Sierra Pacific Spotted Owls HCP

Received this USF&WS press release, but I have yet to find the final EIS it mentions. This page at Regulations.gov has some supporting docs, but I don’t see the full EIS. Anyone have a link to it?

 

Final Habitat Conservation Plan for Sierra Pacific Industries Conserves Important Habitat for Northern and California Spotted Owls

July 30, 2020

Contact(s):

Meghan Snow, Meghan_Snow@fws.gov, 916-414-6671

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the availability of a final environmental impact statement for a proposed habitat conservation plan (HCP) and associated incidental take permit for Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) forestlands in northern California. The final HCP will help conserve important habitat for California spotted owls and northern spotted owls while allowing for commercial timber harvest on SPI forestlands over the next 50 years.

“This plan goes to show what is possible when industry and government work together towards a shared conservation goal,” said Aurelia Skipwith, Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The conservation steps SPI is taking today will help the California and northern spotted owl prosper into the future.”

In recent years, populations of both owl species have been impacted by the movement of barred owls into the region, as well as the loss of habitat due to catastrophic wildfires and drought. As part of the HCP, SPI will implement a variety of forest management activities to support California and northern spotted owls, including building strategic firebreaks to combat potential wildfires, establishing owl protection zones in areas where spotted owls are active or nesting and conducting barred owl research to help manage problematic populations.

“SPI’s forestlands are home to some of the highest concentrations of spotted owls in the state. With this plan we are committing to long-term conservation of the California and northern spotted owl species on our sustainably managed forests,” said Mark Emmerson, SPI chairman and CFO.

The final HCP covers more than 1.5 million acres of SPI forestlands in Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne and Yuba counties.

The final documents will publish in the Federal Register on July 31, 2020, and a record of decision will be signed no sooner than 30 days after the publication date. The documents will be available on www.regulations.gov by searching under the docket number FWS–R8–ES–2020–0073.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit our website. Connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.

-FWS-

USFWS Agrees to Reverse Course, Reconsider Sonoran Desert Tortoise for ESA Protection

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, major land owners of habitat for Sonoran Desert Tortoise include the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Department of Defense, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona State Land Department, Tribal and private lands. Photo by Roy Averill Murray, USFWS.

Here’s a press release from the groups involved. Here’s some more general information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to USFWS: “The most significant risk factors for Sonoran desert tortoises are: 1) altered plant communities, primarily due to the invasion of nonnative grasses; 2) altered fire regimes, also related to the changes in plant communities; 3) habitat conversion of native vegetation to developed landscapes; 4) habitat fragmentation by the construction of permanent linear structures like highways and canals; 5) human-tortoise interactions such as handling, collecting, and killing individual tortoises intentionally or unintentionally (especially by vehicle strikes); and 6) climate change as it relates to increases in the frequency, scope, and duration of drought.”

Seems to me that livestock grazing on federal public lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in Arizona play a significant role in numbers 1 and 2.

TUCSON––Conservationists have brokered an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) to go back and reconsider its 2015 decision not to protect the Sonoran Desert tortoise under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The agreement—approved by a federal court today in Tucson, Arizona—was reached after WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project challenged the Service’s 2015 decision not to list, which they alleged was arbitrary, in conflict with the ESA, and not in accordance with the best science.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service should be applauded for doing the right thing here,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center representing the groups. “The 2015 decision merely assumed tortoises were doing fine in the absence of any population data. This was not legally or biologically defensible.”

As per the agreement, the Service must now go back and take a new look at the imperiled animal’s status in Arizona. As part of this new evaluation, the Service will also request additional information from the public and biologists, and then issue a new decision in 18 months. During this time, the Sonoran Desert tortoise’s “candidate species” status will be restored, thereby elevating its protection while a new decision is pending.

“In the midst of an extinction crisis, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a responsibility to step up and protect our country’s biodiversity,” said Taylor Jones, endangered species advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “It is more important than ever for the Service to protect habitats and species based on the best available science.”

The habitat of Sonoran Desert tortoise is threatened by invasive species, livestock grazing, increase fire risk, housing developments, off-road vehicles, habitat fragmentation, and increased predation facilitated by human activities. Residential development of tortoise habitat has created artificial barriers to the species’ movement and its natural genetic mixing. Continuous overgrazing in the desert has depleted the vegetation on which the species depends. Cattle are also known to trample and crush tortoises in their burrows.

“Desert tortoise are known for moving slowly, but without full federal protections, they have been racing toward extinction,” said Cyndi Tuell, Arizona and New Mexico director with Western Watersheds Project. “The agency will now have to reconsider its decision based on the best scientific data available rather than caving to political pressure and economic interests in Arizona.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Department hasn’t funded any monitoring studies of the species since 2015 and, as of 2019, the Arizona State Land Department has prohibited any scientific studies on state trust lands. The current population of the tortoise is therefore largely unknown, but it is likely on the same downward trend detected in 2015 due to accelerating climate stressors and increasing residential and commercial development.

The Service now has 18 months to make a new determination about the status of the species and will be accepting public comment and additional information on any proposed decisions.

Region 1 Timber Data and Headwaters’ Handy National Forest Timber Info Interactive Map

On the site, you can hover over the line on each graph and get the value for each year.

Thanks (or maybe not) to Steve Wilent for sending me down the curious Timber Data trail with his post on the three letters on Montana timber sales here. He simply asked “does anyone know the facts?”. I thought naively, “how hard could it be to get no-bid and sale data from the Forest Service? After all, the latter is all to be found in cut and sold reports, right?

With regard to the Garrity letter, there were two specific claims of interest, one about no-bid, and one about the percentage increase in timber volume sold. This all can be very confusing, so I tried my best to dig down into it.

Here’s Garrity’s original paragraph:

In fact, the “supply” from national forests is more than just good. Last year the Forest Service received no bids on 17.5% of the timber it offered, up from 15.6% that received no bids in 2018. That’s 615 million board feet that weren’t cut in 2019 because the timber industry did not bid on it. The truth is that Region 1 of the Forest Service, which includes Montana, has increased the amount of timber offered by 141% in the last 10 years and the cost to taxpayers continues to climb to staggering heights.

The way the Garrity letter is written, it was unclear (to me and some others) that Garrity was talking about national no-bid figures and regional offer figures. I have been unable to get the national information from the WO of Forest Service, despite repeated emails, and folks there originally saying they would send it. If anyone reads this from the WO, I can only say “help!!”.

And here is the post about Region 1’s no-bid sales.

Going on to Garrity’s second claim.

“The truth is that Region 1 of the Forest Service, which includes Montana, has increased the amount of timber offered by 141% in the last 10 years and the cost to taxpayers continues to climb to staggering heights.”

Garrity is talking about timber offered. Region 1 provided info about timber sold in their reply.

Looking at the data, we sold 161% more volume in 2019 (409.2 million board feet) vs. 2010 (253.4 million board feet). Comparing one specific year to another is seldom informative in my view as each year can fluctuate for any number of reasons (market factors, litigation, budgets, targets, fire seasons, etc).

What’s more helpful is trends. Over the past 20 years, and by extension the previous 10, the amount of volume sold annually in the Region has increased incrementally. This is one of many indicators of the efforts underway, and success being achieved, in the Agency and Region to increase the pace and scale of restoration efforts to address wildfire risk, forest health, and other vegetation objectives. If the reasons for no bids was due to lack of capacity or demand from mills, you would expect to see an increase in volume going no bid as the amount sold increases. Clearly in the other set of data provided, this is not the case.

My bold.

Another interesting thing is how Garrity and Region 1 both talk about increases, e.g. “161% more volume”. In the case of the 2010 and 2019 numbers, I’d tend to subtract 253.4 from 409.2 and say they had a 61% increase in volume from 2010.

Now, looking at the actual data from R-1 is interesting, and despite my pleas, I could find no volunteers willing to help me pluck the right numbers out of Excel for a graph. Hereis the spreadsheet as is.

Here are the numbers for Region 1 from their spreadsheet of MMBF sold:

2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
189.0 177.3 242.3 143.3 205.9 265.5 193.8 171.0 229.2 293.1 253.4 212.0 206.3 169.3 276.7 310.7 259.0 340.6 355.6 409.2

I think it’s interesting to look at raw data instead of percentages. It looks like quite some year-to-year variation, as stated in the R-1 reply above, (e.g. 2005, 2009), with a definite increasing trend starting in 2014. One of the problems with these data is that it’s hard for many of us to imagine what the difference between 310 and 355 (for example) MMBF might look like in terms of area or trees or …. Again, maybe some timber experts can help us out.

HOWEVER, in talking to Mark Haggerty of Headwaters Economics about PILT and SRS figures, following up on the Oregonian/OPB/Propublica article, he clued me in to a wonderful presentation of timber data that Headwaters provides to the public via an interactive map (yay, Headwaters!). A problem is that the handy graphs by region show only sold, not offered, so can’t be compared to Garrity’s claims.

I also compared the Region 1 spreadsheet and the Headwaters info for 2018 Idaho and they did not seem to match. Region 1 has Idaho sold 148.2, and Headwaters has 205.2, as far as I can tell. I am hoping some timber data expert can come to my rescue in explaining what seems to be a discrepancy, or that Headwaters and the Forest Service will look into this.

***************
Yes, this is a wandering trail. It started with Steve’s question about no-bid. There was a dead end with the FS-WO on national no-bid.
Region 1 gave us all the data on sold, but Garrity was talking about offer, so we couldn’t compare those figures.
We have a great spreadsheet with all kinds of useful data from R-1.
Headwaters has a great and easy to use interactive map of cut and sold reports.
As far as I can tell so far, until someone helps me out here, they do not entirely match (R-1 and Headwaters).
Would really appreciate some help from The Smokey Wire timber experts.. you know who you are.

What’s Going On in Your Area?: Federal Land Recreation and Covid-19 Impacts

Crowded sites like this during the coronavirus pandemic have National Forest managers concerned. (U.S. Forest Service)

Forest Service retirees in Region 2 recently received a note from Acting Regional Forester Jennifer Eberlien that said:

This year has certainly brought on more challenges to our public lands as we are seeing unprecedented numbers of forest visitors across the forests and grasslands. While this means more members of the public are learning about and enjoying our public lands, it also means that every program area across the Region is feeling the increased pressures in our jobs.

Our Regional Leadership Team is discussing these issues at length and actively seeking additional support for employees, both for personal well-being and physical, psychological, and social safety, as well as for the protection and conservation of our natural and cultural resources that we hold so dear. Though we may not immediately have big and swift options for change, we can certainly work together and incrementally continue to raise awareness of conditions across our lands and the effects it is having on our employees, our users, and our resources.

So this is an opportunity to collect info from various parts of the country. Have you seen any news stories, or have you observed yourself/spoken with people involved?

1. Has your area seen increases in people and camping on National Forests/BLM due to Covid-19?

2. Earlier in the year, outfitters I spoke with said that out of state bookings were down (planned vacations from out of state/country, as opposed to day or weekend trips). They were encouraging Front Range types to come and fill in some of the gaps. How does this look in your part of the country in terms of locals/nearby metros (if any)/out of state/country visits?

3. In the Colorado Springs area, we’ve also had what seems to be cases of local communities closing off places where people traditionally accessed National Forests due to some combination of avoiding Covid-19/too many people/too many people not behaving well. Have you seen any of this?

4. Based on observing previous years, there may be more people recreating on the National Forests around here during the week.. possibly due to more work from home and more flexible work schedules, and perhaps the need to get the kids outdoors and socially distanced. What have you experienced or read about?

5. What about recreation businesses? Here’s an example of a story on increases in RV sales. Here’s an example of a story on outdoor recreation businesses being hard hit by Covid. Maybe people are going to more individual and less guided recreation? Or perhaps the far-away people are staying away? Or perhaps in the Rockies, there are more people from neighboring States with no mountains and lotsa heat? What about other regions?

Groups Challenge CEs for Apiaries

E&E News has an article this afternoon about a Center for Biological Diversity petition calling on the USFS to “stop granting streamlined permits to people who want to place honeybee hives in national forests.” Excerpt below. The agency has legal authority for using CEs to approve the use of apiaries. CBD’s petition states that “The science is clear that honey bees can present a serious threat to native bees, thus having significant environmental impacts. Therefore, requests to place honey bees on federal public lands cannot be categorically excluded from NEPA analysis.”

Anyone here have insights as to how much of a threat honeybees are? Do honeybees have beneficial effects and well as negative impacts?

From E&E:

An environmental group pressed the Forest Service today to scale back the placement of commercial honeybee hives on land it manages, calling the nonnative bees a potential harm to other pollinators.

In a formal petition to the agency, the Center for Biological Diversity said the Forest Service should stop granting streamlined permits to people who want to place honeybee hives in national forests.

“The science is clear that honeybees can present a serious threat to native bees, thus having significant environmental impacts,” the group, joined by three other organizations, said in the petition to Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

The Forest Service allows the placement of apiaries on its lands through special use permits. Covered by categorical exclusions from the National Environmental Policy Act, the beekeeping permits don’t require an environmental impact statement, which might shed light on competition among species and potential diseases the European-derived bees could spread to native bees.

During the past decade, the agency has approved permits for about 900 hives. Officials are considering an application for as many as 4,900 hives on national forests in Utah, the petitioners said they learned through documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Administrative and Judicial Review Opportunities for Collaborators: Webinar with Susan Jane Brown

Susan Jane Brown posted about this webinar a while back. I was driving and listened in, except for when the call dropped, so I missed some of the Q&A. I thought Susan Jane Brown did an excellent job of explaining how cooperative groups can get involved, among a variety of other topics. She was clear, accurate and easy to understand in explaining a complex topic- not an easy thing to do. Sustainable Northwest put on the webinar, so thanks to them!

Here’s a link to the webinar.
Here’s Susan’s white paper
So.. how can collaborative groups get involved in litigation?

She has an informative discussion about the roles and difficulties of collaboratives becoming Amicus curiae and even how to hire an attorney.

In general, some things collaborative groups may want to consider when retaining a lawyer include:
• Cost. Pro bono and reduced cost attorneys are not the norm, and most lawyers will want to be paid for their representation. As mentioned previously, most private attorneys charge their clients based on hourly rates, and will vary based on experience, expertise, and location (for example, an attorney in John Day, Oregon who does not specialize in environmental litigation and recently graduated from law school will charge a much different rate than a Washington, DC lawyer who has been practicing natural resources law before the Supreme Court for 40 years). You should always ask prospective attorneys about their hourly rates.

• Expertise. Experience with federal environmental law is extremely useful in litigation of the type discussed in this memo, but not necessary. Simply because a prospective attorney has little experience with environmental or natural resources law does not mean they will not be able to competently and zealously represent a collaborative group in litigation. Nevertheless, familiarity with the issues common to this type of litigation is a relevant consideration.

• Scope of representation. When engaging an attorney, it is critical to know what you are getting for your money and time. Will the attorney represent the collaborative group in just the district court, or on appeal if the Forest Service loses the case? Will the attorney engage in any post-litigation work, such as review of settlement agreements? What happens if the attorney puts in more work than expected: is the collaborative group responsible for paying the attorney for that additional work? Must the collaborative group pay for any time the attorney’s clerk spends writing a brief? These are some of the questions you should ask prospective attorneys about what they will be doing for your collaborative group. After these discussions, your attorney will prepare an attorney-client representation agreement that will set out in writing the rights and responsibilities of both the client and the attorney.

• Personality. As collaborative groups know, it is all about relationships. Whether you like and can get along with a prospective attorney is an extremely important consideration, given that you may be spending substantial time with that person, not to mention paying them for an important service: representing you on an issue in which you are heavily invested. Someone may be an excellent attorney but an impossible person.

It all sounds very expensive (and difficult to become an effective Amicus curiae). I wonder whether collaborative groups have approached foundations about support for legal costs? I know the larger foundations do fund environmental groups. I also wonder if when the policy landscape favors litigation as a policy tool, policies tend to be unduly influenced by well-intentioned but distant rich people?

Nationwide coalition sues to defend the people’s environmental law

I noticed this press release on Twitter. I thought the quote from WE ACT for Environmental Justice was particularly interesting, timely, and spot on. – mk

A nationwide coalition of organizations from the environmental justice, outdoor recreation, and conservation communities filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attack on the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) this afternoon.

The administration finalized its rules that will eviscerate core components of NEPA in mid-July. Under new regulations put forth by the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), polluting projects of all kinds will be exempt from basic environmental reviews, and the public will be cut out of one of its best tools to prevent dangerous, shortsighted projects.

“It has been more than 30 years since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act and environmental justice communities continue to live with the impacts of decisions that precipitated its need,” said  Kerene N. Tayloe, Esq., Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The changes made to this bedrock environmental law will further undermine basic protections, including the public’s right to participate in decision making and the obligation of the government to fully and thoroughly study the cumulative impacts of health hazards on overburdened communities. They also reflect a disregard of Black, Brown and poor communities and the unwillingness of this administration to execute laws in a way that benefits all Americans. WE ACT for Environmental Justice is committed to pursuing every option available to preserve and strengthen NEPA for the betterment of everyone.”

“NEPA matters,” said Tricia Cortez, Executive Director of the Rio Grande International Study Center. “Here on the border, we know what a world without NEPA looks like because of what we’ve experienced with the border wall. The U.S. government has waived NEPA and dozens of other federal laws to rush construction for a politically motivated and destructive wall project. We would not wish this on any other community in this country. The feeling is like having a train barreling at you with nothing to stop it. To protect our environment and our health, we the people must save NEPA.”

“We will not allow the Trump administration to compromise our rights to protect our communities and public health from the harms associated with unscrupulous and destructive industrial developments such as mining, oil and gas, and military operations,” said Pamela Miller, executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “This is a grave environmental injustice and we aim to prevent this attack on one of our most fundamental environmental laws.”

“We have consistently defeated this administration’s relentless, vicious dismantling of safeguards for people and the environment, and we will do so again for this critically important law,” said Susan Jane Brown, Western Environmental Law Center co-counsel. “A thriving economy is not at odds with worker protections and a healthy environment – it depends on both.”

“The Trump administration picked the wrong fight,” said Kristen Boyles, an Earthjustice attorney serving as co-counsel on the case. “They want to make it easier to silence people’s voices and give polluters a free pass to bulldoze through our neighborhoods. That’s why we’re taking them to court.”

Read what all 20+ clients on the case have to say about the importance of defending NEPA: https://earthjustice.org/documents/reference/nepa-ceq-rulemaking-lawsuit-quote-sheet

Read the complaint: https://westernlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/2020.07.29-CEQ-NEPA-Complaint.pdf

Additional Resources:

How “Freeway Revolts” Helped Create the People’s Environmental Law (Earthjustice)

6 Places Where the National Environmental Policy Act Made the Difference (Earthjustice)

Trump Wants to Undo the People’s Environmental Law (Earthjustice)

Protect the People’s Environmental Law (Earthjustice)

The Smokey Wire Virtual Book Club: “Apocalypse Never”- Begins 8/17/2020

We tried a virtual book club with Dan Botkin’s book Discordant Harmonies in 2013. We had many thoughtful discussions that are still relevant today. You can take a look at the Chapter 4 post that comes up on the link to get an idea. We went chapter by chapter, and I have to confess I ran out of energy working through the chapters. Maybe because Botkin made one main point with a variety of examples.

But I think this one will be different. The book is Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger.

Why this book? Don’t be put off by the title.. overstatement sells books. There’s much thoughtful stuff inside. He touches on many topics we talk about, some related to forests, some to climate change, from a different angle than we usually discuss here. He comes from a very different socioeconomic milieu than most TSW readers (at least I think so), e.g. he lives in Berkeley and travels around the world- so it will be interesting to see where we agree with him and where not. Perhaps most important, he shares his stories and his reasoning, which gives us a chance to tell our own stories and give our own reasoning. Some ideas I agree with, some not, and some I’m simply agnostic. He’s got lots of references, too, so we can look them up if we want.

I’m going to take a chapter at a time and we can discuss. If you’d like to participate in VBC (Virtual Book Club), we’ll start in a few weeks – on 8/17.. that should be enough time to request the book from the library and read the first few chapters. Also, feel free to invite others to join- the book is mostly about climate change (and forests, and psychology, and models) and the usual stuff we talk about. Of course, people would have to follow TSW rules of engagement.

Here’s a bit from Shellenberger’s bio (the rest is at the link above)

Michael has been an environmental and social justice advocate for over 25 years. In the 1990s he helped save California’s last unprotected ancient redwood forest, and inspired Nike to improve factory conditions in Asia. In the 2000s, Michael advocated for a “new Apollo project” in clean energy, which resulted in a $150 billion public investment in clean tech between 2009 and 2015.

Safe and accessible Missoula recreation areas free of dangerous traps proposed

Note: A number of these seven recreation hot spots in the greater Missoula area include public lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, in addition to state of Montana public lands and city of Missoula public lands and open space. The proposal to make these seven recreation hot spots off-limits to trapping was sent to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks by Footloose Montana, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Humane Society of Western Montana and The Mountain Lion Foundation. Missoula Mayor John Engen also offered his support, saying “prohibiting trapping in these high-traffic public lands seems nothing but reasonable to me.” Below is the full press release and link to the letter to Montana FWP.

Conservation and animal groups propose safe and accessible Missoula recreation areas

Archaic trapping rules currently put people and pets at risk in the outdoors

MISSOULA—Today, local and regional advocacy groups sent a list of recreation hot spots to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks that would benefit from being free of dangerous traps. The seven areas comprise some of the most popular places to visit in the Missoula wildland-urban interface. Indiscriminate and cruel traps are allowed in and around Missoula’s most popular recreation spots even as the region’s economy increasingly relies on outdoor recreation. A global pandemic has made safe and accessible public lands more critical to communal well-being than ever before, and a slew of high-profile incidents involving domestic animals has highlighted the need for safer recreation areas.

Areas proposed for safer access include Kelly Island, Lolo Trails, Council Grove State Park, Jonsrud Park, Marshall Canyon, and important fishing areas along the Clark Fork River and Rock Creek. Along with concentrated public recreation use, these areas are critical for wildlife and biodiversity. Their closure represents a very small fraction of land available to trappers in the Missoula area. Closures would help prevent tragedies like the death of Betsy who was killed in a trap near the Clark Fork River in December, 2019.

“Residents of the City of Missoula and Missoula County have invested for decades in open space and public lands to support habitat and recreation and have expectations that those public spaces are safe for humans and companion animals,” said Missoula Mayor, John Engen. “Prohibiting trapping in these high-traffic public lands seems nothing but reasonable to me.”

“Closing these areas to trapping is baseline common sense for conservation and public safety,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director of WildEarth Guardians and a longtime Missoula resident. “These areas are not only some of our favored getaways as Missoulans, but are also critical to the wildlife and biodiversity that makes our home such a wonderful place.”

“The time has come to end trapping around communities in Montana,” said Stephen Capra, executive director of Footloose Montana. “It’s not just an issue of safety, but reclaiming the lands that belong to the vast majority that own these public lands and want to utilize them for recreation without fear for their family or pets.”

“Indiscriminate traps present serious risks to endangered species as well as humans and dogs. They have no place in public recreation spaces,” said Michelle Blake, western region coordinator for the Mountain Lion Foundation. “We hope FWP commissioners will seriously consider this common-sense proposal to protect public safety.”

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has indicated that they are open to hearing from the public about areas that may not be appropriate for trapping. Every year, the commission and the Department review furbearer and wolf trapping regulations. The commission is slated to meet on August 15th to review proposed regulation changes. Conservation advocates, animal welfare enthusiasts, and outdoor recreators hope the commission will consider safe access areas.

A copy of the list sent to MT FWP is here: http://pdf.wildearthguardians.org/support_docs/FWP_Proposal_7.28.20.pdf

Background: Trapping on public lands is legal in Montana. The law does not require trap locations to be marked, signed, or for any warnings to be present. No penalties exist for trappers who unintentionally trap non-target species including endangered species, protected species, domestic animals, pets, humans, or livestock.

No database or official record is kept by any public entity and no requirement exists that trappers report when they have captured a dog in their traps. The pattern these incidents follow is usually similar; dogs screaming and frantically biting at the person desperately trying to rescue them. Veterinary and even human medical treatment along with associated expenses can result, as can long-lasting psychological trauma. Neither the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks nor trappers are liable for the damages that are caused by traps.

The true toll that trapping takes on native wildlife is difficult to know. Reporting requirements exist for some species, but not for many, including coyotes, red foxes, badgers, weasels, and raccoons. The accuracy of reporting is unverifiable, and numbers do not adequately articulate the suffering and carnage that traps wreak on bobcats, foxes, endangered wolves, coyotes, and other animals.

The existence of trapping by a minuscule subset of the population using Montana’s public lands is in direct conflict with one of the state’s most valuable economic strengths: outdoor recreation. Outdoor recreation generates $7.1 billion in consumer spending and $2.2 billion in wages and salary in Montana. 71,000 jobs are directly tied to the industry. This economy is not bolstered by piles of dead animals discarded by public roadways or by the thousands of wild animals taken from Montana’s diverse public landscapes for personal profit.

# # #

NFS Litigation Weekly July 10 to July 24, 2020

Forest Service summaries are found here:  Litigation Weekly July 24 2020 Email

Links to court documents are provided for each case below.

COURT DECISIONS

Helena Hunters and Anglers Association v. Marten.  On July 1, 2020, the District Court for Montana issued an order against the Forest Service regarding the Tenmile South Project on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. The court determined that the Forest Service  violated the Roadless Area Conservation Rule and NEPA, and also ESA regarding the effect of new recreational trails on grizzly bears.  This case was also included here.

Sawtooth Mountain Ranch LLC v. United States Forest Service. On June 30, 2020, the District Court for Idaho denied the plaintiff’s second motion for preliminary injunction seeking to halt construction on the Stanley to Redfish Trail Project on the Sawtooth National Forest.

Sierra Trail Dogs Motorcycle and Recreation Club v. U.S. Forest Service. (On July 6, 2020, the District Court of Nevada issued a decision favorable to the Forest Service regarding the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Greater Sage-grouse Bi-State Distinct Population Segment Forest Plan Amendment, concerning an off-highway vehicle use standard.  This case was also referenced here.

Friends of the Clearwater v. Higgins. On July 13, 2020, the District Court of Idaho denied the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction concerning the Brebner Flat Project on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. The court determined that the plaintiffs showed a likelihood of success on the merits on their Endangered Species Act claims concerning the project’s potential impacts on the grizzly bear and Canada lynx, but not the irreparable harm needed for an injunction.

NEW CASES

Friends of the Clearwater v. Christiansen. On June 26, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the District Court of Idaho against the Forest Service and National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the Record of Decision that was signed on July 1, 2019, and the Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statements related to listed steelhead, authorizing the Lolo Insect and Disease Project on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.  This case was also included here.

Friends of the Bitterroot v. Anderson.  On July 10, 2020, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the District Court of Montana against the Forest Service regarding the Gold Butterfly Project on the Bitterroot National Forest, and a project-specific forest plan amendment for standards relating to elk habitat effectiveness and elk habitat objectives.  On July 2, plaintiffs also sent the Forest Service a 60-day Notice of Intent to sue over the project’s potential effects on grizzly bears, wolverines and bull trout.  More background is provided here.

Board of County Commissioners of the County of Pitkin Colorado, v. Rock Creek Association.  On July 1, 2020, the plaintiff filed a complaint in the District Court of Colorado against the Forest Service and Rock Creek Association concerning public access to the Wild Rose Ranch Subdivision through a right-of-way in Pitkin County on the White River National Forest.

 

BLOGGER’S BONUS

On July 6, 2020, a U.S. magistrate judge recommended that a Bureau of Land Management prescribed burning project in the Elkhorn Mountains, Iron Mask, be halted as a court case proceeds.

California v. Bernhardt.  On July 15, 2020, the Northern District of California federal district court vacated the BLM’s 2018 rule regulating methane waste, which had rescinded a more restrictive 2016 rule.

“The Court details herein the myriad inadequacies upon which the Rescission is based. First, the Court provides the factual and procedural background and the legal framework for its decision. (Sections I and II.) In Section III, the Court analyzes the statutory mandate of the Mineral Leasing Act and BLM’s attempt to narrow the same by employing a new economic definition of “waste” which the Court finds to have been arbitrary. Section IV then explains how BLM’s actions in the rulemaking process failed to comply with the Administrative Procedures Act. Section V focuses on BLM’s failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Finally, in Section VI, the Court explains how, given the circumstances, no reason exists to depart from the standard remedy of vacatur.”

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Trump administration on July 21 for failing to release public records on the termination of a program to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades in Washington (a lawsuit against the decision was noted here). The Center filed its initial Freedom of Information Act request in December 2017.