Reducing Carbon Demand From Federal Lands: A Modest Proposal

 

 

There seems to be a full-court press by NGOs with the concept that President Biden should show his support for climate action (related to COP26) by shutting down oil and gas leasing on federal lands (without regard to its legality, apparently).  As we’ve seen with forest products, though, that actually doesn’t stop demand and use, and simply moves the environmental costs and social benefits of production to other countries.  What I’d like is to open up the question of ways we could instead reduce consumption, preferably while not affecting poor/working class/people of color disparately, using federal land policies, that is legally viable.

To start the discussion, I’ll start with a likely to be highly unpopular idea.. but hopefully this will trigger other, more likely to be popular, ideas.

Discouraging High Carbon Tourism

Having recently returned from visiting three National Parks in Alaska, with thousands of other folks who flew in, used boats, cars and RVs. I propose analyzing the carbon footprints of visitors and workers in heavily used National Parks and closing, or greatly restricting, visitation to the ones with the highest footprints (tourists from farthest away; air travel, non-resident seasonal employees).  Here are my arguments.

1. Heating, transportation of necessities, combines and snowplows, travel to work are necessities; “airplane level” tourism not so much. One view might be that If we as a country want to keep our footprint small, we should prioritize necessities, not luxuries. Many folks like this recent piece in the WaPo, recommend tourism close to home to reduce carbon footprints.

The farther from home you go, the more fuel you need to get there (unless you’re going by bike, on foot or via renewable energy, of course), says Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist, professor, director of the Climate Center at Texas Tech University and author of the forthcoming book “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World.” Her advice for travelers is to explore your own backyard and opt for more domestic trips.

2. At Denali, I asked why their Visitor Center was closed (I assumed it was due to Covid). The Park employee told me that it was because the Park was not funded or staffed well enough to keep it open. By closing or reducing access, perhaps Parks could better match their finances with their services.

3.  Concessionaire employees are interacting with tourists (although Park employees, thankfully, are not).  There are mask mandates but, if employees would not be safe with these same restrictions, then concessionaire employees would equally not be safe. For example, at Denali, the visitor center was closed, and the store was open. Fewer or no visitors would mean less chances for Covid transmission.

4. People say that National Parks are the “highest level of protection”. Seems like they would be even more “protected” without thousands of visitors, or with many fewer.

5. Tourism is seasonal and often workers are not permanent residents of the state. Even more travel could be reduced by having no concessionaires’ employees, and those workers especially now, would be likely to find similar (relatively low-paying) jobs in their own communities.

6. For gateway communities, less traffic would also mean less congestion in their communities, saving even more fuel.

In this Wall Street Journal article, they talk about local businesses pushing back to efforts to restrict/manage entry. On the other hand, there may be local people who would support the idea fewer tourists.

Awhile back during both the government shutdown, and because of Covid, many folks were arguing that Parks should be shut down to protect the resource Maybe this would be a win/win for the Park environment and reducing carbon impacts.

Other ideas?

Montana puts Yellowstone wolves in the crosshairs

Gray wolf photo by Jacob W. Frank/NPS; graphic element added by Gus O’Keefe.

It’s September 15, which means the general wolf hunting season opened in Montana at dawn this morning. If you’ve been following the wolf issue in Montana recently, you are likely aware of a suite of new, archaic, brutal, and ethical laws and regulations on the books thanks to the Montana Legislature and Governor Greg Gianforte. (Idaho has also put in place similar draconian wolf-eradication laws and regulations).

You may recall that Governor Greg Gianforte is a convicted assailant who body-slammed a reporter on election eve in 2017.  Then in 2021, Governor Gianforte violated state hunting regulations when he trapped and shot a collared wolf near Yellowstone National Park in February. Governor Gianforte trapped the collared Yellowstone wolf on a private ranch owned by Robert E. Smith, director of the conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group, who contributed thousands of dollars to Gianforte’s 2017 congressional campaign.

Specific to national forest policy, the new wolf-killing laws in Montana allow for unethical baiting of wolves by hunters and trappers, including within federal public lands and Wilderness areas. The state of Montana intends to killed up to 50% of the wolves in the state, so to help make that happen, the state has authorized any individual to kill up to 10 wolves during the hunting and trapping season, including deep within Wilderness areas and inventoried roadless areas on U.S. Forest Service administered public lands. The state also now allows snaring of wolves, including in designated Wilderness. So, essentially a Montana hunter or trapper can shoot, trap, and/or snare 10 wolves during the next 6 months on federal public lands—including Wilderness areas—in the state of Montana while using bait. The state also now allows night hunting of wolves with artificial lights or night vision scopes on private land statewide.

What do readers of this blog think? Does this sound like science-based management of a keystone native species? Should this type of brutal and unethical “management” of a rare keystone species be allowed on federal public lands, including deep within Wilderness areas? As a Montana resident, who is also a backcountry hunter of elk and deer, I personally find these news laws and regulations tragic and disgusting.

Below is a press release we issued today at WildEarth Guardians.

MISSOULA, MONTANA—Starting today, iconic Yellowstone wolves crossing the boundary of Yellowstone National Park into the state of Montana face slaughter by trophy hunters with high-powered rifles, including within federally-designated Wilderness areas. Wolves living in Glacier National Park face a similar fate when they exit the national park.

Last month, Montana not only eliminated any cap on the number of wolves that can be killed in hunting and trapping zones bordering Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, but individuals can now kill a total of 10 wolves per season. New regulations also allow unethical baiting for wolves statewide, including within federal public lands and Wilderness areas. Night hunting with artificial lights or night vision scopes is also allowed on private lands statewide.

“Despite a groundswell of public opposition from individuals across Montana, the nation, and world, Montana has declared open season on wolves in the state, clearing the way for nearly 50% of the state’s wolf population to be decimated in the upcoming hunting and trapping season,” said Sarah McMillan, the Montana-based conservation director for WildEarth Guardians.

“Yellowstone’s wolves are nationally and internationally famous and the biological role these iconic wolves play within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is priceless. Yet starting today, an individual can slaughter up to ten Yellowstone wolves for just $12,” explained McMillan.

The general wolf hunting season in Montana runs for the next six months, until March 15, 2022, while the wolf trapping and snaring season will start on November 29, 2021 and also run until March 15, 2022.

In response to the on-going slaughter of wolves, in June, WildEarth Guardians and a coalition of fifty conservation groups asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately restore Endangered Species Act protections to gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. In July, Guardians and allies also petitioned the Biden administration to list the Western North American population of gray wolves as a distinct population segment.  Over 120 Tribes have signed “The Wolf: A Treaty of Cultural and Environmental Survival,” and have called on Interior Secretary Haaland to meet with a Tribal delegation regarding the Treaty and to reinstate protections for wolves. So far, the Biden administration has failed to take any steps to protect wolves.

“As we clearly warned would happen, state ‘management’ of wolves essentially amounts to the brutal state-sanctioned eradication of this keystone native species,” said McMillan. “We must not abandon wolf-recovery efforts or allow anti-wolf states, hunters, and trappers to push wolves back to the brink of extinction.”

Montana’s hunting regulation changes come on the heels of the Biden administration doubling down on its commitment to keep all wolves federally delisted, despite the massive public outcry. In August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed a brief in federal court opposing legal efforts from multiple environmental groups—including WildEarth Guardians, Western Environmental Law Center, and Earthjustice—to challenge the federal delisting rule. This case is set for oral arguments in Northern California District Court in November 2021. As the Northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves was delisted by an act of Congress in 2011, the outcome of this litigation will not impact wolves in Montana.

Gray wolves became functionally extinct in the lower 48 states in the 1960s largely due to rampant hunting and trapping, including deliberate extermination efforts carried out by the federal government. Though first listed as endangered in 1967 under a precursor to the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves only began to recover in the West following reintroductions to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. Scientists estimated a steady population of about 1,150 wolves in Montana between 2012 and 2019. However, hunters and trappers killed 328 wolves in Montana during the 2020-2021 season, and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks now estimates that only 900 to 950 wolves remain in the state. The total wolf-kill quota for the 2021-2022 hunting and trapping season in Montana is 450, meaning that nearly 50% of the wolf population in Montana could be eliminated in the next six months.

RVCC Report on Good Neighbor Authority

Here is a link to a report by Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC) on the use of Good Neighbor Authority- extensive and comprehensive. There’s a section on key findings that’s a good summary. Below are the implications.


Key Implications

• Use of GNA will likely continue to look different across states and forest types due to differences in timber value, proximity to market, state capacity, existing agency programs and priorities, restoration needs, and other factors.

• The frequent inclusion of commercial restoration in Good Neighbor agreements among states most actively using the authority suggests the ability to generate and retain revenue is contributing to greater engagement with authority.

• State and region-level variation in GNA tracking and reporting, as well as trends toward writing agreements broadly and flexibly, could make it difficult to evaluate and report accomplishments and outcomes associated with GNA in a unified way. Such reporting may be important as the statute governing state management of revenue is set to expire in 2023 and would need reauthorization to continue.

• Across the states we examined, the authority was largely being used as a tool to implement projects that had been planned under NEPA, as opposed to state and federal partners planning projects with the express intent of implementing them through the authority. This trend suggests that thus far, GNA has not generally been used or considered as an avenue for collaborative planning.

• Counties and tribes were largely just beginning to explore the authority’s utility for accomplishing restoration and capacity-building goals.

• Positive perceptions among state and Forest Service employees about GNA’s potential to increase capacity for implementing restoration activities on federal lands, utilize and leverage specific expertise and capabilities of state agencies, increase treatment efficiency, and strengthen relationships between states and the Forest Service suggest the tool itself and the state-federal partnership it perpetuates will remain strong.

• There remains a need to more systematically evaluate and define the additive benefits of GNA. This could be aided by new or modified systems for tracking revenue generation and expenditure, partner contributions, and non-commercial restoration accomplishments associated with GNA timber sales.

Notes from Sharon:
* As to the Tribes just beginning to use the authority, I believe at the present time Tribes currently can’t keep funding the same way States can; and a change is currently being worked on in Congress.
* I liked how the authors separated and defined non-commercial and commercial restoration activities; seems very helpful.
*As to “new or modified systems for tracking”, I think the accomplishment and expenditure system for vegetation management could use a total revamp (including GNA), based on the kind of information needed to manage effectively today, not whenever it was developed. Including transparency with States, Congress, and stakeholders. Even without that, it seems useful to develop some kind of standardized approach before units diverge too much.

Why Pick Federal Lands as (the) Climate Target? Examining Potential Environmental Justice Impacts

In this March 25, 2014 photo, workers keep an eye on well heads during a hydraulic fracturing operation at an Encana Corp. oil well, near Mead, Colo. This is not federal land. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

There are many ways to decrease our country’s carbon footprint.  But for some reason, it seems like federal lands oil and gas leasing has become a symbolic, if not very useful, preferred intervention of some groups (some charitable foundations).  In a recent op-ed in the Denver Post,  Jennifer Rokala of the Center for Western Priorities wrote:

President Biden’s infrastructure plan is a bold vision to move America to a clean energy future–but vision is meaningless without action.

Next month, the president will head to a global climate summit, urging world leaders to cut carbon emissions, while he simultaneously expands oil and gas drilling at home and does nothing to fix a broken leasing system. When the president encourages Congress and the world to act, he has an obligation to lead by example.

Now, as we’ve discussed previously, it seems eminently reasonable to me for the Admin to be leery of being in contempt of court with regard to the leasing process. Is it actually true to say “Biden has expanded oil and gas drilling at home?”.. or is the Admin just following rules, plans, etc. currently in place.. that legally they would need to follow specific procedures to change? So to whom is this particular climate intervention such a big issue? Easiest to get maximum climate benefits (don’t think so)? Some kind of low-hanging political fruit? Least impact to poor communities? And while we think mostly of onshore, not to forget offshore federal is also part of the deal. Some federal oil producing states (Mississippi, Louisiana, as well as onshore New Mexico) are among the poorest US states.

At the same time, this interesting article from another Jennifer, Hernandez of the Breakthrough Institute, touches on impacts of such policies on energy workers who happen to be people of color.

But unaffordable utility bills are only half the story. California climate policies also require the elimination of hundreds of thousands of conventional energy jobs, and will adversely affect millions of other jobs in energy-dependent and related industries. These sectors provide stable, higher-paying employment for less educated residents, the majority of whom are workers of color and recent immigrants. In 2019, 29 percent of all new immigrants had not graduated from high school.[42]A further 20 percent finished high school but did not attend college. As better-paying blue collar work has evaporated, most have ended up in the state’s lowest-paying jobs — that massive cohort of nearly 40 percent of Californians who cannot afford to pay routine monthly expenses.

An analysis of 2017 data by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) found that “across all levels of education, earnings are higher in oil and gas industries compared to the all industry average.”[43]The energy sector provides over 152,100 direct and 213,860 indirect and induced jobs in California that pay higher wages and benefits for individuals with lower levels of education. This workforce is ethnically and racially diverse, and about 63 percent of all employees have less than a bachelor’s degree.

LAEDC also showed that another 3.9 million California jobs (16.5 percent of total state employment) rely on purchases from or use products sold by state energy producers, including chemical, machinery, and metal products manufacturing, wholesale trade, utilities, and transportation, as well as professional, scientific, and technical services.[44]Most of these sectors also provide higher-paying jobs for workers of color, often in more affordable areas of the state. These jobs are also at risk from the forced elimination of the in-state energy sector.

California climate advocates have utterly failed to provide a convincing explanation for how workers of color employed in existing energy and energy-dependent sectors will support their families once these industries are gone. Many, like the fantastically wealthy, famously haughty John Kerry, now the nation’s “climate envoy,” airily suggest that green employment will replace job losses in the fossil fuel sector. Even the staunchly progressive Washington Post conceded that this was unlikely, noting that rapid growth in the wind and solar industries over the next decade could plausibly replace at most 20 percent of the workforce of the coal industry alone.[45]

Trade unions and their Democratic political allies aren’t buying what California’s climate cognoscenti are selling either. “Career opportunities for renewables are nowhere near what they are in gas and oil, and domestic energy workers highly value the safety, reliable duration and compensation of oil and gas construction jobs,” North America’s Building Trades Unions said in July 2020 after conducting two studies of the industry.[46]“We can hate on oil, but the truth is our refinery jobs are really good middle class jobs,” echoed California state senator and labor leader Lorena Gonzalez. “Jobs can’t be an afterthought to any climate change legislation. We must have specific plans that accompany industry changes.”[47]

There are no such plans. California’s oil consumption continues, slowing only with the pandemic, while progressive climate elites see no irony in forcing California’s minority communities out of jobs while importing more oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries not known for adherence to progressive labor, gender, environmental, or civil rights values.

I also ran across this article on “Civil rights readers oppose swift move off natural gas

Hernandez also has some other interesting thoughts on housing and transportation, which are related to other TSW topics of interest. I’ll take that up in another post.

Moneyball’ Analytics Help Fight Wildfires: WSJ Story

Fire behavior Analyst Stephen Volmer tracks the Caldor Fire on his laptop.
PHOTO: JIM CARLTON/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

 

 

Thanks to Rebecca Watson for this link to a story in the Wall Street Journal.  Well worth reading in its entirety.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Forest Service’s Moneyball effort began in 2017, spurred by growing alarm within the agency at the emergence of complex “megafires,” blazes of more than 100,000 acres. Forest Service researchers Matthew Thompson and Dave Calkin enrolled in an MIT course on how the data-analytics movement that was revolutionizing professional sports could be applied to other businesses.

The two said it got them thinking: If the Houston Rockets’ then general manager, Daryl Morey—known for using analytics—could use data to conclude that three-point shots were a more efficient way to score than midrange jumpers, could a similar concept be applied to firefighting resources?

 

Fire crews are increasingly relying on data-driven models dubbed “Moneyball for fire” within the U.S. Forest Service because they were developed in part by researchers who studied sports analytics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The models take their name from the Michael Lewis book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game” about how an Oakland Athletics general manager, Billy Beane, crunched numbers to assemble a winning team on a limited budget, where the intuition of team scouts had previously dominated baseball decisions.
Fire Behavior Analyst Glen Lewis views wildfire-modeling tools at the incident command post forfires including the Divide Complex in Montana last month.

The new wildfire models are more sophisticated than more-rudimentary versions used in the past and help firefighters determine how to most effectively deploy limited resources. “It used to take me four to five hours to draw a fire map,” said Mr. Volmer. “Now I can plugin a program and it will spit out all my data in about five seconds.”….

The programs can then churn out various models to predict what the fire will do in the short, near and long term. Analysts can also use the models to simulate thousands of artificial scenarios during an even longer period to predict where a fire might spread under various conditions.
“The models are looking at the history of these landscapes and saying: These are the places where fires traditionally stopped,” said Mr. Calkin. “These are the conditions and locations where you could stop them; and this is where it is probably really ugly to put your people.”
Mr. Thompson and his team began doing presentations around the country for veteran wildland firef ghters, trying to convince them that the numbers they were crunching could help inform their decisions. The team used maps showing the efficiency of the Houston Rockets’ shot selection to illustrate how to better use air-tanker drops by deploying them in locations with a high probability of controlling a fire.

They stressed that the fire crews still needed to affirm the models with what they were seeing. That information would be fed into the models to help make them more accurate. Where crews once mapped out fires by driving around or flying over the blazes, the Moneyball team could instantly show a fire’s projected path under various scenarios.

Mr. Thompson said his group’s persuasion eff orts reminded him of a scene from the film version of “Moneyball,” when a scout tells the A’s Mr. Beane, played by actor Brad Pitt, that baseball teams aren’t picked with numbers but with the scout’s gut, drawn from decades of experience. “I was in rooms where that exact sentiment was expressed,” he said.

 

And what do “on the ground” folks think?

Among skeptics was Rob Powell, wildfire operations chief for South Dakota. “They brought us this big pretty map with all these colors—it was like ‘Tell us something we don’t know,’ ” he said of his introduction to the models in 2018. “But now I see some of the value—especially when I can see the fire on their models before I get there.”..

Rick Stratton, a Forest Service fire-modeling analyst, said the Moneyball models were used to help fight 11 big fi res in 2017, 19 the next year and more than 90 so far this year.

One of its biggest successes this year came in the 70,000-acre Tamarack Fire, which burned in California and Nevada , started with a lightning strike south of Lake Tahoe on July 4. Mr. Stratton used modeling to show it headed toward several small communities along Highway 395 in western Nevada.
Dan Dallas, the supervisor of the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado, who also commanded firefighting operations on Tamarack, used the modeling to request a surge in fire crews. An interagency group made up of federal and state agencies dispatched five elite “hotshot” crews to the area, helping keep the fire from destroying more property, Mr. Dallas said.

Are Drones Like E-Bikes? Or, is the Forest Level the Right Place to Decide, and Is There/Should There Be Some Form of National Direction?

Drones.. are some uses OK and others not? Video of Sequoia NF https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAfr_J6Z2uQ
Video of Sequoia

I’ve been reviewing some of the posts since I was gone, and thought the topic of drone decisions as brought up by Patrick McKay with regard to the GMUG plan revision.

You may remember when it came to e-bike policy, the Forest Service issued a generic policy and then suggested that each unit make site-specific decisions (as did BLM, see Steve’s post here).
Is this the current policy?

Questions:
1. is there a generic national drone policy to which the GMUG is responding?
2. Is a forest plan the right place to make the decision (and if so, does that mean no decisions until all revisions are complete (in 20-30 years))?
3. Should a generic policy be harmonized at least between the BLM and the FS due to interconnected lands/potential for confusion?
4. Since it seems that drones would be handy indeed for various forms of law enforcement that are otherwise difficult to afford in spread out spaces, e.g. this story from Hamilton, Ontario, would there be separate rules for law enforcement’s/ emergency rescue’s use of them? Researchers? Managers of wildlife/trees/recreation/fire?

This interesting article in Sierra Magazine (about drones in Parks) points out that 1. It’s hard to enforce. 2. Scientists use them all the time as well as search and rescue folks, and 3) they can also be used for management activities including PB.

The effort to keep parks drone-free is complicated by the fact that the machines have become indispensable to scientific research. “We have folks using them for various mapping purposes [and] surveys,” says Kristin Swoboda, a fixed-wing fleet and UAS specialist at the National Park Service. Her department receives weekly requests to record caves and archaeological sites, light prescribed burns, and monitor geologic events like landslides and glacial retreat.

Small aircraft are perfect for these tasks, especially fire management. “A helicopter is a whole lot more expensive and risky,” Buehler says. With prescribed burns, “you basically have someone leaning out the door trying to ignite fires with [something like] a paintball gun.” In the past five years, at least three people have died in helicopter crashes connected to prescribed burns in national forests. Drones can drop fire-starting agents remotely. “We by all means do not want to crash drones, but if we do, it’s not killing anybody.”

UAS are also increasingly considered essential to search-and-rescue operations. In 2017, Arizona’s Tonto Rim SAR team used drones to map safer rappels while recovering the body of a fall victim, and Colorado’s Douglas County SAR rescued two lost hikers in Pike National Forest after spotting them with a drone. “It’s really hard to find people, and drones are yet another tool,” says Morris Hansen, the lead drone pilot and vice president of Douglas County SAR. Some models carry enough weight that they can be used to drop supplies to victims or safely get a rope to them.

Other questions or thoughts?

Forest Planning Update – September 2021

As Steve reminded us in his post on the Santa Fe forest plan revision, forest planning was the original focus of this blog, and it’s something I have a particular interest in.  As it happens, a number of national forests are currently engaging the public in their forest plan revision processes.  Links are provided here to the plan revision webpage for each forest, as well as to related articles.  The Forest Service home page for forest planning includes links to the national revision schedule, the status of each forest plan, and a story map of revisions occurring nationally.

FINAL PLAN

The final revised Land Management Plan, FEIS and Draft Record of Decision for the Santa Fe National Forest are available and the 60-day objection period began on September 2 for those who have previously submitted comments.   Steve posted about this here.

DRAFT PLANS

Comments may be submitted until November 5 on the Draft revised forest plan and EIS for the Lincoln National Forest.  (You can attend public meetings on Zoom!)

On August 31, the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests released their draft revised forest plan and EIS for public comments until November 12. There has been a lot of press coverage.  Highlights to me are the interests of the local governments in LESS timber harvest, the extent to which climate change is now an issue, and … drones.  No surprises that recreation and wilderness are also key issues.

NOTICE OF INTENT

On August 25, the Mant-LaSal National Forest published its Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for its revised forest plan, initiating the 60-day scoping period.  Its draft forest plan and assessment report are available for review.  This article based on the Forest Service news release discusses some of the issues.

TRAVEL PLANNING

  • Coconino (Arizona)

For those more interested in travel planning (which must be consistent with the forest plan), the Coconino National Forest is working on an OHV plan:  “Currently, the agency is performing something of a “stern parent/nice parent” routine with local off-highway vehicle companies in order to enlist their help, floating the possibility of road closures or a permit system for OHV routes if progress isn’t made.”

IMPLEMENTATION PAYOFF

  • Monongahela (West Virginia) and Wayne (Ohio)

Here’s an example of how including adequate protective measures in a forest plan can facilitate removing species from the threatened and endangered species list.  The running buffalo clover is being proposed for delisting based on its recovery, due in large part to national forest plans.  This article provides a link to the Federal Register Notice, which says:

“Delisting criterion 3 states that the land on which each of the 34 populations described in delisting criterion 1 occurs is owned by a government agency or private conservation organization that identifies maintenance of the species as one of the primary conservation objectives for the site, or the population is protected by a conservation agreement that commits the private landowner to habitat management for the species…

The forest management plans for both the Monongahela and Wayne national forests include direction and guidelines to avoid and minimize impacts of forestry practices on running buffalo clover. These forestry management practices, as conditioned through running buffalo clover measures included in their respective forest plans, are compatible with running buffalo clover conservation. The forest plans include forest-wide standards and guidelines; compliance with standards is mandatory.”

 

NFS Litigation Weekly September 03, 2021

The most recent “weekly” we received and posted was August 6.

The Forest Service summary for this week is here (it contains only one action from a month ago):  NFS Litigation Weekly September 03 2021 Email

 

NOTICE OF INTENT TO SUE

The Forest Service received a Notice of Intent to Sue under the Endangered Species Act dated August 8 from the Alliance for the Wild Rockies regarding the effects on grizzly bears and lynx of the Ripley Project, Kootenai National Forest Plan Access Amendment and Cabinet-Yaak Recovery Zone BORZ (Bears Outside of Recovery Zones) Mapping on the Kootenai National Forest.  Additional comments from AWR are here.

 

BLOGGER’S BONUS (through August 8)

Forest Service litigation

(New lawsuit.)  On July 12, the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project filed a complaint alleging that the Camp Lick Project on the Malheur National Forest violates NFMA by permitting the removal of trees more than 21 inches in diameter, contrary to the “Eastside Screens” limit, which was still in effect when the project decision was made.  Recent discussion of the amendment to replace the Eastside Screens is here.

(Court decision – Friends of the Clearwater v. U. S. Forest Service (D. Idaho).)  On August 4, the district court enjoined the Lolo Insect and Disease Project on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests in critical habitat for threatened Snake River Basin steelhead for failing to reinitiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service because of new information about declining populations, and NMFS’ failure to use that information in the consultation process.  More on the plaintiffs’ views are here.

(New lawsuit – Center for Biological Diversity v. Moore (D. N.M.).)  On August 5, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society filed a complaint in the district court challenging the Lincoln National Forest’s failure to protect streamside meadows from cattle, which are designated critical habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse.  The news release includes a link to the complaint.

Other litigation

(Court decision – Dine´ Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment v. Bernhardt (D. N.M.).)  On August 3, the district court denied a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against approval by the BLM of oil and gas production in the San Juan Basin.  The case involved an EA Addendum, supplementing a total of 81 EAs covering 370 APDs which had been initially approved between 2014 and 2019.

(Court decision – Friends of Gualala River v. Gualala Redwood Timber, LLC (N.D. Cal.).)  On August 3, the federal district court denied a preliminary injunction in litigation against the Dogwood Timber Harvest Plan for private land approved by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.  The court held that prior proceedings in state courts had already addressed claims under the federal Endangered Species Act concerning four protected species: the California red-legged frog; the northern spotted owl; the Northern California steelhead; and the California Central Coast Coho salmon.

(Court decision – Stop B2H Coalition v. Bureau of Land Management (D. Or.).)  On August 4, the district court upheld the BLM’s decision siting a powerline between Boardman, Oregon and Idaho for the Idaho Power Company against NEPA claims, including effects on greater stage-grouse.  The decision is also discussed in this article.

Santa Fe forest draft management plan adds flexibility to adapt

Here’s an article that gets into what this blog was started for: national forest forest planning.

Official says Santa Fe forest draft management plan adds flexibility to adapt

Excerpts:

In 1987, Ronald Reagan was president, climate change was barely discussed and Santa Fe National Forest drafted its management plan.

Forest officials now are overhauling the 34-year-old plan, with an eye on keeping it malleable for when the climate, landscape and science change in the future.

The revised plan addresses how extended drought, increased development, population growth and more diverse uses are affecting the forest. It also offers broad guidance for adapting to whatever comes in the next 10 or 15 years.

One of the key changes from the Reagan era is how fires are handled.

Past practices have led to high tree density in some areas, leaving these woodlands susceptible to fire, especially in prolonged drought conditions, the plan says.

Fire management in the past 30 years has shifted from suppressing most natural fires to using controlled burns to reduce dense debris and vegetation that can ignite severe wildfires.

The revised plan calls for creating open areas — more gaps between trees as well as clumps of trees in fields — to prevent flames from spreading easily, Cramer said.

To achieve that, crews will increase mechanical tree thinning by 135 percent and almost triple the amount of managed burns, she said.

The plan says lack of natural fires along with livestock grazing, roads and human activities have decreased grasslands. Reduced grass cover keeps water from absorbing into the Earth, increases erosion and leaves the ground barren.

AP: US to bolster firefighter ranks as wildfires burn year-round

From an Associated Press article.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. wildfire managers have started shifting from seasonal to full-time firefighting crews to deal with what has become a year-round wildfire season as climate change has made the American West warmer and drier. The crews also could remove brush and other hazardous fuels when not battling blazes.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Thursday that it’s adding 76 firefighters and support personnel to its 3,400-person firefighting workforce.

Additionally, 428 firefighters will change from part-time seasonal work to either full-time seasonal or permanent work with health and retirement benefits. Ultimately, the agency wants about 80% of its firefighters on permanently. The rest would be seasonal, many of whom are college students who return to class in the fall.