32 Comments

  1. This is yet another example of moving the goalposts, yet again. Nothing good will come from this, and it will result in more “UNmanaged fire”, resulting in more losses of ESA habitats. SPI will not bid on “vegetation projects”, and the Region 5 timber program will come crashing down. I blame the liberal court for forcing the Forest Service to take this “settlement”. I really don’t see how the Forest Service will “benefit” from this. Can anyone….. ANYONE, tell me how this will benefit the Forest Service???? SPI will ramp up cutting, prices and exports. They will survive just fine on their ample lands. They won’t bid on Forest Service projects that harvest trees under 19″ dbh, without the 20-30″ dbh trees. They have plenty of those on their own lands.

    Yep, welcome to the new reality, where the profits of the few litigants outweigh the needs of the many, who actually own the lands. This will take ten years, or more, to get anything done on the ground. This is the true face of forest gridlock, eliminating active forest management.

  2. My only thought is that “complex early seral habitat” sounds like a marketing term to me. I get that burned forests have habitat value, as does every possible vegetative aggregation. Nature being infinitely complex, should we put the adjective “complex” before every named habitat type?

    • Every square foot of land has habitat value. And every square foot of land can change in myriad ways over the short term, long term, and millennia. The issue is how to have polaroid snap shot landscapes preserved in whatever state in perpetuity. You can’t but the USFS gets sued to that standard daily, and the USFS has lost most of the time. The USFS is us. They are our representatives, appointed and hired by the Executive Branch, in all issues, from legal (US attorneys, courts, all appointments by the EO), the Interior and Ag land managers, and the NOAA and Interior critter Nanny State, also EO appointed. You get what you vote for. Habitat is not the issue. Control of the whole of America is the agenda, which was soundly defeated last week. The President, who is the CEO of the Executive Branch, has said he will go forth by executive order and by pass the Congress. As we know, doing nothing is also a decision. And doing nothing will be the EO agenda for the lame duck half of the President’s second term. His battles will be how to win back Congress and set up to win the next Presidency for his party. Nothing will change on the forests owned or controlled by the Feds. To think otherwise is to be foolish. My opinion, and maybe mine alone.

  3. I truly think it is time for the Forest Service to stop trying to “follow the laws”. It is clear that the Ninth Circuit Court controls forest management in the Sierra Nevada, and the Forest Service cannot ever marry science and the law. So, it should be left up to Congress to change the laws. It is in their power to do so, and the pressure should be exerted on them to “fix” this situation, once and for all. They need to take the time to shatter the current laws and craft new laws that are better than we have right now.

    Of course, the current leaders of the Forest Service have to pretend that they can do what the settlement says but, every new plan will be a brand new litigation opportunity, and the goalposts will move, yet again. I encourage Congress to destroy those goalposts, once and for all.

  4. Sometimes folks talk up the “3 C’s” including collaboration, but only up until the point where it doesn’t go the way they think it should. Maybe if the FS took the idea of collaboration/cooperation more seriously in the early stages of planning, rather than just giving lip service to it, they wouldn’t find themselves compelled to participate in it later on. Similarly, lawbreakers often whine that the laws (and lawyers, and courts etc.) are at fault, rather than acknowledging the fact that they broke the law, usually knowingly, and they shouldn’t have done so.

    Bill Keyes, “complex early seral habitat” is hardly a “marketing term”, it’s well established in the scientific literature. Easy to look up, but here are a couple papers to get you started if you’re interested:

    This one, in the journal Forest Ecology and Management, is especially good and is a free download:
    http://www.sierraforestlegacy.org/Resources/Conservation/Biodiversity/BD-Swanson-etal-EarlySeral2014.pdf

    This one isn’t free, but the abstract will give you an idea of some of the variables that are considered when measuring complexity of early-seral habitat: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320799000348

    • I’m just saying that the litigation laws need to be changed. Other government agencies don’t have to deal with the “meddling” of extremists (Yes, that is how Congress will label them). Since the issue is now “settled”, it’s time to lay this in the lap of Congress. Let THEM “settle” it, once and for all. In the meantime, I will continue to point out the results of “whatever happens”, which is now supported by law. It is unfortunate, and our forests will suffer but, that is what lawyers and judges want.

    • Thank you, Guy Knudsen, for the article references. Production forestry, like agriculture, tends to simplify complex natural systems for commodity purposes. Terming early or late seral systems “complex” underscores the implicit argument that these systems have value in and of themselves.
      Having said that, I freely disclose my bias toward some level of robust timber production on our federal forest estate. I think this can be done with a sort of zoning construct, both to stipulate what zones are dedicated to extensive forest management (or simply custodial status), and what zones could be dedicated to more intensive efforts. I think perhaps this is where we are heading; some sort of new social compromise that could be legislatively sanctioned by Congress.

      • Bill, I think I would agree that things may be moving towards the zoning construct you mentioned, one could argue that Northern Rockies Lynx Management Direction, or grizzly bear management plan, or even ESA critical habitat designations, are effectively zoning approaches on a large scale. At the more micro scale, I’m pretty sure we don’t know as much about forest ecological complexity as we should, whether the goal is timber production, wildlife and watershed protection, or various combinations. Superficially at least, certainly some practices (e.g. clearcutting) and disturbances (very hot wildfires) reduce complexity (soil structure, SOM, microbes and arthropods, small mammal habitat, snags etc.) Other practices and disturbances probably less easily predictable (thinning, Rx fire, less extreme wildfires, root disease, insect infestations). I’m hopeful that we’ll keep figuring it out, improving BMP’s etc. to better implement forest practices, etc. I don’t think anybody, on any side of the various issues, has it all figured out yet…. (p.s. sorry I spelled your name wrong)

  5. The Forest Service really didn’t agree to do anything they wouldn’t be required to do any way – consider reasonable alternatives. And this is just a procedural requirement. They reserved the right to ignore these alternatives (and get sued on that decision rather than on the 2004 Sierra Framework amendment; it makes some sense to move these goalposts after a decade of stalemate).

    The sky is not falling.

    (Also, non-profits don’t make profits, and their members own the land, too.)

    • Opponents aren’t going to be happy with the original Framework, which was considered a “trainwreck” by the Region 5 leadership. They will want more “protections”, and will sue again and again and again, to get them. The domino-effect will impose unintended consequences on forests and on people but, the extremists don’t see or don’t care about impacts on real human beings and real Sierra Nevada forests. Since the Forest Service now has to “reinvent the wheel”, now is the best time for a complete collapse and rebuild of how the Forest Service does its business. Building on a failed concept is a waste of time, and time is running out for the Sierra Nevada old growth, as we have seen in the Rim and King Fires. Welcome to the full force of “Whatever Happens”!!! (Now, try convincing the public that those fires are “natural and beneficial”!!!!)

      When officers of non-profits make millions, I consider them to be “for profit”!

        • It’s a simple enough search to find the millions spent on running big eco-groups. What I have seen is that employees (especially lawyers and legal assistants) of non-profits often make more than for profit businesses. Be sure to add in all the benefits that have serious monetary value, too!

          • Talk about “moving goalposts” Harrell!

            YOU wrote: “When officers of non-profits make millions, I consider them to be “for profit”!”

            So I asked you to “please tell us (and provide proof) regarding your allegation that ‘officers of non-profits make millions?'”

            To which, you respond, not with any actual factual evidence that proves your original statement, but with this: “It’s a simple enough search to find the millions spent on running big eco-groups. What I have seen is that employees (especially lawyers and legal assistants) of non-profits often make more than for profit businesses. Be sure to add in all the benefits that have serious monetary value, too!”

            Ok, Harrell. So I guess now we’re not talking about your alleged “officers of non-profits make millions”….because you moved the goalpost.

            So how about you give us proof to back up your latest statement? “I have seen that employees (especially lawyers and legal assistants) of non-profits often make more than for profit businesses.”

            Ok, so if you’ve in fact seen this, please provide evidence and proof. If you can’t, won’t or don’t want to, I’ll just assume you’re making stuff up and/or being factually sloppy to try and bolster your case.

            Once again, with so much quality, fact-based info on this blog it’s a wonder numbers are tanking and people have tired of it! (Insert Harrell’s famous *smirk* here)

              • Dance Harrell Dance! It’s quite clear that you refuse to take responsibility for the words you write, no matter how made up or factually sloppy they may be. Whatever…that’s on you, not me.

                I do find it curious, however, that whenever I seem to press certain people on this blog I mysteriously get ‘unlogged’ as an administrator on this site.

        • Matthew: Read Skinner and Coffman in the Winter 2015 Range magazine, which is full of non profit net worth info and salaries. Not a complete list, of course, but telling. I am sure that there are Trust and Foundation officers, and heirs, living off those trusts, who are making high six figure incomes and some seven figure incomes. But do read the articles and give a book report complete with additions or learned disagreements. We do need your counterpoint.

  6. Can we please stick to discussing the SNFP, the lawsuit, and where we go from here?

    Complexity can be added to stands through active management, as Franklin and Johnson have been pointing out for years.

    If anyone is “unlogging” Matthew K. or any else as an administrator, knock it off.

    • Sure thing Steve. For the record, my original comment in this thread was pretty simple and straight-forward:

      Larry, Could you please tell us (and provide proof) regarding your allegation that “officers of non-profits make millions?” Thanks.

      Also, I’d estimate I’ve been “unlogged” as an administrator on this site 50 times over the past 2 years, but this is the 1st time I’ve brought it up in the comments section. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but the “unlogging” always occurs right after I press some people to provide documentation and evidence to back up some of the comments here. Thanks.

    • I don’t mess (edit) with anyone’s posts or status on here. Unlike other administrators. It’s a rather childish thing to do.

      To Steve, the SNFP is either dead, or it reverts back to the Clinton version, which comes with 1/30th of the 1988 volume figures. I didn’t really read the decision carefully. The old version places diameter limits as low as 12″ dbh, with 20″ dbh limits throughout the rest of the forests. SPI won’t be bidding on those kinds of projects. NOW, you see why there was a need for an amendment. Also, I haven’t seen any damages, due to the amendment (other than tying up the legal system for 10 years). Otherwise, next year is going to be “logging-free”, with a ban until the Forest Service can produce a document that satisfies the serial litigants, (and their favorite Judges). I’m finding that to be an impossibilty, right now. My best advice is to buy a water tender and contract it out to the Forest Service in California.

      • So, all timber projects that haven’t been sold are definitely trashed, as well as those that are being prepared. I’m assuming that those that have been sold will probably go forward, though. I’m also guessing that an estimated 200 temporaries timber people will be jettisoned immediately, as they have no function right now. I also predict that some permanent timber positions will be offered a buyout, too, eventually. Some will also choose retirement, fed up with the SOS.

        Nothing like rural poverty makes a preservationist more giddy. It’s a big part of their “re-wilding” efforts.

    • Yes Steve, and yes again! It seems to be the norm for a discussion, any discussion, in this blog to drift into personal debate about some obscure factoid that has no real relevance to the basic issues — much like the political debates we’ve been subjected to lately. We can do better.

      • With many officers making between 150K and 500K, those “millions” add up pretty damn quickly. Additionally, individuals can earn a million, including benefits, in a short period of time. If we are using my quote, I didn’t specify a time period and my statement continues to be true. (You should know by now that I choose my words very carefully!) That should effectively shutdown this “tangent”. Of course, Matt doesn’t like to stay on topic.

  7. I’m not sure what you’re not reading carefully, but the settlement agreement resolves this current challenge to SNFP and “Legacy agrees that it shall not bring any new legal action challenging the adequacy of the 2004 Framework.” So I think it remains in effect until replaced by plan revisions.

    There’s some new interim procedural requirements for projects: “the Forest Service agrees to select and contact experts of its choosing on the California spotted owl, fire ecology, and forest ecology, to develop interim recommendations on changes to forest management. The Forest Service retains the sole discretion to .select the experts described in the prior sentence and to determine the scope of work.” Future projects must include and analyze an alternative consistent with the these recommendations or a final owl strategy.

    There’s no substantive changes here. The sky is not falling.

  8. The Ninth Circuit Court will not allow any plan that ends up in their court. That much is certain. From there, impacts and effects will “trickle down”, affecting the rural poor. Thinking that there will be no new lawsuits on maintaining the current low levels of thinning is just ignorant. There are dozens of loopholes that will be exploited. The eco-mindset is to destroy the current infrastructure, then to “rebuild” in their own image. Of course, economics will not be factored in, including Forest Service budgets. Remember, there are forces in play here who want ZERO cutting in National Forests. Many people continue to ignore that reality.

    That being said, I predict that the Forest Service will try to “follow the law” and re-package the amended SNFP into something that will be litigated and appealed. There will never be a “final owl strategy”, and you know it! No need for the eco’s to change their mindset of “Whatever Happens”. Careful reading will show that they will DEMAND “larger and more intense wildfires”, and more prescribed fire without thinning. They will insist on something “better” than the original SNFP. Pie in the sky stuff, here.

    Like I said, this will be in the courts for another ten years, unless Congress steps in and removes profitable litigation from the table. “Those in power will not give up that power, willingly.”

    Soooo, what happens when SPI announces it won’t be buying tiny Forest Service trees? Someone? Anyone? I think SPI needs to be upfront with this reality, as soon as possible. Only a complete collapse of the Region 5 timber program will make Congress act.

    Also, this will probably be the demise of the only southern California mill, Sierra Forest Products, out of Terra Bella. That will mean that six National Forests will no longer have a mill to send excess trees to.

    Yes, the sky IS falling, Jon. Actually, it has already fallen.

    Congress? You are up, now! We need a fix that will survive the Ninth Circuit Court, and I think that is an impossible task. Congress simply isn’t that smart.

  9. I was wondering after reading the agreement what gives the Forest Service the right to enter into an agreement with Legacy, Earth Justice. Why do they get special rights to decide how the Forest Service manage with our lands?

    • Us mountain residents do not want Let-Burn fires and $100,000,000 firestorms. We don’t want vast brushfields, that used to be nesting habitats for spotted owls and goshawks. We don’t want accelerated erosion. We don’t want firefighter deaths and daily public health alerts for smoke. We don’t want forests closed for months, after fires kill roadside trees. Where is OUR seat at the table?!?! If the eco-groups are so willing to settle, that raises my suspicions that the Forest Service gave up too much. I intend to inform and incite mountain residents to complain about these issues.

      These eco-groups have become snag huggers, ignoring the vast acreages not salvage logged, in modern wildfires. Yosemite has more snag habitat than those sensitive species could ever use. Again, there is no lack of snag habitat on Forest Service lands. I believe it is extremely unwise to “make up for” private forest lands by packing more snags into a smaller area.

      • Hello Larry, I’m a “mountain resident” that owns a home within 400 yards of open space to the east and west of my property and you don’t speak for me, or likely for many of my neighbors. FWIW, I can think of 4 wildfires within 800 yards of my property over the past 10 years.

  10. Parties to a lawsuit have a lot of latitude to work things out, as long as it’s legal. When the government is a party, there are laws that apply to its decisions. Sometimes it hasn’t been clear to me how these laws applied in settlement agreements.

    This particular settlement does not decide how lands will be managed. It simply commits the Forest Service to consider certain information in its planning processes. (Everyone gets a seat at the table during the planning process.)

    Presumably the parties agreed because they viewed continuing with litigation as producing a worse outcome. (After 10 years, just continuing with litigation was probably viewed as a bad outcome.)

    • It is simply a decision to have more analysis, more lawsuits, more habitat loss and more catastrophic wildfires that destroy “protected” habitats. In fact, if the Forest Service pushes ahead under this new “battlefield”, it will open up more litigation opportunities on individual projects, ensuring many paydays down the road. Yes, there is a good and profitable reason why the eco’s settled, eh?

      I don’t think they should have settled, instead, they should have dropped their efforts to use the failed SNFP, starting a brand new plan, based on existing science. There was no gain in the Forest Service “settling”. The eco’s didn’t give up ANYTHING of value to the Forest Service!

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