BLM Move and the ‘deconstruction of the administrative state’

High Country News has an article of interest:

Observe the BLM’s displacement

Moving land-management HQ out of Washington illustrates the ‘deconstruction of the administrative state.’

We’ve discussed this issue here and elsewhere. Aside from the machinations of the Trump administration, can a case be made that it is better for a land-management agency to be physically closer to the land it manages? For example, the USFS’s Region 5 office in Vallejo, Calif., seems out of place near SF Bay and far from any national forest. Sacramento would have been ideal, as it is closer to the forests and to the state government. Yes, it is crucial for BLM and USFS to have a presence in D.C., but not all national staff needs to be there. A colleague once suggested that much of the USFS staff could work well if distributed around the regional offices. Likewise, many regional office staffers could work from national forest HQs.

Investigation: Ferry County, WA range riders were in Spokane shopping when they were supposed to be patrolling

The Spokesman Review has the full story, which involves range-riding (or the lack thereof) in northeastern Washington, including on the Colville National Forest.


Two range riders who were supposed to be protecting cattle in Ferry County in 2018 were more than 100 miles away in Spokane, shopping and spending time at the Davenport Hotel, according to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife investigation that has since been referred to a Thurston County prosecutor.

Meanwhile, environmental groups charge, wolves killed cattle in the area the range riders were supposed to be patrolling, which led in turn to the wolves being exterminated.

As for the range riders themselves, one of them denied in a Friday interview that they neglected their duties at all.

The allegations and denials are the latest chapter in a long and tense saga between those who graze cattle on public lands in Washington and those who support the return of wolves to the area.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending second -degree theft charges be filed against several contract employees tasked with keeping wolves from killing cattle in northeast Washington.

While the amount of money allegedly stolen is small, the investigation highlights the need for stricter oversight of the state’s range riding program and undermines WDFW’s rationale for killing wolves in some cases, said Chris Bachman, the wildlife program manager at the Spokane-based Lands Council….

At its core, the investigation highlights the challenges facing the coexistence of cattle and wolves in the West’s second most populous state.

Each spring, ranchers in northeast Washington send their cattle into the steep and thickly treed Colville National Forest, where most of the state’s more than 120 wolves roam. In a predator-free landscape this was a tenable situation. But since wolves returned to the state in 2008, they have killed cattle each year.

And because of the area’s topography, many traditional nonlethal deterrents – pastures, dogs, lights and colored flags tied to fences – don’t work well. Instead, range riding is widely seen as the most effective nonlethal deterrent.

It’s also the hardest to quantify or manage, even if the idea behind it is simple and ancient: consistent human presence keeps wolves away. In practice, that means riders often spend days or weeks in the woods, out of cell reception. What’s more, riders need to know how wolves and cattle behave, while simultaneously having the skills to live in the woods, ride horses, fix ATVs and more.

It’s a job that is not conducive to timecards.

“There is an expertise there and most people who engage in range riding are not experts and need to be schooled and trained by those who do it professionally,” said wolf expert and advocate Carter Niemeyer in a previous interview with The Spokesman-Review. “Where it gets off to a bad start is there is a pot of money. … People come running and say, ‘How do I get some of it?’ ”

If the state’s investigation is correct, that’s what happened in the case of DS Ranch.

WDFW detective Lenny Hahn first started investigating the DS Ranch on Oct. 15, 2018. At that time, the contract was valued at $352,000 and listed seven different people, including Jolene and Arron Scotten and several of their relatives, some of whom lived together.

According to cell phone records obtained via a search warrant, there were numerous times Scotten and his wife said they were working when they were not. Some of those periods aligned with times when wolves attacked cattle.

And this is where, according to Bachman and several other pro-wolf organizations that provided the records to The Spokesman-Review, the Scottens’ deception cost the state more than just money.

Washington’s lethal removal policy allows for the killing of wolves if they kill or injure livestock three times in a 30-day period or four times in a 10-month period – but only if two nonlethal deterrents have already been deployed.

On Sept. 12, 2018, WDFW announced the planned killing of members of the Old Profanity Territory (OPT) wolf pack after repeated attacks on cattle. According to a news release, the livestock producer had used several nonlethal deterrents, including range riding, calving outside of the wolf pack’s range, delaying the turnout of calves until they were larger (and harder to kill), removing livestock carcasses, and removing sick and injured livestock.

According to WDFW documents, justifying the need to kill some OPT wolves was made partly on the assumption of heavy range rider presence .

Meanwhile, the investigation alleges Scotten and his wife, who rode primarily in the OPT pack area for the Diamond M Ranch, were not working when they said they were.

For instance, on Sept. 4 and 5, 2018, Scotten claimed to have worked a combined 25 hours. But he was actually in Spokane buying building supplies from Ziggy’s Building Materials for a portion of that time, according to the WDFW investigation. During that same two-day stretch, the OPT pack injured two calves and killed one calf.

Just days later, on Sept. 12, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind authorized the killing of members of the OPT pack in response to repeated attacks on cattle.

Six days after WDFW approved lethal removal, Scotten claimed to have worked seven hours. However, according to the investigation, he was in Spokane staying the night at the Davenport Hotel on Sept. 18 and 19. Jolene Scotten also claimed to have worked eight hours on Sept. 19, while phone records place her in Spokane, according to the investigation.

On Sept. 21, WDFW confirmed the OPT pack attacked and injured five calves.

Meanwhile, some at WDFW were questioning the range riding efforts in the area.

“WDFW had concerns with documenting the work by range riders, as staff had not seen the range riders during most field checks or on most trail camera photos,” states a letter sent from a Ferry County WDFW staff member to WDFW’s Region 1 director on Oct. 25, 2018.

The next day, WDFW authorized another round of lethal removal.

In fact, out of 440 15-second videos taken by WDFW trail cameras in the OPT pack area throughout September and October, riders with DS Ranch were only spotted four times.

Those concerns persisted. In notes from a call in July 2019 discussing the OPT pack, employees in the district questioned whether “actual range riding, not just driving on the road” had ever taken place.

“Have never had actual, quality range riding on this landscape,” the notes state. “Daily patrols aren’t doing much.”

Groups threaten to sue for wolverine protections

Greenwire today: “Groups threaten to sue for wolverine protections.” Excerpt:

Wolverines are the largest members of the weasel family, but they look more like small bears with bushy tails. Conservation groups say the animals need to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Ten groups want to force the federal government to protect the elusive wolverines.

The groups estimate there are around 300 wolverines left, sparsely scattered across the Mountain West, including Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Their young depend on snowy, high-altitude habitat that could disappear as the climate warms.

Gary Macfarlane is with the advocacy group Friends of the Clearwater, which signed on to sue federal agencies if they don’t add wolverines to the endangered species list in 60 days. The notice of intent to sue includes 10 groups.

The article cites winter recreation (esp. snowmobiles) as a factor. But if climate is the main factor in a Wolverine decline, there isn’t much the agencies can do about it, except to protect habitat as warming progresses.


Oregonian investigation continues to peer behind the ‘Timber Curtain’ in Douglas County

Here’s another story involving the free press using the Freedom of Information Act and open record laws. It a follow-up to a previous blog post, Pet travel, flight upgrades, meeting with a conspiracy theorist: How a struggling Oregon county spent federal safety net money. Which was a follow-up to another previous blog post, Struggling Oregon county spent $490,000 in federal safety net money on pro-timber video, animal trapping.

The full story from the Oregonian, written by Rob Davis, is available here.

During a contentious hearing Wednesday morning in Roseburg, a handful of Douglas County residents called for county commissioners to resign over their lavish spending of federal safety net money.

The community protest came days after a story in The Oregonian/OregonLive revealed that county leaders spent the federal money on first-class and premium airfare, banquet awards dinners, conferences around the West, pet travel and dozens of meals without itemized receipts.

The commissioners spent $43,000 on their own travel from a Secure Rural Schools safety net program called Title III. The money was supposed to be spent on firefighting, wildfire planning and search and rescue efforts. Instead it was spent on behalf of leaders in a county so broke it shut down all its libraries in 2017.

Much of their federally funded travel was to lobby Congress against restrictions on federal logging. Most of the spending covered basic costs — hotels and airfare. But other expenses drove up the cost of the trips.

In the meeting, as well as in a Sunday advertisement in the Roseburg News-Review and a bulletin emailed to Douglas County residents and news media outlets, commissioners have repeatedly questioned the accuracy of The Oregonian/OregonLive’s story.

“If you expect to come in here and demand our resignation based on some false garbage that some environmentalist reporter put in the newspaper, it’s not going to happen,” county commissioner Chris Boice told residents during Wednesday’s meeting.

Here are key parts of what county commissioners said in their newspaper advertisement and email to county residents — with the newsroom’s response below. All the receipts can be found here.

“First, when asked, we have gladly answered media inquiries openly and honestly.”

Douglas County did not provide all of its receipts for six months. The newsroom filed three formal requests for the records and had to spend nearly $2,000 to get them.

The county released a small number of receipts in June, refused to answer subsequent questions about missing receipts and then ignored another request in August.

After the newsroom sent a third request in October and threatened a legal challenge, county officials said they had more records. They charged the newsroom $2,000. The county said in a late December letter the request was closed. After a reporter asked questions, a county spokeswoman said the newsroom owed another $700 because it had taken longer to assemble the documents than expected.

“The receipts provided clearly show that the hotel “pet free” (sic) was paid for personally by Commissioner Freeman directly to the hotel and not charged to the county credit card.”

The receipts provided by the county show the pet fee as part of a $99.11 charge incurred by Commissioner Tim Freeman at the Sunriver Resort. A county credit card, records show, was used to pay the $99.11 charge with a handwritten notation saying “Title III.”

“The recent articles fail to explain the Title III fund spending guidelines. Educational travel is one of only three approved and allowable uses for these particular funds. The other two allowable uses are grants for Communities for Healthy Forests and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.”

Federal law says the three current approved uses are:

1. Carrying out activities under the Firewise Communities program to provide education and assistance to homeowners who are building or landscaping homes in fire-sensitive ecosystems;

2. To reimburse counties for search and rescue and emergency services like firefighting that happened on federal land and were paid for by the county;

3. To develop community wildfire protection plans.

Before 2008, federal regulations and the county’s records show, the money could be spent on a broader range of initiatives including educational after-school programs. County officials say their travel is educational.

Their trips are not after-school programs.

“As much as Douglas County and the other 700 counties that received these funds would like, we are not able to use them for libraries, public safety, law enforcement or ‘basic services’ as portrayed in the news articles. It is simply; not legal.”

The stories did not claim the money could be used to fund libraries, which the county defunded and closed in 2017. But it can fund some public safety costs. The money can be spent to reimburse counties for search and rescue and emergency services like firefighting that happened on federal land and were paid for by the county.

“In 2012 the United States Forest Service issued a report, and then in 2016 performed an audit review on multiple counties’ Title III expenditures. Both the report and the audit concluded that Douglas County was in compliance with the federal guidelines for the use and spending of Title III dollars.””

This isn’t what happened.

In 2012, auditors with the U.S. Government Accountability Office found the Title III program suffered from weak oversight. The GAO reviewed Douglas County’s spending as part of that audit. The resulting report did not render an opinion on whether it was lawful. The audit faults counties for incorrectly interpreting the permitted uses of the money.

Without specifically citing Douglas County, the GAO report says counties in Oregon provided federal officials at the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management “with information describing their Title III projects beyond what was required in the act, but even so, agency officials told us that neither agency has reviewed this information to determine whether those Title III projects were allowable under the act.”

A 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture audit also looked at spending in Douglas County and a handful of others. Without specifically citing Douglas County, it also noted problems. Counties “used their own interpretations” to decide how the money should be spent, it said. The 2016 audit said the money was “at risk for misuse.”

“These dollars were never and will never be used for personal travel. Reports to the contrary are false.”

The story did not say this.

“Counties that receive Title III dollars have used them for travel to attend conferences, forest land related meetings; industry seminars and responsible forest management education. These are all educational and qualified expenditures.”

Addressed above.

‘Blatant manipulation’: Trump administration exploited wildfire science to promote logging

Here’s an investigation from The Guardian based on numerous Freedom of Information Act requests of Trump administration officials. You may recall that in August 2018, Interior Secretary blamed wildfires in California on “environmental terrorist groups.” Zinke was forced to resign in December 2018 amid numerous investigations.

Revealed: emails show Trump and appointees tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires

By Emily Holden and Jimmy Tobias

Political appointees at the interior department have sought to play up climate pollution from California wildfires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels as a way of promoting more logging in the nation’s forests, internal emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The messaging plan was crafted in support of Donald Trump’s pro-industry arguments for harvesting more timber in California, which he says would thin forests and prevent fires – a point experts refute.

The emails show officials seeking to estimate the carbon emissions from devastating 2018 fires in California so they could compare them to the carbon footprint of the state’s electricity sector and then publish statements encouraging cutting down trees.

The records offer a look behind the scenes at how Trump and his appointees have tried to craft a narrative that forest protection efforts are responsible for wildfires, including in California, even as science shows fires are becoming more intense largely because of climate change.

James Reilly, a former petroleum geologist and astronaut who is the director of the US Geological Survey, in a series of emails in 2018 asked scientists to “gin up” emissions figures for him. He also said the numbers would make a “decent sound bite”, and acknowledged that wildfire emissions estimates could vary based on what kind of trees were burning but picked the ones that he said would make “a good story”.

Scientists who reviewed the exchanges said that at best Reilly used unfortunate language and the department cherry-picked data to help achieve their pro-industry policy goals; at worst he and others exploited a disaster and manipulated the data.

The emails add to concerns that the Trump administration is doing industry’s bidding rather than pursuing the public interest. Across agencies, top positions are filled by former lobbyists, and dozens of investigative reports have revealed agencies working closely with major industries to ease pollution, public health and safety regulations.

A USGS spokesperson said Reilly’s emails were “intended to instruct the subject matter expert to do the calculations as quickly as possible based on the best available data at the time and provide results in clear understandable language that the Secretary could use to effectively communicate to a variety of audiences.” The agency added that it “stands by the integrity of its science”

When forests burn, they do emit greenhouse gases. But one expert said the numbers the interior department put forth are significant overestimates. They say logging wouldn’t necessarily help prevent or lessen wildfires. On the contrary, logging could negate the ability of forests to absorb carbon dioxide humans are emitting at record rates.

Chad Hanson, a California-based forest ecologist who co-founded the John Muir Project and a lawyer who has opposed logging after fires, called the strategizing revealed in the emails a “blatant political manipulation of science”.

Mark Harmon, a professor emeritus at Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, said while it’s normal for the department to want to quantify emissions from fires, it’s unclear whether they began the process with a particular figure in mind.

“Gin-up is an unfortunate phrase to be sure, but it might have been a very imprecise way to ask for an estimate. It certainly does not inspire confidence,” Harmon said.

He said the resulting quotes from top officials and press releases from the department are “about what you would expect from agencies trying to justify actions they already decided to take with minimal analysis”.

Harmon added that “the effect of logging on fires is highly variable,” depending on how it is done and the weather conditions.

Not long after the interior department came up with its carbon emission estimates from the 2018 California wildfires, Trump issued an executive order instructing federal land managers to significantly increase the amount of timber they harvest. This fall, he also proposed allowing logging in Alaska’s Tongass national forest, the largest intact temperate rainforest in North America.

Trump has also tweeted multiple times about wildfires, saying they are caused by bad land management or environmental laws that make water unavailable.

Monica Turner, a fire ecology scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said “it is climate that is responsible for the size and severity of these fires”.

An Interior department spokesperson said the department’s role is to follow the laws and use the best science and that it continues “to work to best understand and address the impacts of an ever-changing climate.”

Agency officials started emphasizing wildfire emissions data as a talking point as early as August 2018.

In an email chain that month, Reilly was asked by interior’s former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes to sign off on a statement that fires in 2018 had emitted 95.6m tons of CO2.

“Interesting statistics,” Reilly responded, noting that emissions would vary based on the types of trees on the land. “…We assumed woodlands mix since we don’t currently have details on the overall land cover types involved. Any variance to the fuel type will still leave it in the range to make the comparison, however. I’ll use this one if you don’t object. Makes a good story.”

Reilly, who was confirmed to his position in April 2018, later asked career scientists at the agency for updated numbers, according to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“I need to get a number for total CO2 releases for the recent CA fires and a comparison against emissions for all energy in US … Tasker from the boss; back to me ASAP,” he said on 10 October 2018. His boss at the time was the former interior secretary Ryan Zinke.

The job fell to Doug Beard, the director of the National Climate Adaptation Science Center, and Bradley Reed, an associate program coordinator in the Geographic Analysis and Monitoring Program, who responded with numbers from his team that afternoon.

In November 2018, Reilly once again asked for the same estimates of carbon dioxide generated by two devastating fires that fall in California – the Camp and Woolsey fires.

“The Secretary likes to have this kind of information when he speaks with the media,” Reilly said in a 16 November email to David Applegate, the associate director for natural hazards.

Applegate directed Beard to get the numbers, and Reilly chimed in, asking Beard: “Can you have [the scientists] gin up an estimate on the total CO2 equivalent releases are so far for the current 2 fires in CA?” He said he wanted to compare the figures to the carbon pollution caused by transportation in California.

“That would make a decent sound bite the Sec could use to put some perspective on it,” said Reilly.

Just a week earlier, the ferocious Camp fire had destroyed Paradise, California, killing dozens and becoming the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history. The scenes detailed were horrific.

Conservatives have insisted that the wildfires are happening because environmentalists have overzealously encouraged the conservation of forests. Trump has battled with California – the face of the American progressive movement he opposes – over a multitude of other issues, including the state’s longstanding climate policy of requiring new cars to go farther on less fuel.

The new emails show communications staffers and political appointees using government scientists as foot soldiers in those battles.

Now, under the leadership of the former lobbyist David Bernhardt, the agency has sought to remove consideration of climate change from many of its decisions, while expanding oil and gas drilling on federal land. Multiple whistleblowers have accused the department of stifling climate science.

Bernhardt in a May 2019 hearing told lawmakers there are no laws obligating him to combat climate change.

After Reilly asked his staff to calculate the wildfire emissions numbers in November, an interior spokeswoman emailed him asking for the same information so she could put out a statement from Zinke. A few days later, the agency published a press release on Zinke’s behalf, with the title “New Analysis Shows 2018 California Wildfires Emitted as Much Carbon Dioxide as an Entire Year’s Worth of Electricity.”

“There’s too much dead and dying timber in the forest, which fuels these catastrophic fires,” Zinke said. “Proper management of our forests, to include small prescribed burns, mechanical thinning, and other techniques, will improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfires, while also helping curb the carbon emissions.”

Hanson, the forest and fire ecologist, said that in addition to using the government data for political purposes, the department numbers overstated the carbon emissions from forest fires while downplaying emissions from fossil fuels.

He said that the carbon emissions numbers generated by USGS and released to the public were an “overestimate” that “can’t be squared with empirical data” from field studies of post-wildfire burn sites in California. Other scientists the Guardian spoke with did not dispute the government’s data, but did find fault with the way it was presented to the public.

“The comparison of fire to electrical emissions [in California] was not explained or justified”, said Harmon, the Oregon State University scientist. “Picking other sectors would have left an entirely different image in the reader’s mind…If the comparison had been made nationally it would have been found that fire related emissions of carbon dioxide were equivalent to 1.7% of fossil fuel related emissions. So it is hard to escape the conclusion that some cherry picking was going on.”

Jayson O’Neill, the deputy director of the Western Values Project, said the emails are another example of the administration “trying to find ways to tell a story to achieve industry goals”.

“As wildfire experts have repeatedly explained, you can’t log or even ‘rake’ our way out of this mess,” O’Neill said. “The Trump administration and the interior department are pushing mystical theories that are false in order to justify gutting public land protections to advance their pro-industry and lobbyist dominated agenda.”

Trump Administration Slashes Protections for Millions of Acres of Streams, Wetlands

Water is Life, right? It’s more precious than gold, correct? Clean water is more a much critical and essention resource for life on planet earth than, say, taxpayer-subsidized beef and sheep or taxpayer-subsidized oil drilling on public lands, right? The U.S. military believes – and has strong evidence – that water (or the lack of clean water) is a national security threat, especially around the world. Yet, today, the Trump administration removed federal Clean Water Action protections for ephemeral and intermittent streams and wetlands, which account for a huge chunk of waterways in the U.S., especially in the arid West and Southwest.

As you can see in the map above, the western U.S. – and particularly the American Southwest – is hit incredibly hard by the Trump administration’s latest environmental rollback. Obviously, many of those watersheds are found on federal public lands, including National Forest lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

A press release from WildEarth Guardians contained this information specific to Rio Grande Basin:

“The health of waterways in the Rio Grande Basin depends largely on the categories of waterways expressly excluded under the rule: ephemeral and intermittent streams, wetlands, and groundwater. Ephemeral and intermittent streams—those waterways that only flow in response to storm events or go underground for part of the year—make up at least 88 percent of streams in New Mexico and 68 percent in Colorado. New Mexico, alone, contains about one million acres of wetlands. The quality of the water in these tributary streams and wetlands directly translates into the quality of water of the Rio Grande.

The Rio Grande is the fifth largest watershed in north America covering an area larger than the state of Texas. It provides irrigation and drinking water to over 6 million people in the United States and Mexico. Even though the river only makes up one percent of the landscape, it is a critical migratory corridor for tens of thousands of sandhill cranes that overwinter each year in central New Mexico and it supports over 400 species of native fish, wildlife and plants.

Rio Grande Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance prepared a detailed fact sheet analyzing how the proposed rule would impact tens of thousands of miles of streams, creeks, arroyos, and washes in the Rio Grande Basin. The Santa Fe River and Rio Puerco (one of the largest tributaries to the middle Rio Grande) are just two examples of major tributaries that will no longer be protected under the new rule.”

Here’s the press release from Center for Biological Diversity.

Trump Administration Slashes Protections for Millions of Acres of Streams, Wetlands

Move Puts More Than 75 Endangered Species on Fast Track to Extinction

WASHINGTON— The Trump administration finalized a plan today to slash Clean Water Act protections for streams, rivers and millions of acres of wetlands, allowing those water bodies to be destroyed or polluted without any meaningful restrictions.

The loss of protections triggered by today’s rule will ultimately accelerate the extinction of more than 75 endangered species, including Chiricahua leopard frogs, steelhead trout and yellow-billed cuckoos.

“This sickening gift to polluters will allow wetlands, streams and rivers across a vast stretch of America to be obliterated with pollution,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “People and wildlife need clean water to thrive. Destroying half of our nation’s streams and wetlands will be one of Trump’s ugliest legacies. We’ll absolutely be fighting it in court.”

Today’s final rule limits protections only to wetlands and streams that are “physically and meaningfully connected” to larger navigable bodies of water. The radical change will virtually eliminate the Clean Water Act’s protections across the arid West, from West Texas to Southern California, including most of New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada.

An analysis by the Center parallels leaked government documents that estimate the final rule will dramatically reduce Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands across more than 3,000 watersheds in the western United States. Arizona and New Mexico could lose protections for more than 95% of their water bodies under the rule finalized today by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

President Trump’s Executive Order 13778 required the federal agencies to protect only those waters that have “a relatively permanent surface connection” to a traditionally navigable body of water such as a major river — a myopic legal interpretation that ignores the complex hydrology of the arid western states. The executive order followed the minority legal view of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which was never adopted by the Supreme Court.

In rushing to comply with Trump’s executive order, the agencies violated both the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Both laws require the federal government to “look before you leap” and ensure that the environmental consequences of a particular action will not cause unintended environmental damage.

“This is the darkest day in the 50-year history of the Clean Water Act,” said Hartl. “Left unchecked, Trump’s giveaway to special interests will foul our water, harm human health, and condemn wildlife to extinction for generations to come.”

Reflections on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Hope, and the Challenges of 2020

When we commemorate Dr. King, who died in 1968, over 50 years ago, I think it’s good to think about how his message might resonate today. First, I’m not sure that there is a spiritual leader in the US who promotes the view of meeting hate with love in quite the same way. For me the challenge of religious institutions, in the US, in 2020 is to stand apart from the partisan atmosphere of lies, hate, vitriol and fear-promotion in the seeking of worldly power, and instead be a safe place for love and truth to thrive. As Dr. King says “we must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice.” What is key that we “meet physical force with soul force.” King, of course, as a Christian leader, places hope within a Christian context. I don’t think it’s a bad thing for fewer people to be religious or spiritual, as time goes on, but I do think there’s a risk when that perspective causes people to lose hope for the future. People recognized despair as Not A Good Thing, long before there was even the science of psychology. There can also be a certain apocalypticism within the climate change and Extinction Rebellion activist communities that can act to promote fear, hatred and despair. Dr. King didn’t need models to predict future bad things- he lived every day with bad things- and still he had, and preached hope.

Here are some quotes from King’s “Give Us the Ballot” speech.

I cannot close without stressing the urgent need for strong, courageous and intelligent leadership from the Negro community. We need a leadership that is calm and yet positive. This is no day for the rabble-rouser, whether he be Negro or white. (All right) We must realize that we are grappling with the most weighty social problem of this nation, and in grappling with such a complex problem there is no place for misguided emotionalism. (All right, That’s right)

We must work passionately and unrelentingly for the goal of freedom, but we must be sure that our hands are clean in the struggle. We must never struggle with falsehood, hate, or malice. We must never become bitter. I know how we feel sometime. There is the danger that those of us who have been forced so long to stand amid the tragic midnight of oppression—those of us who have been trampled over, those of us who have been kicked about—there is the danger that we will become bitter. But if we will become bitter and indulge in hate campaigns, the new order
which is emerging will be nothing but a duplication of the old order. (Yeah, That’s all right) We must meet hate with love. We must meet physical force with soul force. (Yeah) There is still a voice crying out through the vista of time, saying: “Love your enemies (Yeah), bless them that curse you (Yes), pray for them that despitefully use you.” (That’s right. All right) Then, and only then, can you matriculate into the university of eternal life. That same voice cries out in terms lifted to cosmic proportions: “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.”

(Yes, Lord) And history is replete with the bleached bones of nations (Yeah) that failed to follow this command. (All right) We must follow nonviolence and love. (Yes, Lord)
Now, I’m not talking about a sentimental, shallow kind of love. (Go ahead) I’m not talking about eros, which is a sort of aesthetic, romantic love. I’m not even talking about philia, which is a sort of intimate affection between personal friends. But I’m talking about agape. (Yes sir) I’m talking about the love of God in the hearts of men. (Yes) I’m talking
about a type of love which will cause you to love the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. (Go ahead) We’ve got to love. (Oh yes)

There is something in this universe (Yes, Yes) which justifies Carlyle in saying: “No lie can live forever.” (All right) There is something in this universe which justifies William Cullen Bryant in saying: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” (Yes. All right) There is something in this universe (Watch yourself) which justifies James Russell Lowell in saying:
Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne. (Oh yeah)
Yet that scaffold sways the future,
And behind the dim unknown
Stands God (All right), within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own. (Yeah, yes)

Trump Administration Strips Public Participation, Environmental Safeguards from Public Land Grazing Program

Here’s what the U.S. Forest Service’s federal public lands colleagues are up to the the Bureau of Land Management. The press release is from Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians.

Trump Administration Strips Public Participation, Environmental Safeguards from Public Land Grazing Program

For Immediate Release: January 17, 2020

BOISE, Ida. –– In an advance notice of rulemaking published today, the Trump Administration announced plans to further deregulate the public lands livestock industry by proposing a suite of changes to the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) grazing regulations. The agency is soliciting public comments on the consequences of the proposed changes.

Livestock grazing is the most pervasive use of western public lands. Public lands grazing is responsible for destruction of wildlife habitat, streams and riparian areas, the increase in invasive weeds across the West, and the subsequent increase in wildfire frequency and severity. Rather than craft new regulations that reduce grazing impacts and improve the health of public lands, today’s notice makes it clear that the BLM intends to further weaken its oversight of grazing impacts, reduce public input on grazing decisions, and promote the false narrative that more grazing is the solution to the problems it has created, such as increased number and severity of wildfires.

Today’s notice also demonstrates that the BLM is more interested in appeasing grazing permittees that break the rules rather than enforcing regulations that require the agency to report trespass grazing and other actions in violation of the permits. This is a clear nod to the Bundy crowd that they can get away with their illegal grazing and the BLM will just look the other way.

“We already see very, very few grazing permits undergoing environmental analysis as it is,” said Greta Anderson, Deputy Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The Trump Administration apparently intends to gut even that level of informed public participation in administering this heavily subsidized handout on federal lands.”

“BLM’s falsehood that increased grazing will reduce wildfire risk is dangerous,” said Judi Brawer, Wild Places Program Director for WildEarth Guardians. “Increased grazing with less oversight will inevitably result in more weeds such as cheatgrass spread across public lands, destroying wildlife habitat, and resulting in more and higher severity fires.”

The Bush Administration also tried to gut the grazing regulations in 2006, an attempt that was thwarted by a lawsuit from Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West. These regulatory rollbacks were permanently enjoined by the courts in 2007, but it appears the Trump Administration is going to try again to thwart the public interest and eliminate environmental safeguards on 160 million acres of BLM grazing lands.

Pet travel, flight upgrades, meeting with a conspiracy theorist: How a struggling Oregon county spent federal safety net money

The investigative reporters at the Oregonian continue to uncover some very questionable actions by politicians who want to dramatically increase industrial logging on U.S. Forest Service lands. Previous on this blog, we highlighted the fact that Douglas County spent nearly 1/2 million dollars of Secure Rural Schools money on on a pro-timber industry video and animal trapping. Below are some clips from the latest piece by Rob Davis, which was published this week:

They bought first-class and premium airfare. One paid to travel with his dog. They’ve eaten at banquet award dinners. One expensed a $200 meal at a lounge. They’ve attended governing and timber industry conferences around the country, staying in Jackson Hole, Sunriver, Skamania Lodge and Sun Valley.

These are examples of how Douglas County commissioners spent $43,000 in federal money meant to help their struggling county over the past five years. The trips were underwritten by the Secure Rural Schools program, which pays jurisdictions like Douglas County that suffered financially after endangered species listings curtailed federal logging.

The money was supposed to be spent on firefighting, wildfire planning and search and rescue efforts. Instead it was spent on behalf of leaders in a county so broke that it shut down all its libraries in 2017. Much of their federally funded travel was to lobby Congress against restrictions on federal logging.

Douglas County charged The Oregonian/OregonLive $2,000 for the records that reveal these questionable expenditures. The newsroom paid the fee. The county delivered the documents and said the request was closed, then demanded another $700 after a reporter asked questions about the spending detailed in them.

Commissioners said their expenditures were proper and that the U.S. Forest Service, which disburses the federal money, audits the spending.

The Forest Service does not perform such audits, its officials have previously said.

One commissioner, Chris Boice, traveled for two nights in November 2016 to a remote outpost in Arizona to talk about forest management policy with Doyel Shamley, a natural resources consultant who’s also a far-right conspiracy theorist. A 2014 profile of Shamley in Mother Jones described him as believing “UFO sightings are a false-flag operation by the Illuminati to accumulate more power.”….

Hundreds of pages of records obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive show Douglas County’s commissioners have used the federal money to pay for expenses that have nothing to do with firefighting or wildfire planning….The national Secure Rural Schools program has given $3 billion to Oregon counties since Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, co-authored legislation creating it in 2000.


U.S. Forest Service accused of climate censorship

Here’s a story published this week by E&E News, written by Marc Heller and Heather Richards.

Last August, an environmental group following a Trump administration proposal to open national forests and grasslands in Texas to oil and gas drilling noticed something odd in the Federal Register: two versions of the same notice for an environmental impact statement, appearing one day apart.

The first notice, posted Aug. 26, contained references to climate change and greenhouse gases. The second didn’t. Then the first one vanished online.

Now the group — the Center for Biological Diversity — knows why. A deputy in the Forest Service’s Washington headquarters ordered field staff in Texas to remove the references and republish the notice, an internal memo obtained by the center shows.

“The Deputy who is reviewing the NOI requested every reference to ‘climate’ and ‘greenhouse gasses’ be removed. We did,” said Robert Potts, the Forest Service’s natural resources and planning team leader in Lufkin, Texas, in a July 25 email to Forest Service and Agriculture Department officials.

In addition, Potts said, the director of the Forest Service’s Office of Sustainability and Climate Change, Cynthia West, “seemed surprised (and not surprised) about the request to remove references to climate and greenhouse gasses.”

He added, “All of her interactions with the Department have been very supportive of the work in her office (in spite of what the main stream media reports about the ‘Administration.’)”

The Forest Service lands being considered lie in eastern and northern Texas and concern two famous natural gas-bearing formations, the Haynesville Shale that extends into Louisiana and the Barnett Shale, where hydraulic fracturing was first successfully unleashed in the 1990s.

The Obama administration closed the areas to future oil and gas leasing in 2016 due to concerns about fracking raised by environmental and health groups. At the time, gas prices had already entered a prolonged depressed price environment following the fracking boom that created an oversupply of natural gas in the United States.

The analysis proposed by the Trump administration would supplement the last oil and gas consideration of these areas, completed in the mid-1990s, according to the published notice of intent.

The Forest Service estimated in a reasonably foreseeable development scenario that new leasing on forests and grasslands would result in 1,500 new wells, produce 69 million barrels of oil and 4.2 trillion cubic feet of gas, and create than more than 30 billion gallons of wastewater over the next 20 years. [emphasis added]

By removing references to climate change, the Center for Biological Diversity said, the Forest Service censored its own staff and showed a willingness to interfere with scientists’ environmental reviews. The organization obtained the email and other documents through the Freedom of Information Act, after the dual notices piqued staff members’ curiosity, the CBD said.

“The bigger concern here is the issue of meddling and censorship,” said Taylor McKinnon, senior public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If it happens at this stage, it could certainly happen later in the EIS process. So we are concerned about the future of this EIS.”

The Forest Service, in a statement, said Potts’ email mischaracterized the request from a Forest Service deputy director who had reviewed the initial Federal Register notice.

“The request was editorial in nature and does not reflect any policy on use of terminology or any policy regarding emissions associated with oil and gas development or climate,” the Forest Service said.

The intent behind removing the references, the agency said, “was to clarify that the EIS takes a broad view of multiple environmental considerations surrounding the decision to be informed by the EIS.”

“Any changes in terminology made between draft and final notices were made for clarity and do not affect the integrity of the analysis or the ability to determine whether action will impact the environment,” the Forest Service said, adding that “numerous other editorial changes not related to greenhouse gasses or climate were also made between the draft and final notices for clarity and brevity.”

Although two were posted, only the second notice was considered to be published as an official document, the Forest Service said. A notice of intent for an environmental review isn’t a policy-setting document, the agency said.

Climate change is a hot-button issue at the Forest Service, where researchers say it’s contributing to increased risk of wildfires in the West. The agency has maintained references to climate change work on its website, some inherited from the Obama administration.

“To foster climate-informed, sustainable land management across the country, the Forest Service has a long history of engaging in climate change research,” the agency says on its website. “Forest Service scientists conducting research on forest and stream environments on our Experimental Forests and Ranges have recorded environmental changes in many different ecosystems across the nation. This long-term research, some of which has continued for decades, is rare and crucial for understanding how ecosystems respond to climate change.”

The agency adds, “Today, the Forest Service is working to ensure that our National Forests and Grasslands are prepared for upcoming changes in climate through adaptation (reducing vulnerability to climate change effects) and mitigation (decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere).”

Although the Agriculture Department has faced criticism, too, for de-emphasizing climate change, the agency has a “climate solutions” webpage that acknowledges “real threats to U.S. agricultural production, forest resources, and rural economies.”

“These threats have significant implications,” the site says, “not just for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, but for all Americans.”