The Forest Service is Paying Collaborative Partners!

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.

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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:
http://www.swcrown.org/partnership-agreements

9 Comments

  1. Thanks for this affirmation of but one of countless examples of “collaboration.” All, fully consistent with the neoliberal agenda embraced by both parties (which handily circumvents the democratic process and premises of actual choices in the voting booth.)

    That agenda includes corporate outsourcing of governmental functions, deregulation, privatization of public resources, and devolving public lands decisionmaking to an exclusive, select few — in this case as with untold numbers of other “collaborative” groups, acting with mandated financial conflicts of interest.

    Once any group or individual has a financial stake in treating the effects of the “development” problems, they have little incentive to address the cause of the development problems, lest it threaten their budgets and staff funding. Additionally, the collaborationists functionally serve both, as corporate PR agents creating the public impression all’s well with continued degradation of ecosystems under business as usual, and as corporate lobbyists, demonstrating the usefulness of legislated quid pro quo.

    Such tactics abandon ethics for money, ignore the public trust doctrine established in Common Law, and subvert the urgent necessity to effect dramatic course corrections before it’s too late to matter .

    Opportunity costs, Machiavellian strategies, and willfull adoption of agency Orwellian-speak aside, it’s time to spotlight the collaborationists; name names, and hold line officers, politicians and especially GangGreen sell outs accountable for their mercenary wrong kind of green.

  2. Then again, nobody knows how many millions are paid to eco-groups in EAJA payments and lawsuit settlements. AND those groups pay no taxes on all the ways they get their money, including the money they get from the Federal Government. AND, I don’t see that gravy train working too well in the Sierra Nevada, where new thinning projects are at a stand-still. Despite the “average” year of forest fires on USFS ground, the risk remains extremely high, and the Forest Service continues to spend most of its money on wildfire suppression. What happens when “replacement” habitats (chosen to replace burned habitats) no longer supplies the irreplaceable nesting characteristics that have burned? “Passive restoration” will not accelerate such landscapes on their journeys to become usable habitat. Such mindsets actually put those landscapes at even higher risks to total losses but, that is a core “principle” of the “Whatever Happens” program. (ie burned habitats are just as good as green forests)

    • “Then again”….I fail to see the connection here between the U.S. Forest Service paying ‘collaborator’ partners and all agencies of the federal government needing to abide by the Equal Access to Justice Act.

      • This is to say nothing of millions being distributed by the neoliberal one percenters’ “charitable” foundations dedicated to “donor-advised” funding for the usual key players in “collaboration” (eg. The Nature Conservancy, The Wilderness Society, Trout Unlimited, et al.)

        And how about the taxpayer-subsidized National Forest Foundation’s corporate matching grants funding Collaboration, Stewardship, and Restoration? First, taxpayers are funding National Forest mismanagement, then taxpayers are funding NFF’s “Stewardship and Restoration”(sic).

        Let’s talk about doubling down on the perpetual enviro-economic disaster machine, because after all, it’s all good, as a measure of GDP, the logic goes, the more disasters, the better.

        Meanwhile, the corporate raiders get their foundation tax havens (half of the corpus of which should have ended up in the General Treasury to fund essential services expected of civil governments), then their charitable write offs to GangGreen nonprofits (which these days are functionally indistinguishable from tax-free lobbyist fees, … Now, That’s “Win-Win!”)

        and the taxpayers, on the other hand, lose their jobs to cheaper labor markets offshore; state and federal budget cuts, and “sequestrations”— known on the rest of the planet as neoliberal “austerity measures.”

        (whew…)

  3. Oh, for God’s sake.
    The big money went to TU for one of the things Keith loves the most, road obliteration on Road 4106, one point six mil for blowing out culverts and wiping the road off the planet. TU supposedly threw in a quarter mil of “in kind” which I suppose was “staff design” or “overhead” or some other C O S work.
    Defenders got 91 grand in apparent Fed staff time to “carnivore survey” — that’s data Defenders wants and got for free. Bet on it being part of a lawsuit at some point.
    Montana Conservation Corps gets a half million for trail work. I thought you liked trails, Keith.
    Montana FWP got over 200 k for gill-netting lakers, plus another 150 for netting in Swan Lake. Keith, I thought you HATE exotic species.
    Oh, my gotsh, the motorheads got 20 grand for trails!
    Northwest Connections, 355 grand cash for lots of cool stuff like 102 grand in CARNIVORE SURVEYS. More stuff you like.
    Seems like the real problem is, you didn’t get to share in the goodies and the cash. Wonder why.
    The USFS bent over backwards to let you and Arlene present your “alternative” and waste everyone’s time at the “collaborative” meetings on the FNF, when everyone knows you’re going to sue no matter the outcome short of NREPA being implemented through the Plan.
    While I agree the SWCC is a blithering joke, I come at it from the opposite side. I think it’s insane to destroy needed management infrastructure and to kill off the last means of forest management within the timber basket. I don’t want to burn the forest flat in order to “save” it.
    You’re just upset because other people’s money wasn’t spent on your agenda.

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