Claim 3. Not just BBER, but other studies have shown that R-1 has an unusually high level of litigation on vegetation management projects.
This seems to be due to the activities of a relatively small number of groups.
Of the 133 R1 cases in past 11 years, the majority (75) were by repeat litigants, with 30 cases filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR), 19 by the Native Ecosystems Council (NEC), 8 by the Lands Council, 5 each by the Ecology Center, Friends of the Wild Swan, and Swan View Coalition, and 3 by the Wild West Institute.
So here are some hypotheses:
(1) R-1 is home to a number of groups who have chosen litigation as a policy strategy.
(2) They are selling more timber than other Regions (this could be checked).
(3) They do a poorer job than other regions in being legally defensible (I doubt this based on the people I know who work there).
(4) They have more endangered species, which provide additional legal hooks.
Does anyone have additional hypotheses?
To examine these possibilities, it would be interesting to compare R-1 and its neighbor R-6, or even a couple of forests in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.
Claim 4. Litigation has a significant impact on the region’s a) timber program and b) ability to accomplish other vegetation management objectives (e.g., fuel treatments.)
Here’s what BBER says:
“Also, 54% of the timber sale volume (226.5 MMBF) and 64% of the acreage (35,485 cruised acres) was litigated, with over one-quarter of projects not under CE being litigated.” and “A regional timber program summary based on litigated volume in each R1 forest and program unit costs indicated that almost 54% (164 MMBF Scribner) of the Region’s FY 2013 timber program volume and 39% (114.6 MMBF Scribner) of the FY 2014 timber program volume were encumbered by litigation.”
Nevertheless, as Matthew has previously posted here, R-1 continues to meet its timber targets (although if we look at 2012 to 2016, we get 75% 64% 99% 101% 73%) . Someone else could say “out of the past five years, R-1 missed their target by 25% or more three out of the five years).
But let’s accept that R-1 is generally doing a great job of meeting timber targets and yet has lots of litigation that has an impact on their abilities to do this work as well as other work. How can both things be true?
It appears that R-1, in response to its situation of litigation, has evolved a strategy for meeting targets that puts more sales into the pipeline with the assumption that a bunch of them will be held up. This strategy is more successful in some years and not as much in others, as you would expect given the lurching progress of different litigation timelines. Neverhtess, it is a generally successful strategy.
Is it a problem or not?
Employees, retirees, elected officials, Montana citizens and citizens of the rest of the country can be of different minds about it whether there is a problem in R-1 (and elsewhere) and what to do about it. Personally, I wonder if FL groups should have that much power over what happens on public land, compared to other citizens and elected officials who are accountable to citizens. It seems like a good gig for them, but not so much for the rest of us.