Judge rules Ninemile logging, burning may go forward: from Missoulian

Here’s a link to the Missoulian story, which has a very nice map, as well as the court decision.

Below is an excerpt:

“We had to defend this project in court and that required a significant amount of time and money,” Ninemile District Ranger Chad Benson said in an email Thursday. “I was disappointed in having to commit these additional expenditures, because from the start this was a collaborative project that had good public support and was designed with a lot of care, analysis and deliberation. To prevail in this lawsuit on all claims just affirmed that.”

The Rennic-Stark project got only four public comments before it was finalized in 2013. But the Alliance for the Wild Rockies appealed the decision, and then sued the Forest Service in August 2013 when its appeal was denied.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled against the environmental group on Oct. 28, noting the plaintiffs had not proved any of their claims.

The alliance raised issues about the Forest Service’s lack of consideration of climate change and how the project might affect sensitive or threatened species like Canada lynx, wolverine, bull trout, fisher and goshawk.

“On the contrary, the Forest Service’s actions regarding the project appear thoughtful, informed and undertaken in the best interests of this portion of the Lolo National Forest,” Christensen wrote.

17 Comments

  1. Keep in mind that while this article states: “[The Project] would also decommission and store about 50 miles of road, provide trailhead improvements and upgrade another 35 miles of roads and culverts in the area.”

    That’s not entirely true. The truth is that while the project may authorize that type of work to be done, the project includes no funding to actually accomplish that type of work. This happens with most all of these Forest Service timber sales these days. The logging gets completed right away, but the vast majority of the promised bonafide restoration work never gets completed, it just gets put back on the shelf waiting for funding from Congress, which has no intention of ever properly funding the Forest Service to complete needed, bonafide restoration work.

    In fact, at one point the Missoulian did an article about this situation back in ’09 and that article pointed out that the Forest Service had $100 million worth of shovel-ready, NEPA approved restoration work just waiting for funding.

    When’s the last time you ever heard any of Montana’s political leaders, whether it be Tester, Daines or Bullock actually call for more funding for the Forest Service to complete bonafide restoration work? Yep, I can’t remember either.

    • It seems to me that the forest generating some revenue should keep ALL that revenue to fund salaries, road maintenance, tree planting, salvage, planning, etc. That way, the forest generates its own funding for whatever work needs to be done. After all expenses are met, then, and only then, do any of the “profits” leave that national forest.

      However, those profits would stay within the national forest system to fund the costs of those forests that generate little or no revenues. Any profits left after ALL costs of the whole national forest system are met would then go to the US Treasury. It would cause the land managers who propose a project to also fund it. This happens in my house and at my office. The concept is simple – if I can’t pay for it, it doesn’t happen and I don’t have to rely on someone else to pay for it.

      Unfortunately, that business model is too much like the private sector and probably offensive to some. Nonetheless, it would be a far better way of funding “authorized” management of federal forest lands and be less of a burden on the taxpayer.

      • Hello Dick Powell. Do you honestly think there’s anywhere close to enough revenue to be generated from logging even more of our national forests to pay for the TENS OF BILLIONS of dollars in backlogged restoration, road & trail maintenance, etc on our national forests? Remember, most all of the old-growth forests and easily accessible national forest lands have already been logged.

    • “The logging gets completed right away, but the vast majority of the promised bonafide restoration work never gets completed,” Links?!? *smirk*

      Now who is providing blanket statements that aren’t supported by facts? The standard timber sale contract is chock-full of of costly mitigation that is part of the “restoration”. Then, you can go to the “C” part of the contract to find even more, specific to that project. Regarding roads, sometimes a local RD decides not to eliminate specific individual roads, and should not be held to closing those roads, or obliterating them.

      • Hello Larry, I thought I included a link in my comment above to the Missoulian article, but I see that it didn’t hold, so I just put it in there. Unlike you, I’m actually happy to provide links, evidence and data to back up my claims when people ask. *smirk*

        Below are a few more links. Please note that the Missoulian went through a website redo a few years ago, so some of the articles don’t appear available, as the links I had on file go to http://missoulian.com/404/….

        One of the Misosulian articles had a PDF document/spreadsheet you could download, which listed, Forest by Forest, the names of the timber sales/projects where the $100 million in ‘shovel-ready’ restoration work was left over from. The link to the spreadsheet seems to have been lost in the web makeover. If I find the spreadsheet I’ll happily share it.

        Here’s a snip from one of the Missoulian articles proving that much of this $100 million ‘shovel-ready’ restoration work was left over from previous timber sales, but the Forest Service has/had no money to complete this bonafide restoration work.

        “….many of the jobs would involve cleaning up streambeds, obliterating roads, reclaiming abandoned mines, noxious weed control and other cleanup work left unfinished from previous timber operations.”

        SEE:

        http://missoulian.com/news/local/usfs-has-million-in-projects-ready-to-go/article_89fd7073-1372-5822-a48e-bce556d0e5c0.html

        http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/wilderness-timber-interests-offer-stimulus-planposted-on-dec/article_7a864663-e75a-5f31-b741-f0c1156de9cf.html

        http://missoulian.com/news/opinion/editorial/made-in-montana-stimulus-congressional-delegation-should-lead-push-for/article_fd9e81eb-095c-5a8e-9de0-03324b767192.html

        • Well, since I was away at an art show, I couldn’t address this response. Let’s look at Matt’s statement again.

          “The logging gets completed right away, but the vast majority of the promised bonafide restoration work never gets completed”

          How does he know that this goes on all across all National Forests, where timber sales are enacted? He seems to be applying the Montana projects all across this country of ours. His accusations and links don’t cover projects happening, here in California, and in other parts of the country. Ummmm, you should have specified exactly where this is happening, instead of nonchalantly blasting other National Forests,across the country. NOW, who’s the “sloppy” one, not supplying links to his blanket statements?!?! *SMIRK*

          • Hello Larry, It’s so curious that instead of taking responsibility for your own words and actions on this blog, you instead attempt to equate my comments with your well-documented inability (or unwillingness) to provide documentation, proof, etc to back up many of your (wild) claims.

            Anyway, the context of my comments seems to be lost on you. The context is that we’re talking about a logging project on the Lolo National Forest and all the links I provided above are about the timber sale program (and stewardship contracting) within the Forest Service’s Region One (which is Montana and north Idaho).

            Ok, for people like you who didn’t notice the pretty straight-forward context, perhaps I should’ve specifically said “Forest Service Region One” somewhere in the comment. Ok, Harrell….ewwww….You really ‘got me’ on that one!

            • One could say a similar thing about my comment, Matt. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Of course, I didn’t specify a time period or number, so that figure of “millions” adds up pretty quickly when you include several years of many “officers” earning from 200K to 500K, annually. Soooooo, do I REALLY need to provide “proof” that ALL those “officers” made exactly that many hundreds of thousands????????????? All I had to do was to look up the main officer (just ONE) to see that he makes over $350,000, just in cash, annually, not including all the other valuable perks of the job. Soooooo, if you include an estimated 100 other generic “officers” and their total compensations, yes, they DO “make millions”, Matt. You’re just being an ass by continuing to pursue this character assassination that you so love to do.

              • Wow, Harrell. “Character assassination.” Oh please. What a waste of time.

                BTW: Please provide me with the name of the officer who makes over $350,000 a year and what organization they work for. Thanks.

                • $351,537 Donnell Van Noppen President Earthjustice (without benefits added) You might also note that there ARE other “officers” in these big groups, too. My statement stands as true!

                  My problem with you is that you automatically assume that I am lying unless I provide a link to common knowledge, easily-available by searching.

                  • Thanks for this Larry. I don’t assume you’re lying. Sometimes you speak in such general terms that I have a hard time knowing specifically what you are talking about.

                    Typically, it seems to me, in those situations I start off asking you for some additional info, or documentation, and you play coy, or cute, or change what you are saying. Whatever really….

                    So the president of EarthJustice made $351,537, according to the 2013 990. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2013/941/730/2013-941730465-0a105504-9.pdf

                    How is that important? Perhaps if USFS, BLM, USFWS, etc did a better job following the law, his salary would be more in a range you considerable acceptable.

                    • Larry, Matthwe, FWIW, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the top salary for the top level on the EXECUTIVE SCHEDULE (Level I) — does that include Tom Tidwell? — is: $199,700.

                      Steve

                    • Steve, best I can find with google is ~$167,000 for Tom Tidwell. Not a huge salary for living in the DC area, but doesn’t really matter that much to me, I don’t donate to either him or Donnell Van Noppen. Or to my university’s football coach, they’re all probably overpaid for what they do. But there are lots of folks in the trenches (on all sides of any issue, not just the “greenie” side necessarily) who are carpooling, brown bagging, and writing off long hours as pro bono if they believe in what they’re doing. Just sayin’

  2. Any timber sale contract we’ve had we had to complete our roadwork in the first year except for post haul work. We also had to pay engineering fees to the Forest . We also paid considerable road use fees.
    The Forest Service is using fire money and budgets as an excuse to close roads, they want to close roads, my opinion.

  3. I thought the Forest Service was recently given some authority to combine pots of money for different resources to fund multi-purpose restoration projects. That would mean the Forest Service could choose whether to use available money for particular kinds of restoration or not, and they can’t just blame lack of funds. Someone correct me who knows more about the budget process.

    There is a planning angle to this, too. The new planning rule was largely built around a perceived need for restoration, but forest plans don’t control funding so active restoration may still be just wishful thinking. Unless the next generation of revised plans includes standards that prohibit certain activities until restoration occurs. Then it would be a violation of NFMA to postpone restoration. Such a standard could be written along the lines of “no road construction may occur in a priority watershed until its restoration objectives have been met.”

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