The following article is written by Keith Hammer, Chair of the Swan View Coalition in Montana. Hammer has shared his views on this blog before – including raising red flags about some types of ‘collaboration’ in Montana.
Imagine a world where you donate some time working on a Forest Service project and the Forest Service pays you up to four times what that in-kind donation is worth to continue working on it. This is the world Congress created in the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 as the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP).
The Southwest Crown Collaborative (SWCC) in the Swan-Clearwater-Blackfoot area is one of the collaborative efforts being funded by CFLRP via the Forest Service. Because the Act requires that the collaborative process be “transparent and nonexclusive,” we asked and the SWCC agreed to list on its web site its formal partners, their contributions to projects, and federal contributions to those partners and projects.
In a nutshell, Congress through CFLRP will fund half of the costs of the projects if the Forest Service and its partners fund the other half. Partners need only provide one-fifth of the total project costs, often as in-kind, non-cash donations of work. This minimum one-fifth contribution then entitles the partner to receive federal funds to do work that otherwise would be done by federal employees or under competitive contracts with private businesses.
In a hypothetical example provided by the Forest Service and lodged on the SWCC web site, a partner can consider $2,000 of its work expenses as a non-cash contribution to a project. The Forest Service would pay the partner $5,000 cash, which may include CFLRP funds, “to pay for the partner’s salary, fuel for vehicles, and supplies toward the project.” In a real-life SWCC example, one non-profit has received $2.5 million in federal funds for its non-cash, in-kind contributions of $903 thousand.
While these funds on the one hand enable partners to do some monitoring and watershed restoration work by repairing or decommissioning roads, it also appears to silence public criticisms by partners of the more controversial timber sales being conducted under the guise of “forest restoration.” Moreover, some SWCC partners have collectively promoted “restoration” logging and asked Congress to work with collaborators and not with “organizations and individuals who oppose collaborative approaches to forest management.” (Here)
It is this type of bully behavior by partners that casts a long shadow over the integrity of CFLRP, which at the 5-year/halfway mark is far ahead of its logging quotas and far behind in decommissioning roads and controlling the invasive weeds they bring to the forest. Citizens and scientists that disagree for good reason with the notion that logging is “restoration” (see page 4) deserve equal standing with collaborators being paid millions of tax dollars by the Forest Service.
To see how over $7 million of your tax dollars have thus far been paid to partners in the SWCC, visit: