OP-ed by David Allen, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

OP-ed by David Allen, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Allow the Forest Service to do its job without frivilous lawsuits

The focus is on Michael Garrity and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

“We must do something right now to allow the Forest Service and other federal land management agencies to do their jobs. If Mr. Garrity wants to do something to “secure the ecological integrity of the Wild Rockies Bioregion” as his website states—instead of filing lawsuits, he should think about mobilizing his members to get their hands dirty working on habitat enhancement projects like thousands of RMEF volunteers do every year. We have not filed a single lawsuit to get this done.”

Which again brings up the question I’d ask Garrity: If not these plans, then what? Do nothing? If not, then how would you manage the lands involved in the lawsuits you’ve lodged? “Do nothing” isn’t much of answer when so many in a collaborative have agreed on some form of active management.

26 Comments

  1. Frivolous can be in eye of beholder; something that is very important to me may seem frivolous to someone else.
    In my experience “collaboration” in USFS led groups is a pretty loaded thing. I’ve seen coercive collaboration as well as rubber stamping by groups at the table who make little or no effort to really inform themselves about the pros & cons of a proposed active mgmt project.
    Dissent has been an important part of our American democracy since the outset; where would we be if there hadn’t been a tea party in Boston?

  2. “New species listings and new bad press take a terrible toll on agency morale. When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners … feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed — and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules. … Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.” K. Suckling, Executive Director, Center for Biological Diversity.

    “The Sierra Club support[s] protecting all federal publicly owned lands in the United States and advocate[s] an end to all commercial logging on these lands.” Adopted in the Sierra Club Annual Election, April 20, 1996

  3. Thanks Russ. Lawsuits are a powerful tool open to diverse interests whose goals we as individuals we may not appreciate. Federal land managers would do well to be allowed to set aside funds for the inevitable suit because anyone’s lawsuit, the good guys or the bad guys, takes money and personnel away from the program of work in any given year. And any group, even RMEF, can take an unpopular position regarding management.

  4. There are so many factual errors and utter nonsense in this piece by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s David Allen I sort think that his NASCAR friend Ricky Bobby wrote it. It reads just like so much of David Allen’s anti-wolf non-sense he’s spewed.

    If David Allen isn’t careful the Washington Post’s Fact-Checker will give him four Pinocchios for telling all these lies, just like the Washington Post did to Senator Tester earlier this year: http://bit.ly/TesterWhopper

    It appears to me that David Allen is simply making stuff up about Garrity and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. [A very regular occurrence if anyone is paying attention.]

    For example, David Allen claims that Garrity objected the some of the 275,000 acres within the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act being open for hunting. Say what Allen? That entire 275,000 acres of public lands is ALREADY open for hunting and I would challenge David Allen to find one shred of evidence to support his claim that “Garrity objected to some of the acres being open for hunting.”

    The many substantive concerns expressed by lots of folks in the conservation and Wilderness community about the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act can be found here, in a previous article from this blog: http://bit.ly/1JIrJLl.

    You’ll notice that the article doesn’t mention a single thing about anyone being opposed to hunting in the area. Heck, the picture that goes along with the article is of an elk hunter walking through a roadless area on the Rocky Mountain Front that was NOT protected as Wilderness as part of the RMFHA.

    David Allen spews a whole bunch of false information regarding Zinke’s Resilient Federal Forests Act. The act does, in fact, reduce public review and environmental analysis. The act does essentially limit the 1st Amendment rights of American citizens and non-profit organizations by requiring people or small groups and businesses to post a bond in order to challenge potentially illegal actions by the federal government.

    If David Allen doesn’t believe this, he should read the bill, or better yet Allen should ask his logging ‘collaborator’ buddies at The Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation and Montana Wilderness Association, who have all spoken out against Zinke’s bill.

    I personally challenge David Allen of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to a moderated public debate about federal forest policy, wildfires and restoration. You pick the time and the place David and I’ll be there to help expose the factual errors and utter nonsense you feel a need to spew. Thanks.

  5. I’d like to second Anita’s point. It’s simply poor management to not budget for litigation as a cost of doing business. Or to not assume some attrition in program results because of litigation.

    It is unfortunate when a particular unit has to cut back its programs because of the bad decision of a previous manager (who has usually gotten a promotion and moved on). There’s a problem with performance accountability, and lack of incentive for improvement, if such results don’t become part of a manager’s personnel file. (But why do I suspect that the agency would usually ‘disagree’ with the law, as interpreted by the courts, and support the manager instead?)

  6. Funny, but why didn’t the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s CEO David Allen call out industry trade associations and private companies for filling the largest number of lawsuits against federal agencies from 1994 to 2010? Could it be that these same industry trade associations and private companies are part of the ‘good ole boy’ network that dumps millions into the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s coffers?

  7. Steve, I grew so tired of these straw-man arguments that you and others inject into the debate about forest management. It’s like you have an argument with a sock puppet and then act like you’ve slain the devil.

    Instead of building a straw-man argument around the largely unfounded notion that Garrity would answer “do nothing,” why don’t you call or email Mike Garrity and ask him the questions you so desire to have him answer? Please be pro-active and let us know what you find out.

    • Matthew, I asked you the same question in another thread a few days ago in a thread about the East Deer Lodge Valley Landscape Restoration project, the subject of a lawsuit by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. I wrote, “OK, Matt, but what do you think of the project’s actual proposed activities? Would you chose “no action”? If not, what would you prescribe for the project area?” You did not answer. Why not? I’d really like to know what kinds of forest management you approve of (if any) for that project, and why.

      • Hi Steve,

        Sorry I must have missed your question to me. I’m not very familiar with the East Deerlodge Valley time sale, except for what a NEPA official on the BHDL National Forest told me about how Bruce Farling with Trout Unlimited and Sherm Anderson with Sun Mountain Number were clamoring for more logging, even if it meant a much greater expense the public as well as a greater cost to wildlife and other values.

        Regardless, you failed to answer my question to you, “Why don’t you call or email Mike Garrity and ask him the questions you so desire to have him answer?” Thanks.

        • Matthew, I just sent this e-mail to Michael:

          Michael, I’m a contributor to the New Century of Forest Planning blog, http://forestpolicypub.com/. One of our recent discussion threads has focused on the op-ed by David Allen, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, “Allow the Forest Service to do its job without frivolous lawsuits” (The Montana Standard, Aug. 27). Another contributor, Matthew Koehler, suggested that I call you to get your input on a specific question about the East Deer Lodge Valley Landscape Restoration project, the subject of a lawsuit by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. What do you think of the project’s actual proposed activities? Would you chose “no action”? If not, what would you prescribe for the project area?

          I’d like to hear your response to that. Or on the Lost Creek-Boulder Creek Landscape Restoration Project (also the subject of a lawsuit by Alliance for the Wild Rockies et al), what forest management activities would you approve of? In the lawsuit, you and your colleagues seem to advocate a “hands off” approach: “Defendants deceptively characterize these commercial vegetation treatments (otherwise known as commercial logging) as thinning, when the end result will be a significant reduction in trees necessary to maintain healthy forest conditions.”

          So, if you think the stands in the project should not be thinned, what do you suggest as an alternative treatment? Lighter fuels treatments? No action?

          I invite you to post a reply on the blog and then stick around to discuss the topic with others. You can subscribe to the blog by adding your e-mail address in the “Subscribe via Email” area at the top of any blog page. FWIW, there are 370 or so subscribers with a wide range of viewpoints of managing federal forests. Your contributions will be welcome.

          Steve Wilent

          • Michael asked me to respond, he’s busy.

            We (AWR) do not design timber sales. We do our best to protect and restore the ecosystems and connecting corridors in the Northern Rockies bioregion. Neither project is necessary to protect “forest health.” Neither “restores” anything that can’t/won’t restore itself if allowed to follow natural succession, doing what forests have done for millennia.

            There are way too many roads already on this landscape. No new roads with many obliterated (culverts removed) would be to the point of restoration. And what’s the big hurry anyway?

            • Thank you, Steve. Michael’s e-mail to me said much the same thing. But I’m not asking you or him to design a project. What I want to know is whether you think there is any need to manage those project areas in any way. Or is no management action called for? In other words, are the current conditions your desired conditions? If not, what ought to be done?

              • Current conditions are a snapshot of a process that takes too long for most humans to appreciate, or even grasp. I have never been disappointed when walking through a forest, except when humans intervened in ways that destroyed what was there. The scars are everywhere. Enough destruction already. Why is it so hard to appreciate/understand the value in this gift that already exists?

                Desired future condition seems to me to be an unnecessarily static construct to justify unlimited discretion to play
                God and make budget.

                I am happy to accept Phister’s habitat type research, and appreciate that this is the forest we have, regardless of what momentary point of the successional continuum we’re looking at.

                • So, you’re going to ignore and accept all future damages that will happen, regardless of how they came to be? Or, are you going to bemoan the damages of an accidental wildfire, as it chews through goshawk nesting areas, saying, “oh, what a shame that we couldn’t save those big trees and that irreplaceable habitat… Oh well!…. At least the loggers didn’t get any logs!”. However, chances are you also subscribe to the idea of “man is a cancer upon this planet” and decree that humans should only live in cities. Either way, you end up with destroyed landscapes and decimated habitats.

                  Ignoring human impacts while preserving fuels build-up isn’t going to end well, for anyone or any thing. Resilience isn’t just a fancy word, made up by humans wanting to cut down big trees.

  8. Again, you cannot go from Collaboration to Compromise without going through that whole painful Consensus thing. While you aren’t going to reach consensus on everything, you are likely to be able to accept or trade off some consensus issues. We do need the full transparency, as well as full inclusion of stakeholders. Everyone’s voice needs to be, at least, heard. It does seem like both extremes want to avoid the spotlight, happy in their polarization, seemingly. There is no way this President will sign the bill. If it ever becomes law, the Courts will shoot it down. Why not send Obama something that he WILL sign?!?

    • Here’s an idea, if some people really want to greatly increase logging on America’s National Forests…Right NOW 45 MILLION acres of national forests can be ‘fast-tracked’ logged ‘categorically excluded from the requirements of NEPA.

      What’s stopping the Forest Service? Do the politicians clamoring for more logging give the Forest Service enough of a budget to do all this logging?

      I agree with Larry that the President would never sign the Zinke/RMEF logging bill. But what continues to baffle me is that we have gone through a series of bills, acts and administrative methods to greatly increase national forest logging (i.e. HFI, HFRA, Farm Bill, etc) and every time those bills, acts and administrative procedures are put into place we are told by the politicians and timber industry that the Forest Service now has the tools to ‘manage’ (i.e. more logging) the forest…and then these same folks wake up the next day and complain that the Forest Service lacks the tools to ‘manage’ the forest and we need another act, bill or administration method to make logging even easier (by limiting public input, NEPA analysis, requiring bonds, etc).

      At what point will the politicians, timber industry and Forest Service be satisfied with the various pro-logging ‘tools’ already at their disposal and get to work and stop complaining and advocating for weaker and weaker laws that just promote more logging?

      • Hmmmm, no response to your amusing point, Matt?!? I would really like to hear some answers from the Forest Service officials on these realities.

        Regarding the bills coming out of the House, it is a safe way to propose whatever they want, knowing that it will never be signed into law. A politician can scrabble something together, wanting free-range logging, demanding a “trust us” mentality, but offering no funding to do the extra work. They need the tools to do profitable logging, in many parts of the west (adjusting for reality). The real goal is to de-claw the ESA and eliminate lawsuits, to do much more logging without budgeting more money to the Forest Service. A tall order, indeed.

        I shouldn’t bring this up but, if we get a Republican President and a Republican Congress, will we see wholesale changes at a fundamental level, regarding environmental rules, laws and policies?

  9. And if anyone has ever waited for the Forest Service to get a project ready you know the first thing they think about is getting sued over it. If they think they might get sued, good chance there goes the project.
    Nothing has really changed since the first spotted owl injunctions shut down our public lands except that the public land managers have learned that just about any project can be litigated for whatever reasons. I know of no laws that have been weaken, or that has made it easier or less costly for projects to move forward. Or maybe just no one is willing to use them. Why? Because they are still very afraid of litigation.
    I don’t think trade industry associations have ever litigated to stop a project. They might of sued because of lack of them.
    Every project I have ever been involved in the Forest Service has always error on the side of caution, much to detriment of many projects, using the rational that something is better than nothing.

    • Hello Bob …?? There were owl injunctions because my colleagues & I in USFS Region 6 were literally way out on a limb in terms of creating tree plantations w/out much thought for ecosystem processes, species viability, etc. The NW Forest Plan injected a much needed dose of science into Nat. Forest mgmt.

      As for weaker laws, take a look at some of the changes that were in last year’s Farm Bill; I think that’s where the authority to use Categorical Exclusion for large projects was included. I apologize if I have that wrong; frankly there have been so many attacks on NEPA in bills proposed in congress in past couple of years that it
      is hard to keep track of what has passed – what hasn’t.
      Our national forests are SO much more important for carbon sequestration, watershed protection and habitat for listed & unlisted species than they are as tree plantations that it’s a bit mind-boggling that we’re debating some of this on a site that’s about the 21st Century. Let’s look to the legacy that our forests can be for future generations of wild critters and people.

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