Forestry prof says enviro’s corridor lawsuit has holes

We should start a list of enviro’s willing to use falsehoods to obstruct sound/healthy, sustainable forest ecosystems – here are two strong candidates:

Enviros (Oregon Wild and the Greater Hells Canyon Council) indirectly claim supernatural powers by being able to discern the false motives of others and decide what research is good and what is bad in spite of their lack of any impartiality, broad understanding of established forest science or background sufficient to discern relative value of evolving research.

Dr. James Johnston has been quoted in the Wallowa County Chieftain as outing certain falsehoods perpetrated by these two groups. Selected facts per the Chieftain and quotes from Dr. Johnston are as follows (my comments are in italics and parentheses):

A) Per the Chieftain:

1) “The corridor project is a U.S. Forest Service plan to use both hand and mechanical treatments to ostensibly mitigate wildfire in the area west of Lostine, while the two activist groups claim it is a thinly-veiled excuse to commercially log the corridor.”
(i.e. Enviro’s claim to be able to discern False Motives of others)

B) Per Dr. Johnston after reading the FAQs published by the two enviro groups:

1) “One-hundred percent of the project is explicitly designed to address safety issues. Oregon Wild may believe that only 10 percent of the project is appropriate to address safety issues, but that’s just their opinion. … the U.S. Forest Service has considerable expertise in managing fire and risks to human health and property while stating that Oregon Wild is not drawing on any particular fire management expertise. Johnston also said he was not aware of any expert in fire and fuel management that endorses their claim that only 10 percent of the project addresses safety issues.”
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that their opinion is fact without supplying objectively determined evidence.)

2) “The professor also questioned FAQ statements that the project will prioritize commercially logging some of the largest most fire-resistant trees out of the forests over stands of smaller trees that could benefit from thinning, or that scientific evidence indicates that logging in that type of forest will not decrease the severity of fire but would likely increase fire severity risk in the forest. … 100 percent of the proposed logging targets small fire- intolerant forest structure, and a huge body of scientific evidence demonstrates that removing those trees can reduce fire severity and make wildfires more manageable and less of a threat.”
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that faux science is good and established science is bad. Again, where is there evidence?)

3) ““Oregon Wild badly misrepresents the science,” Johnston said. “The one paper that they cite clearly states that fuel reduction thinning such as that planned for the Lostine River Corridor is appropriate in cases of unnaturally high fuel loading. This is precisely the case in the Lostine River Corridor.””
(i.e. Enviro’s cite references that don’t support their case. How could that occur unless it was a deliberate attempt to deceive or an example of their ignorance on the subject?)

4) “Dr. Johnston also noted that the Forest Service has documented that the corridor currently contains far more trees than were present before fire was excluded from the area at the end of the 19th century.

“There are very high fuel loadings that pose a significant risk to old-growth forest structure,” Johnston said. “Much of the old-growth larch in the corridor has died or is dying as result of competition-induced stress. Oregon Wild presents zero evidence that thinning will increase fire severity. All of the available evidence suggests that thinning and prescribed fire will reduce fire severity and protect old growth.””
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that their opinion is fact without supplying objectively determined evidence.)
(i.e. Enviro’s claim that faux science is good and established science is bad. Again, where is there evidence?)

5) “Another statement in the FAQ gave Johnston pause: “Not only will this project not stop a fire, the proposed industrial logging prioritizes many of the most mature fire-resistant stands in the canyon over those that might benefit from thinning.”

“The Forest Service is only planning to treat 450 acres within the corridor, which is a tiny percentage of the total land area and a tiny percentage of the total area that probably should be treated to reduce risk of uncharacteristic insect, disease and fire effects,” he said. Johnston added that all 450 acres of thinning is targeting the most overgrown stands.”
(Again, enviro’s are unabashedly publishing outright falsehoods and making mountains out of molehills to mislead the public; spend taxpayer dollars on insignificant issues; and delay the implementation of sound, sustainable forest management where appropriate to reduce the risk of loss of existing federal forests prized by all Americans. And for what? Maybe, if we are lucky, another forest that will look like a huge clearcut in the beginning and possibly produce an inferior forest because of all of the erosion of valuable topsoil and dead/destroyed root systems resulting from the baked soils. Yet, they will protest any suitable use of clearcuts even if the only impact is a deterioration of the viewshed for a limited time period. Or maybe, the denuded land will become another grassland or maybe even another Grand Canyon. They have outed themselves. Once they had clear but mistaken goals to “preserve specific old growth forest ecosysytems/types” without any plan for regeneration to replace those dying stands/ecosystems. Now their double talk and lies have turned 180 degrees and have contradicted all of their past claims and revealed that they don’t really care about protecting existing forests. In fact they don’t care what happens to the land. The only thing that they seem to care about is being important, maintaining their power base (fiefdom), and raising funds to keep certain enviros employed.)

15 Comments

  1. I highly doubt that the people in these groups “don’t care what happens to the land,” as you charge (without evidence). Rather, they disagree with you how best to care for the land. We can sit down and discuss those disagreements in good faith, or we can snipe at each other as “job killers” and “forest destroyers.”

    Your personalizing rhetoric seems designed to fire up everyone who already agrees with you, and to insult or offend anyone who doesn’t. If you truly believe in building toward more collaborative forest management, demonizing those who disagree with you is counterproductive in the extreme.

    In this new century of forest planning, I have been fortunate enough to work with people on both sides of these issues who have taken that lesson to heart. I hope that you will do the same.

    • Travis

      Re: “don’t care what happens to the land,” as you charge (without evidence).”
      —> As Dr. Johnston states and as my experience and constant review of the literature show, there is a preponderance of evidence (some has been posted on this site over the years). Listen to the arguments used on this site (even after having the science explained to them in great detail) over the years by those with no education or experience in forestry and tell me that I have no evidence. How can they care without even considering the overwhelming evidence that points to the high probability that their efforts are self defeating? This is not opinion. This is scientific fact validated by repeated research and operational trials for over 80 years.

      Please use specifics from my post to show me where you think that I am wrong – sorry but I can’t improve without specific examples. I’ll either fess up or explain myself better.

      Collaboration can only be undertaken when the parties agree on common goals and the validated underlying fundamental science that will allow them to achieve those goals.

      For additional related thoughts please see my reply to Sharon below.

  2. Gil.. like Travis I could do without the inflammatory stuff and stating that people have bad motives. But I really really appreciate someone taking on a project and trying to figure out what claims have been made and are they accurate.

    Still, for some projects, I have to wonder “why did they pick this one?” When their arguments about why it’s bad don’t match up with facts (or don’t seem to), and it seems that there is really no place to engage them on a deeper level about it. Maybe we need to develop such a place, and invite them here to talk about it. If it’s in litigation, the FS can’t (sigh).

    Here’s what Steve Wilent said in an earlier comment
    4 MMBF is not a large amount from 2,110 acres. I haven’t found anything in the USFS documentation to indicate that the agency plans to “prioritize commercially logging some of the largest, most fire-resistant trees.” In fact, the USFS analysis says that “Resiliency” thinnings on about 450 acres will remove trees only up to 21” dbh. Sounds like they might take a few larger trees if they are infested with mistletoe or otherwise are unhealthy, or are hazard trees. IMHO, the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest did quite a bit of analysis and documentation for a CE project.

    Steve had a lengthy description and starts with the fact that the county is an intervenor in the lawsuit and has links to the project description and other news stories.http://forestpolicypub.com/2017/07/19/why-we-disagree-about-fuels-treatment-ii-prescribed-burning-and-fine-fuels/comment-page-1/#comment-423033

    Gil, I’m curious about Oregon Wild’s claim that there wasn’t really a collaborative group involved. Could you call the W-W public affairs office and see what their side of the story is on that? I would, but I am batting 0 on getting answers from any FS public affairs people at any level right now.

    • Sharon

      Re: “Gil.. like Travis I could do without the inflammatory stuff and stating that people have bad motives.”

      Re: “bad motives” – please see item A-1 in the post and note that the enviro groups are the ones claiming the super powers that allow them to “claim it is a thinly-veiled excuse to commercially log the corridor.””

      Re your 2nd paragraph, I am unsure of what you are saying. Are you wondering about me or these enviros when you say ““why did they pick this one?” When their arguments about why it’s bad don’t match up with facts”. If you are saying that the enviros arguments don’t line up with the facts then I know of no way that outing the enviros falsehoods won’t be inflammatory to them.

      Re: “inflammatory” – Please, show me what you deem to be inflammatory and not a logical deduction from the evidence before us. If there is a clear and direct way of pointing out their falsehoods without inflaming them please show me how you would do it. In addition, please remember that the truth is always inflammatory to those who have a vested interest in perpetrating falsehoods. I believe that all of my comments above are logical deductions from statements made over time by various enviros including those mentioned above.

      I don’t know of any law that requires collaboration. If there is, please enlighten me with a link to the appropriate verbiage including how to determine what groups/individuals must be collaborated with and under what circumstances. I assume that you meant to say Oregon Wild instead of W-W. – Between the article in this post and Steve’s commentary at the link that you gave, I believe that Oregon Wild’s position is well established and quite clear. They seem to believe that the US Gov’t is legally bound to collaborate with them on anything that the Fed’s do in the forest at a bare minimum.

      • 1. Two things I think are inflammatory (note that you are not the only one who does this on the blog) are a) lumping enviros together. Just as “the timber industry” or “loggers” isn’t one real thing because it could be Joe’s aspen mill or Weyco, environmental groups come in all sizes, shapes and proclivities. b) is attributing motives. Just because others do this all the time does not mean we should. I’d like this blog to be a safe place in that sense. It might seem like I’m picking on you because I don’t ask everyone to do this, but I think it distracted from the other excellent points you made.

        3) I asked to call the W-W, I meant the public affairs folks on the Wallowa-Whitman. Back in the day when I started in the FS, we used to call that the Iron Triangle and that forest the W-bar-W or the W bar. Sorry that wasn’t clear. And I haven’t had much luck getting the FS side of the story by calling or emailing public affairs folks.

        4. Yes using the Farm Bill CE’s require “collaboration.”

      • Gil- I found a good explanation of the Farm Bill CE requirements on the R-1 site here (nice job, R-1!)
        https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r1/forest-grasslandhealth/insects-diseases/?cid=stelprd3854365

        It says that Farm Bill CE projects are not subject to administrative review.. so it would make sense that if you lobby against these CEs because you think they will be misused, and the Congress passes it anyway, the next step would be to figure out how you could make it more difficult to use.. by an interpretation of “collaboration,” perhaps?

  3. Wow Gil.

    I’ve know James Johnston for a long time and could share some interesting stories here…but won’t. Or at least won’t right now.

    Anyway, here’s the FAQ page from Oregon Wild’s website.

    Wasn’t this a collaborative effort?

    No.

    Our organizations are founding members of the local established collaborative group for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and participate in collaboratives across the state. We know what collaboration looks like. The Forest Service chose not to bring the project to the collaborative group and did not engage in a truly collaborative process.

    Collaboration means meaningfully inviting diverse stakeholders to help design a project. No conservation voice was invited to collaborate in the project’s development, and no environmental organizations support the project or the process. Many other citizens, organizations, and interests were left out.

    Our organizations have been publicly misrepresented by the Forest Service. Hosting public field trips and answering phone calls is information sharing. It is not collaboration. In fact, an independent third party offered to facilitate a true collaborative process on this project that would have included conservation voices. The Forest Service rejected that and other efforts from us and other stakeholders to avoid controversy.

    • Wow Matthew!

      Please review both my post and the original article. If you do, you will quickly notice that neither the article or my post said anything at all about “collaboration”. Please address your comments to Sharon as she is the only one who had a question about “collaboration”.

      Re sharing stories: I don’t doubt that all of us could do the same about each other. Since you brought it up, are you using innuendo to demean Dr. Johnston or is he one of the good Phd’s that you approve of? It’s a simple question. Please be more direct in order to communicate more clearly, we can’t read your mind and I don’t want to assign any false motives to you.

      • Sure, see what the USFS claims in this specific case.

        However, why would two organizations who “are founding members of the local established collaborative group for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest” and who have participated “in collaboratives across the state” claim in this specific example that the “Forest Service chose not to bring the project to the collaborative group and did not engage in a truly collaborative process” and that “no conservation voice was invited to collaborate in the project’s development, and no environmental organizations support the project or the process and many other citizens, organizations, and interests were left out” unless it was true?

        • Why would they claim that? To help make their case. If not one analyzes their claims, and if the FS can’t respond because it’s in litigation (the Cone of Silence) then they can say whatever they want. Except.. when the FS does a good job of documentation.. then we can just go to the project website.

          Fortunately, our nimble fingered FS retiree could (not as easily as I would have liked, had to go to a SOPA for the right time period and click on a link) locate info on the project here ..
          https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48592

          They even have a document that explains their approach to collaboration and documents everyone reached out to during the process (lots of people were contacted during scoping as well, see the scoping tab). Here it is: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/103397_FSPLT3_3986347.pdf

          The document has everything you would want to know about collaboration, including this notation: “1/15/16 – Phone Contact: Forest Service (Acting District Ranger) contacted Hells Canyon Preservation Counsel. Discussed possible project in the Lostine Corridor, risk reduction and objectives, potential concerns the organization (HCPC most interested in the Forest Service Hazard Tree policy) may have and design considerations to address these concerns.”

          Apparently Oregon Wild says they were not invited to collaborate, and they were contacted and asked their opinion as documented.

          So the question seems to be “do you have to have a collaborative group to collaborate?” In the collaboration document the District described their thought process (thank you Hells Canyon RD for making telling your story easy!!!)

          “For the Lostine Project the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest applied agency guidance (R1 Collaboration and Discussion Handout, Feb 2015) from this site for developing their collaborative process. This guidance provides aspects of collaboration to consider in designing the process, and clarifies that:
           Work with a formal collaborative group is not necessary to meet the requirements of the
          Act
           Recognize from the beginning that because this is a collaborative process (not a formal collaborative group), the responsible official is not looking for consensus. The responsible official will equitably value insights from each participating individual and organization and will not rely solely on any single individual or group perspective when making decisions for the project.
           There is no “one size fits all” approach to collaboration
           Project-level collaborative processes do not need to mirror more complex
          collaborative processes that may be appropriate at the programmatic/planninglevel
           Each project will have its own unique issues and participants so the process may vary from project to project

          I couldn’t get a copy of the R-1 Collaboration Handout through a Google Search, any R-1 or other folks willing to find/share this? Email it to me and I will post it.

          So maybe this is not about this project at all, it’s more about clarifying what the Farm Bill CE’s must do in terms of collaboration. If you don’t agree with agency interpretation of the legislation, you get to take it to court. I wonder if that’s it…

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