That’s cool and all, but it’s a bummer, because I actually would’ve enjoyed buying you a beer.

      • Matt, the number of EIS’s, EA’s or CE’s being litigated matters magnitudes less than the subject matter being litigated. Even Greens have to be rational about what they want to litigate. Some puny 75 acre mastication CE is not going to be hammered, while a 3000 acre dead stand hanging over some evil subdivision just might be sued to Kingdom Come.
        The number of lawsuits brought as a percentage, declining or rising, is most definitely not an indicator of the heartfelt moderation, magnanimity, or reasonableness of an environmental group. In fact, any decline is more likely a result of declining foundation funding in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street bubble pop, which chewed through all those industrial stocks held by these trusts.
        Further, the percentage is a reflection of changing USFS approaches to the process — risk aversion, simple lack of money, simple lack of DESIRE, lack of a market, etc etc etc.
        Bottom line is, there will be litigation, directed at projects with the most impact — impacts and effects the public supports and desires. But there’s enough money in the farm bill that USFS can, and may very well try, a whackamole avalanche of CEs.
        By the way, does anyone know how many real sawmills, as opposed to boutique specialists, still operative in Colorado?

        • Dave, I can see what you are trying to say here, and some of it I actually agree with, but my original point of even responding to you was that you made it seem like CE projects face litigation as a standard practice and I don’t think that’s anywhere near true or accurate.

        • One. There is ONE decent sized mill in Colorado. Now, I don’t want to belittle the small business men who have the 5-10 MMBF mills…which there are a few. If I recall, the stud mill in Montrose has a one shift capacity of 40 MMBF/year with up to 80 MMBF at 90%. Another stud mill in Saratoga Wyoming, which cuts a lot from Northern CO, just reopened and has a capacity of 25-40 MMBF. These are comparable to your RY-Timber and Tricon in Montana. The Colorado Timber Industry Association sez it’s members have a capacity of 300 MMBF/year. It’s hard to tell, there hasn’t been any published “inventory” of softwood sawmills for awhile. The USDA used to crank em out…but hey…why bother.
          The most telling number in all this, is for FY 2013 the USFS in Colorado sold 87 MMBF of “sawtimber”, (I don’t count non-saw or firewood in the real world) and “cut” 60 MMBF, while the brave souls in Montana sold a ridiculous 34 MMBF of sawtimber…even though they have 7 mills the size of the one in Montrose.
          Another interesting tidbit, is the mill in Montrose and Saratoga were just bought…by savvy guys…who are going to rely on dead MPB killed lodgepole. The rule of thumb for salvaging MPB killed lodgepole is they have a shelf life of seven years…and it’s approaching 5 years since peak MPB mortality. The “seven year” rule was preached back in the 80’s…however in the high price years of the late 80’s the mills were salvaging 10 years after mortality. The Montrose mill can also feast on the abundant dead old growth spruce…remember…we can log old growth spruce if it’s dead…and back in the 70’s they were still logging spruce killed in the late 40’s. Not so for lodgepole. Of course, it helps that the Colorado mills are paying $15/MBF for stumpage, while the mills in Montana are paying up to $150/MBF on state timber sales. Isn’t it ironic, that the radical enviros in Montana are raising millions of additional revenue for school children in Montana. Maybe Matt might wanna take that tack.

          • “and back in the 70′s they were still logging spruce killed in the late 40′s.”

            And I was marking it for cutting — 1973, Dillon Ranger District, White River National Forest.

  7. Did anyone else see this quote?

    Koehler said. “Over the course of five conference calls, seven people came up with 5.1 million acres of fast-track public lands logging. That’s more than a million acres per conference call.”

    Ya know, I really don’t think that statement is exactly true. Did you account for riparian zones, botanical sites, wildlife areas, Roadless Areas, campgrounds, stream buffers, helicopter ground, etc?

    • Larry,
      The zones were already laid out in the Condition Class maps of long standing. The eligible areas are taken from the HFRA areas with an additional specification that they be dead, dead, dead.
      Thanks for the update on the mill infrastructure. I guess the big LP mill at Delta or wherever it was is long gone, so is the mill at Encampment, leaving the one at Sara. Never mind Walden — built a big old gazebo one summer for a Fort Collins opthalmic surgeon and we used units he’d bought when the mill closed I think in 1992.
      And there ain’t no spruce salvage any more. I had just moved from Steamboat back home when the big Diamond Park blowdown hit, moved back to CO and was able to get on the ground, fly over it, and then just stew in my juices as it was all wasted, went beetle, even more died and then burnt across to the North Park.

  8. If we can put aside the question of how the initial lists were developed, I would ask what the broad-brush effort to minimize controversy (requiring use of existing maps to identify areas, discouraging projects that affect old growth, limiting them to higher fire risk areas, prohibiting new permanent roads, requiring collaboration) leaves at risk. (Note that these are all things that could be litigated.) I also think the fact there is now a publicly proclaimed ‘wish list’ offers an unusual collaboration opportunity to further reduce risk and narrow that list down to actual projects. It seems like this process has the effect of forcing the Forest Service to engage the public at an earlier stage of project planning where alternative locations can actually be considered. It also provides the public with a new set of legal ‘hooks’ that could be used to stop these projects and therefore could provide them with negotiating leverage (even though they’ve lost the administrative appeal/objection process). I’m wondering what I’m missing.

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