More on Montana Lands Designated as Restoration Priorities

Interesting op-ed by by Julia Altemus, Exec. VP of the Montana Wood Products Association (Don’t be fooled by false claims about Bullock’s forest priorities) and comments on it, including a long one by our fellow NCFP blogger, Matt Koehler. The op-ed is in response to an April 16 article, “Conservation groups criticize governor over forest restoration,” and comments on it.

24 Comments

  1. Thanks Steve, for helping us shine some light on this.

    See also:
    Bullock’s secret logging deal catches well-deserved flak (here)
    Bullock’s attempted end run around citizens becomes a mess (here)
    Manage federal forest lands with all Americans in mind (here)

    BREAKING NEWS: Julia Altemus, Montana’s top logging lobbyist, supports efforts to increase National Forest logging by “categorical excluding” logging projects from the requirements of NEPA and reducing citizen input!

    I know, that’s hardly breaking news for anyone who’s followed Julia Altemus’ career during the past 15 years from Senator Conrad Burns’ staffer, to the Montana Logging Association, to the MT DNRC and now to the Montana Wood Products Association.

    Here are the facts that logging lobbyist Julia Altemus failed to let readers know:

    A month ago the WildWest Institute exposed the fact that Gov Bullock nominated 5 million acres of National Forest land in Montana for “fast track” logging via a hand-picked of 7 people (including Julia Altemus) that met in secret on the phone 5 times with absolutely no public notice, no notes taken and zero opportunity for Montanans to provide any input.

    Verify these facts for yourself by viewing this official response we got from an open-records request we made to the MT DNRC (http://bit.ly/1lyJPEV). Julia Altemus can now try to inflate this group of 7 people all she wants, but the facts and the facts, as outlined in the open-records information provided by the MT DNRC.

    Montanans should also know that when the WildWest Institute requested basic information about this secret process, the Bullock administration stonewalled the request for 5 days and even threatened to make Montana citizens pay for this basic info.

    
The 5 million acres of National Forests nominated for “fast track” logging fall under a new provision in the Farm Bill that calls for an unlimited number of timber sales up to 3,000 acre (4.7 square miles) in size each spread across our National Forests.

    Unlike what Bruce Farling with Montana Trout Unlimited and Julia Altemus claim, these National Forest timber sales are “categorically excluded from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.” That’s a direct quote from the bill, Bruce and Julia, so please look it up and don’t waste your breath claiming we haven’t read the bill.

    What this means is there will be no environmental analysis as to how a timber sale could impact threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, grizzly bear and lynx. Opportunities for meaningful public input have also been severely curtailed, including removal of the citizen appeal and objection process.

    It’s simply incredible to see how Julia Altemus and Bruce Farling can know that these timber sales are to be “categorically excluded from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act,” yet, can now make it seem to the public that this fact is no big deal and that excluding a timber sale from the requirements of NEPA will result in no impacts. If that’s the case, then why not just do away with NEPA entirely? Oh wait, maybe that’s the end goal.

    To help put this 5 million acres in perspective, it’s estimated that 65-80% of the forested acres of the Lolo and Kootenai National Forests – outside of Wilderness – are nominated for “fast track” logging, including everything colored green, tan or red on this map: http://bit.ly/1mV4jtP. As a backcountry, public lands hunter I can assure you that many pockets of prime wildlife habitat and beautiful, ecologically-diverse National Forests have been nominated for “fast track” logging. Get on the ground and see for yourself.

    Recent columns by the Montana timber industry and a handful of “collaborators” defending this secret process ignore the fact that the February conference call agenda clearly states: “April 1st deadline to Governor – after broader public review/input” (http://bit.ly/1m7NDyL).

    But as we all know now, that public review and input was never allowed.

 Why doesn’t Bruce Farling or Julia Altemus be honest with Montanans about this fact? I mean, both Farling and Altemus were part of the secret, hand-picked group that meet with no public notice and no pubic input, so Bruce Farling and Julia Altemus must have been fully aware of the February agenda that stated, “April 1st deadline to Governor – after broader public review/input,” right?

    In a recent column, NWF’s Tom France tried to paint anyone with concerns about the secret “fast track” logging nomination process as part of “fringe groups.” In his Missoulian column, Farling took it a step further earlier this week in the Missoulian by claiming, anyone with concerns about the secret, no-notice, no-public input process or the pending Farm Bill “fast track” logging are a “tiny clique representing pretend “institutes,” “councils” and “alliances.” Julia Altemus continues this trend in her own unique way.

    Unfortunately, this is just yet more deception from Bruce Farling and Julia Altemus to cover up their role in this secret nomination process.

    
Fact is (and Bruce Farling and Julia Altemus are fully aware of this) WildEarth Guardians – a group that’s won awards for working within open and transparent processes, and with 43,000 members in Montana and across the country – wrote Gov Bullock and requested that he withdraw the designation and restart a full process open to the public, not just hand-picked timber lobbyists and a few other people (bit.ly/PL11uz).



    So is WildEarth Guardians and their 43,000 members a “tiny clique” or a “pretend” group, Bruce? Is WildEarth Guardian’s a “fringe group” Julia?

    Furthermore, just this week 45 conservation groups (representing over 1 million people in America) sent a letter to the U.S. Senate leadership expressing concerns with the Fast Track National Forest logging provision within the Farm Bill, and requested that Sec 8204 of the Farm Bill be excluded from receiving any appropriations. Read the letter for yourself here: http://bit.ly/1fPVe3p.

    Unfortunately, the Montana media hasn’t felt a need to report on the existence of this letter, but all the reporters in the state know about it, as it was sent directly to them. Again, Bruce Farling and Julia Altemus are also fully aware of this fact, but they would rather engage in more deception, than be truthful with the public.

    It also must be pointed out that despite what Julia Altemus says, our small organization, the WildWest Institute, does (in fact) participate in open, inclusive, transparent “collaborative” processes dealing with National Forest management. Our organization’s restoration coordinator is the former chair of the Lolo Restoration Committee and remains active with that group. We helped found FireSafe Montana and a WildWest staff member is the former president of that group. WildWest helped write the Montana Restoration Principles and is an active member of a collaborative group on the Salmon-Challis NF in Idaho.

    To be honest, the 7 people who were hand-picked by Governor Bullock are all part of a small group of people and organizations also supporting Senator Tester’s mandated National Forest logging bill. These people seem more concerned with politics, than with the open, inclusive and transparent processes required by NEPA.

    Heck, the person in the Governor’s office who put together this most recent hand-picked group of 7 that met in secret with no public notice or input is Tim Baker, the Gov’s Natural Resource Policy Advisor. Where did Tim Baker work previously? Well, he served as the executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association, one of the main groups supporting big increases of public National Forest logging in Montana via Tester’s logging bill. And so, round-n-round it goes.

    Unfortunately, this is just the latest evidence of the Montana timber industry working with a few well-funded conservation organizations to greatly increase National Forest logging in Montana by weakening our environmental laws, “categorical excluding the requirements of NEPA” or limiting opportunities for meaningful citizen input. Montanans and our public lands and wildlife deserve far better.

  2. Freedom of Information Request Exposes the Real Julia Altemus: Documents Altemus’ Behind-the-Scenes Attempts to Sabotage Bona-Fide, Genuine National Forest Restoration Efforts of Conservation Groups

    By Matthew Koehler, WildWest Institute, May 10, 2014

    Montana citizens have a right to know this story about Julia Altemus, especially after her latest opinion piece in the Missoulian (http://bit.ly/1seBPcu). After reading this account, please ask yourself if Julia Altemus seems like a person that wants to really work together with all Montanans to support bona-fide restoration work on America’s National Forests.

    Back in 2005 I filed an official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the federal government requesting copies of communications between public officials at the Bitterroot National Forest and Montana timber industry officials.

    The FOIA request turned up 930 pages of Forest Service communications with Montana timber industry officials. Some of these communications were quite interesting as they contained very frank discussions regarding soils, old-growth forests, how to deal with public comments and conservation groups in regards to the Bitterroot National Forest’s Middle East Fork logging project, the first timber sale in Montana to be done under George W. Bush’s Healthy Forest Restoration Act (http://bit.ly/RxtSnk).

    Here’s where timber industry lobbyist Julia Altemus comes in. At the time, in 2005, Altemus was the lobbyist and policy person for the Montana Logging Association. This was just after Altemus worked as a lead staffer for Senator Conrad Burns, during which time Altemus claimed to have written the Healthy Forest Restoration Act.

    In October 2005, I read a commentary on the evening Montana Public Radio (KUFM) news program, which outlined our organization’s “restoration vision” for public lands. Our organization had just finished up a 4 year bridge-building effort with restoration practitioners, small independent loggers and over 100 conservation organizations around the country. One result of that effort was the development of a set of Forest Restoration Principles (http://bit.ly/1mKMYjM), which were supported by over 130 organizations around the country.

    My KUFM Montana Public Radio commentary was highlighting these Forest Restoration Principles and also, since 2005 marked the Forest Service’s 100 year anniversary, our organization was promoting the next 100 years of National Forest management as the “Restoration Century.” Pretty radical stuff, eh?

    Well, apparently our genuine, pro-active, bridge-building efforts to work with a broad array of citizens, organizations and restoration practitioners to promote bona-fide National Forest restoration didn’t sit very well with timber industry lobbyist Julia Altemus.

    I know this for a fact because my official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request turned up an October 2005 email Julia Altemus wrote to Dave Bull, Supervisor of the Bitterroot National Forest, Debbie Austin, Supervisor of the Lolo National Forest, and some Montana timber mill owners.

    Here’s what Julia Altemus wrote to the Forest Service supervisors – and other timber industry officials – in response to my commentary outlining our “Restoration Vision” for America’s National Forests:

    “This is not a commentary….it’s an add [sic] and solicitation for money!! The U of M has stooped to a new low to allow them this media to fundraise! …..We must not allow fringe anti-management groups to dictate management of public lands! This is very dangerous stuff we are playing with here.”

    I would encourage all Montanans to view Julia Altemus’ latest opinion piece in the Missoulian (http://bit.ly/1seBPcu) in the context of Altemus’ words and actions from 2005.

    Altemus’ actions (only discovered and made public through the luck of a FOIA request) were clearly nothing more than a behind-the-scenes attempt to completely sabotage our organization’s restoration vision for America’s National Forests and our genuine efforts to work with restoration practitioners, independent loggers and other conservation organizations to find common ground.

    Of course, once you know that Julia Altemus was caught red-handed sabotaging the restoration efforts of Montana conservation organizations, you also have to wonder just how often Julia Altemus engages in this type of under-handed, unprofessional behavior. It’s very unlikely that this one email in 2005 was the one and only time Julia Altemus engaged in such an under-handed manner.

    And just as importantly, how cozy of a relationship with these Forest Service Supervisors must Julia Altemus have if she felt it was OK to sabotage our organization’s genuine restoration vision for America’s National Forests?

    I hope anyone reading this account will now have a better understanding of just how difficult it is for many Montana conservation organizations to develop trust with people like timber industry lobbyist Julia Altemus based on the 100% undisputable and documented fact that she has done nothing but attempted to completely sabotage the genuine restoration efforts of Montana forest and Wilderness protection organizations behind our backs at every turn.

    Furthermore, keep Julia Altemus’ words and actions in the front of your mind if you go back and re-read her opinion piece. When you read Julia Altemus’ making claims like this:

    “Over the past few years, mainstream environmental groups and the timber industry have invited the few fringe organizations to enter into a collaborative discussion or process on numerous occasions. However, they decline in favor of the failed status quo of attacking projects through pre-objection and litigation. It is rather disingenuous for these people to cry foul now because they were not consulted. They sealed their own fate long ago by choosing the path of obstruction rather than construction.”

    Keep in mind that not only is Julia Altemus intentionally lying to the public with such claims – as Altemus knows full well that groups like the WildWest Institute, Friends of the Bitterroot, Swan View Coalition and WildEarth Guardians are, in fact, active members of “collaborative” groups and within “collaborative discussions.”

    But Julia Altemus is also counting on the fact that nobody in the public knows the types of actions Altemus takes behind the scenes to intentionally try and sabotage the restoration and collaboration efforts of conservation groups, which she so obviously has great hatred for.

    I mean, if the head timber industry lobbyist in the state of Montana said this type of stuff about your conservation organization and your efforts to move bona-fide restoration work forward, would you feel comfortable working with her?

    Again, let these words and actions of Montana timber industry lobbyist Julia Altemus sink in for a minute. Julia Altemus’ own words and actions show without a doubt how she really operates behind-the-scenes when conservation groups that she truly despises attempt to work on a bona-fide restoration vision for America’s National Forests. But thankfully, through the luck of a FOIA request, we did find out. And now fellow Montanans can see just how Julia Altemus operates:

    “This is not a commentary….it’s an add [sic] and solicitation for money!! The U of M has stooped to a new low to allow them this media to fundraise! …..We must not allow fringe anti-management groups to dictate management of public lands! This is very dangerous stuff we are playing with here.”

    – Julia Altemus (October 2005, in an email she wrote to National Forest Supervisors and fellow timber industry officials, which was obtained via an official FOIA request).

    • Matthew

      I have read/skimmed all of your links and find them very interesting – Seems to me that you are objecting to many of the same tactics that you resort to here on NCFP. She is expressing a strong opinion which you have been known to do also.

      You seem to have assigned vast power to Ms. Altimus and you seem to believe that this e-mail proves that she is directing a huge conspiracy when she is simply representing the views of informed Americans who don’t want our forests to continue to be destroyed by those uninformed citizens opposed to sound forest management. I hereby make a FOIA request to see all of your e-mails public and private as well as tapes of anything you have said in regard to forestry and the environment. Don’t you think that from those e-mails and your statements here on NCFP, I could find plenty of statements to twist into whatever I wanted to if I was paranoid or filled with hubris and wanted to discredit anyone who disagreed with me.

      Based on what I have seen here on NCFP, your fund raising statement: “Julia Altemus’ own words and actions show without a doubt how she really operates behind-the-scenes when conservation groups that she truly despises attempt to work on a bona-fide restoration vision for America’s National Forests.” is totally false. In spite of previous requests, you have repeatedly failed to define what condition you are going to restore our forests to and have repeatedly failed to give us any idea of what actions you would be willing to sign off on in order to do so. So how can you claim to have “bona-fide restoration” as a goal?

      As my last paragraph below shows, you even support people who don’t believe in restoration which seems more than a little duplicitous. How can your organization claim to want to move anything forward when they are not willing to commit to concrete positions and negotiate point by point with others such as myself who have been specific about our positions and the science behind them. The only concrete actions that I see coming from you is complaint and invective and deliberately vague statements such as found in the link that you provide to your restoration principles.

      Your restoration principles document is filled with many vague statements. Many are based on false assumptions that sound good on the surface. Even some of the ‘Motherhood and Apple Pie’ statements can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. The document goes on to define who will judge what is the proper interpretation of the principles when it says: “The Restoration Principles seek to articulate a collective vision of forest restoration, informed by science, that clearly defines what the undersigned citizens and groups can support.” So it is your way or the highway since you get to define what constitutes science/truth. Collaboration with opposing views is simply a ruse.

      If you stand behind Wuerthner’s claims that: “the forests are not in need of restoration” (as found in the comments section here: http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/columnists/don-t-be-fooled-by-false-claims-about-bullock-s/article_b14f953c-d798-11e3-bd13-001a4bcf887a.html?comment_form=true#comments ) then your whole restoration principles is nothing but an obfuscation. If you stand behind the rest of his statements then you are agreeing with him that there is no need for sound forest management at all while pretending that you do. But then you already know this because many of us here have discussed these very issues and shown you the established science behind sound forest management as opposed to the faux science and straw men that Wuerthner draws upon.

      • Gil: Please do make that FOIA request, and let us know what you uncover: http://www.foia.gov/how-to.html

        I’m 100% positive that any communications you find from myself, or our organization, to Forest Service officials wouldn’t even be in the same universe as what we uncovered via FOIA, coming from logging lobbyist Julia Altemus to the supervisor of the Lolo and Bitterroot National Forests. But, please, be my guest and defend Julia Altemus’ words and actions with all the energy you can muster.

        I see you’ve written a bunch of stuff about the Restoration Principles. I’m sure you noticed that the Forest Stewards Guild was part of the process and signed onto the principles, right?

        The Forest Stewards Guild is a professional organization of forest stewards, associated natural resource professionals, and affiliates who are passionate about restoring and sustaining the integrity of our forests while meeting the needs of the communities that rely on them.

        Radical stuff, eh? I wonder how the fact that these folks were a big part of the process compares with your claims about the Restoration Principles?

        Finally, interesting, isn’t it, how you discount the Restoration Principles, and yet the head logging lobbyist in Montana is so worried about the Restoration Principles that she writes an email directly to the Supervisor of the Bitterroot and Lolo National Forests claiming “This is very dangerous stuff we are playing with here.”

        “This is not a commentary….it’s an add [sic] and solicitation for money!! The U of M has stooped to a new low to allow them this media to fundraise! …..We must not allow fringe anti-management groups to dictate management of public lands! This is very dangerous stuff we are playing with here.”
        – Julia Altemus (October 2005, in an email she wrote to National Forest Supervisors and fellow timber industry officials, which was obtained via an official FOIA request).

        • Matthew

          1) I’ll take your word for it that even your private conversations are as pure as the driven snow.

          2) If it was in my power, I would not allow those opposed to sound forest management to dictate National Forest Policy.

          3) So why do you still ignore my request for a response to my statement: “you have repeatedly failed to define what condition you are going to restore our forests to and have repeatedly failed to give us any idea of what actions you would be willing to sign off on in order to do so”? In addition, you have never answered my request for you to name an individual or group that you would be willing to submit to in resolving conflicts in coming to site specific prescriptions for our National Forests or who you would trust to decide that prescriptions were needed.

          4) Why do you ignore my request for your stance on Weurthner’s comments?

          • 1) I never said that Gil. What I actually said is clearly posted above.

            2) I’m not opposed to “sound forest management” Gil. Also, it sounds to me that you’re saying that if you were in charge of the National Forests and/or America, you’d prevent certain types of people from participating in public lands management. Ok.

            3) I’ve been participating on this blog for 3 or 4 years. I’ve answered that type of question dozens of times. Honestly, I feel as if the Restoration Principles do a good job of answering that type of question, and I’ve pointed you there before.

            The second part of your question #3 is worded just a little too creepy for me to even want to answer…”you have never answered my request for you to name an individual or group that you would be willing to submit to “…..but (and I’ve said this before) I think the NEPA and NFMA, and also ESA etc have some very decent processes contained within them that can help in resolving conflict. Sure, they are not perfect, but I feel as if the processes required within them is as fair and equal as we’re going to get in the United States of America. We’ve seen too many “collaborative group” have significant problems that at least those the processes in NEPA/NFMA, etc help level out, to some extent.

            4) I don’t know Gil? Because I work a 40+ hour a week job that isn’t checking in on this blog, or even working on national forest policy issues? Because I like spending time with my wife and friends and not getting into, what quickly turns out to be, some very strange on-line debate with you? It’s nice outside. The birds are singing. I’m going to garden and have a beer. So thank you.

            • Matthew

              1) My original question also referred to your non-public statements so I extended your comments about your public statements subject to FOIA to your private comments. Now you deny my extension so you are human just like Ms. Altemus

              2) Re: “you’d prevent certain types of people from participating in public lands management. Ok.”
              —> Yup! Those who have no certification have no right to dictate policy. Kind of like practicing law or medicine without a license.

              3) Thanks for the “creepy” invective/innuendo – So give me links to these supposed specific responses. I contend that they will only be more vague generalities which many countered and you refused to get specific on. All which will continue to allow you to hamstrung effective forest management by offering no actionable alternatives that an organization could use to operate effectively.
              So you risk nothing because you are interested in managing our forests through veto by legal process based on one size fits all legal procedural hurdles that are totally unreasonable and insure that trained professionals can be overridden by the uninformed.

              4) So you have plenty of time to post here but don’t want to deal with the inconsistencies within those opposed to sound forest management. Again, you don’t want to take any stand beyond vague in-actionable generalities that leave you plenty of wiggle room to say ‘that isn’t what it means’.

  3. It WILL be interesting to see what happens if the 3000 acre limit is made available. It could mean a LOT more labor-intensive field work and paper shuffling. It will also be interesting to see who will use that 3000 acre limit and “unhealthy” designation, solely to bypass NEPA and grab timber volume. I’d rather earn trust by showing the non-preservationists that the Forest Service can do things for “the greater good”.

      • Many people no longer want to stop all forest management. Some of those merely want to control ALL of the parameters, instead. Anyone who thought that collaboration was going to be an immediate fix-all is either delusional or a conspirator. We cannot skip the step where collaboration leads to consensus, because that requires education. Colt Summit seems to be pointing the way for the near future, for Montana, and that is … unfortunate.

        • Oh I agree Larry, continued litigation will always negate any collaboration…but that can be a good thing….in that it annoys the “non-preservationist enviros.” There’s also no doubt that there is a “changing public value” about logging amongst the moderate enviros…as I’ve pointed out ad nausea-LOL.

          The Greater Yellowstone Coalition recently sighed on to support Sen. Tester’s “Beaverhead Deerlodge Partnership(or whatever it’s official title is now). Whether you love it or hate it, the plan still calls for logging acreage not seen since the 60’s, and the “mod-enviros” have accepted or at least acquiesced to the increased logging.

          I did a tiny story for RANGE magazine a couple years ago regarding the logging Ted Turner was during on his ranch near Bozeman Montana. It would seem that Ted had a rather bad pine beetle epidemic on his ranch…and was salvage clearcutting the hell out of it. The Google Earth photos were great…the “checkerboard railroad sections” that made up Teds boundary with the USFS was starting to look like “slicked off” Plum Creek timber land. I thought I had a real scoop of hypocrisy here…and shared it with an industry contact of mine. He calls me up the next day and asks me to “kill the story” because Ted’s ranch is “kinda vital to our operations”…and he’s planning to log it for another 5 years. Well, I replaced the clearcut photos with some photos of some really nice “commercial thinning” of Doug Fir that Ted had done…and realized that the timber industry wasn’t the money behind Tester’s plan…it was the moderate enviro establishment that had the real bucks.

          The POINT I’m trying to make here… is the last I heard Ted was donating a half million dollars a year to the GYC’s 2 million dollar annual budget. I think he sits on their Board. Now, do you suppose Ted’s new found embrace…or perhaps you intellectuals would call it his “epiphany,” towards logging and forestry might have something to do with the GYC’s new found “epiphany” towards logging? I admire Ted for changing his mind…but me thinks Ted is just another liberal enviro who thought he was gonna change Montana, but instead Montana changed him. My industry guy also said that ironically it was the pine beetle that has been saving the industry…as every private landowner is salvage logging their land. Now…I have to wonder, how many dot com billionaire “gentleman ranchers” in Montana have also logged their land…and have had their own epiphany about the positive aspects of forestry and logging. Changing public values.

          No, collaboration will always fail when it can be thwarted and frustrated by the litigation of the fringe. The Colt-Summit is a pissant pathetic little timber sale. If you want to see real collaboration, go to a place that has no litigation and still has a timber industry. I’ve been following the Escalante Forest Restoration Project on the Gunnison NF in Colorado. The former litigants at Colorado Wild have signed on to it. This project cranks out 60 MMBF on 17,000 acres. Now, when was the last time you saw an EA (of all things) crank out that much timber. Just another example, that the USFS can “still get out the cut”…when unhindered by the fringe. I might add there’s a slew of similar 60 MMBF projects in Colorado…all ready to serve the last sawmill…as per Sen. Mark Udall’s wish…my favorite moderate enviro “epiphanite.”

          Collaboration with no timber industry is a joke. The Four Forest Initiative in Arizona wasn’t a collaboration between moderate enviros and the timber industry. There IS no timber industry. It’s a collaboration between radical enviros and slightly less radical moderate enviros. You’re right Larry about “some wanting to control all the parameters.” I was reading a press release the other day where some of the “collaborators” suggested that “citizen-scientists could consult with the USFS about where to pile slash”-LMAO. You know this thing is gonna fail when the dirt starts flyin. Biofuel??? I think I’d dump a pile of money on the White Mountain Apache’s and say “how would you like to run and own a couple new sawmills.” Nothing shuts up an enviro, radical or moderate, when confronted with Indian Forestry.

  4. Mr. Koehler’s comments stating, “What this means is there will be no environmental analysis as to how a timber sale could impact threatened and endangered species such as bull trout, grizzly bear and lynx.” are just plain wrong. Categorical exclusions still require environmental analysis, they still require compliance through the ESA consultation process and require compliance with NHPA. A CE does not mean there is no analysis, it means there is less analysis than in an EA or EIS.

    • Hello MD: All I can say is that Farm Bill Sec 8204 clearly says these logging projects “are categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA” and that my comment, which you highlighted, was shared with numerous attorneys from around the country who work on NEPA issues daily and they confirmed the comment was factual. Thanks.

      • Congress seems to have again created some ambiguity that will no doubt end up in court. The CEQ regulations state that actions which may be categorically excluded are “exempt from the requirements to prepare an environmental impact statement” (and therefore also an EA) (40 CFR 1500.4(p) and 1500.5(k)). But there are “requirements of NEPA” that apply to categorical exclusions (in particular, the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ exception, and the need to determine whether it applies). Maybe it’s significant that this language is prefaced by the word ‘may’ (be categorically excluded).

      • You can have all the NEPA documents in the world and it doesn’t really effect what is taking place in the woods. We are just spending millions of dollars accomplishing nothing.
        I know this sounds silly but we could accomplish a lot more with just a little common sense approach on the ground, in the forests, rather than spending millions of dollars creating all these documents to file and litigate over.
        Fire season is fast approaching, how much of the “last of the old growth” and habitat will get incinerated this year, as the discussion continues, should we do something or should we not.

      • I’m sorry but you’re wrong. CEs still require analysis. The Forest Service is required to show that there are no significant effects to extraordinary circumstances… that is analysis. Laws including ESA and NHPA still require compliance, which include submitting a Biological Assessment (which is analysis) and a cultural clearance report (also analysis). These are facts.

  5. Here’s the map of Montana’s “priorities.”
    http://governor.mt.gov/docs/Final_Statewide_PriorityLandscapes.pdf

    It would be interesting to see the % of the suitable timber base that has been included. Where almost everything is a ‘priority’ (e.g. Kootenai and Lolo), nothing is a priority. That suggests that this exercise had more to do with avoiding (NEPA) procedural requirements than taking a serious strategic look at where the risks are.

    • Jon: You may be interested in this document that was obtained yesterday through a FOIA request of the U.S. Forest Service. As you can see, entire Ranger Districts (outside of Wilderness and Inventoried Roadless Areas) were included as a “priority.”

      So, I believe your comment, “That suggests that this exercise had more to do with avoiding (NEPA) procedural requirements than taking a serious strategic look at where the risks are” is right on the money.

      • Matthew

        What good would a serious strategic look do? Would you accept such a strategic risks study? Is there anyone that you would recommend to do such a study that you would be willing to accept their findings? Or would it just be another waste of taxpayer money because those opposed to sound forestry will find a way to tie it up in court and waste more money until catastrophic beetle and wildfire incidents destroy a great deal of it through the wonderful process of natural restoration to post Hiroshima conditions.?

  6. Here’s a copy of a complaint filed last week alleging that Montana Gov’s secret, hand-picked group of 7 people that met over the phone 5 times with no public notice and no public input to nominate 5 million acres of National Forest lands in Montana for ‘fast track’ logging under the Farm Bill was a violation of the public’s right to know and right to participate protected by the Montana Constitution and implementing statutes.

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