Place-Based Comparison Tables

Photo by Nie.

“Noneofyourbusiness lake,” Inventoried roadless area protected as federal wilderness under Senator Tester’s proposed Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. 

As part of a cooperative agreement with the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service I put together a bunch of tables comparing key provisions of selected place-based bills and agreements.  The tables will be an appendix to a larger, more analytical report focused on the emergence of place-based bills and agreements. 

Here is the PDF version of the comparison tables (32 pp) (Place Based Bills & Agreements Master Tables).   Here is a letter explaining the work (Comparison Tables Letter).

I hope that the tables provide people with some useful information, a handy reference, and a big picture look at what is happening on different national forests.  The tables will also be used for background reading and reference for the upcoming symposium focused on place-based agreements and laws. 

I’ve already written a couple pieces trying to make sense of these things (one post focused on certainty, the other on restoration).  Very curious of other interpretations of the tables and what they mean.

12 thoughts on “Place-Based Comparison Tables”

  1. Martin- I’m very impressed! This is a comprehensive and intriguing piece of work. What strikes me quickly are the ideas of 1) setting aside some areas for timber production and community protection (perhaps the “dominant use” concept?), 2) generally protective prescriptions for the rest (“restore” “only temporary roads”).

    Going back to current forest plans, they have general suitability for timber production, but that does not seem to carry the day in terms of projects due to appeals and litigation. Didn’t quite understand some of the ideas the Wyden and Tester have for changing the appeals and litigation e.g. “balance of harms.” Mayabe some more detail and discussion of that would be useful.

    If I were to summarize at this point, I would say that most of these efforts are related to assuring that there is enough certainty to keep a timber industry so that the outputs of restoration projects and fuels treatment projects can be used – thereby decreasing the cost- and people can have jobs in those industries.

    All in all, they sound a good deal like zoning with restrictions and requirements by zone- pretty much like a forest plan plus certainty.

    • Sharon,

      Senator Wyden’s bill includes a “balance of harms provision,” and so will Senator Tester’s bill. This provision is used in Sec. 106 of Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which reads in part:

      “Balancing of short and long term effects—As part of its weighing the equities while considering any request for an injunction that applies to an agency action under an authorized hazardous fuel reduction project, the court reviewing the project shall balance the impact to the ecosystem likely affected by the project of—(A) the short and long term effects of undertaking the agency action; against (B) the short and long term effects of not undertaking the agency action.”

      So what? I’m not sure to be honest. I’ve searched some HFRA case law, but didn’t see the Courts deal with this section.

      As mentioned in the tables, the Tester and Wyden bills make use of this language. Regarding the latter, I highly recommend Andy Kerr’s Congressional testimony. Maybe the most entertaining testimony I’ve ever read. In it, he talks a bit about Wyden’s bill from the perspective of the precautionary principle, which is related to this issue.

      Here is the link:

  2. Sharon summarizes, provisionally:

    most of these efforts are related to assuring that there is enough certainty to keep a timber industry so that the outputs of restoration projects and fuels treatment projects can be used – thereby decreasing the cost- and people can have jobs in those industries.

    All in all, they sound a good deal like zoning with restrictions and requirements by zone- pretty much like a forest plan plus certainty.

    If that is what these proposals are about, and I suspect that it is so, then I believe it time to resurrect the many papers written on “community stability” in the early days of forest planning, some even before the NFMA. As I recall, there was no definitive answer back then and will likely be none now. Provisional answers included the reality that “you can never do one thing”, “attempts to create stability and permanence in any one area will likely destabilize something else”, and relatedly “anything you do will create politcial backlash”. Finally, things that might be done includes “things” like trying to stop anything that has gained momentum in the public sector — e.g. over-cutting the national forests.

    Of course if you, as a coalition of special interests, can ram through a legislative fix as opposed to an administrative fix, you have a much better chance of gaining a small win for your interests. In this case we see local industry and local environmentalists (the latter usually fixated on some special place(s) for wilderness or other “protection”) at the table pleading for political stamps of approval in the face of political/administrative process failure as seen through their eyes. As to staying power, why not go whole hog in this effort and establish 50 year stewardship contracts and really cement the deal.

    Then there is the other side of this issue: re-creating the forests to work better than they now do. If this particular pipe dream (or emerging reality) is to actually do more good than harm re: the environment and ecosystems, then maybe we ought to spend a bunch of time pondering just why our forest ecosystems are out of kilter. And we could follow it up with some broad policy changes to try to rectify what has led to the “out of kilter” state of affairs. In reality the Forest Service has steadfastly denied “policy making” as part of their purview: preferring instead to “plan.” Oh yes, the FS did do a Roadless Policy, but that was not what I’m talking about here. That was just another simple scheme to “zone it out”, instead of trying to figure it out — politically and ecologically.

    Don’t misread me. We are, as a society, trying to sort through some of it, e.g. global climate change and human causal links. But the slog is long and hard. And we have been through decades of soul-searching (much of it done in the court system) as to what harms we humans have done to forests and other ecosystems. In the meantime we continue to try to work our forests (for sustenance, for fun and for profit) — as we should expect that we will — and hammer out agreements in terms of plans, “Forest Jobs and Restoration Act”(s), etc. What frustration fun ??? for all involved!

    My question lingers: Where does “policy” play in to this scheme? Maybe it is better to let de-facto policy develop as a byproduct of court cases, seemingly botched planning efforts, and hotly contested micro-legislative efforts. We don’t seem ever to quite get it here in the USA as to policy-making. There may be a reason for it. Maybe we (particularly the power-brokers in our system) don’t really want to change the game too much. There is too much money to be made, too many chances for “fifteen minutes of fame,” and so on. Maybe as a species we just aren’t wired to think/act “long term.”

  3. All roads must lead to the courts, as the litigious public who doesn’t want ANY forest management WILL sue if they don’t get their way. Sadly, it is the conflicting rules, laws and policies that must first be cahnged, and that change can only take hold when the courts direct Congress to “re-invent” environmental laws and then go back to court to cement in the changes. It seems like an endless circle and, our old growth simply doesn’t have the time needed to jump through all those hoops. Between the Congress, the eco’s and the laws, I have zero hope that they can first understand, and then implement “the best science” to “save the forests”. Yes, it is sad, short-sighted and destructive but, that is the only path that will work, socio-politically in today’s world.

    How many years will it take?? No less than 10 years, IMHO. How many millions of acres have we lost in the last 10 years?!? Welcome to the future!!!

  4. So, Dave, I am thinking you think a “a by-product of court cases” is suboptimal… what would you recommend instead?

    • I gave up on “optimal” long ago. Instead the best we can do is to “muddle through”. Maybe ‘policy as a by-product of court cases’ is “as good as it gets” in a Jack Nicholson sense. This proves particularly true when you can’t trust the Administration (and not just the one we have), neither the Congress to come up with anything resembling useful.

      In a more-perfect world, I would recommend (as always) co-adaptive assessment, policy-making, management, and monitoring & evaluation practiced across agencies — with within-agency fine tuning. I would settle for something akin to a Public Lands Law Review Commission to do an assessment of our current situation, and a beginning of broader deliberation as to where we might go from where we stand. But the commission charter must be law, policy, and practice (including organizational effectiveness). And I wouldn’t entrust such a task to the cast of characters meeting in June in Colo., the “usual suspects” (Take a look at the agenda/actors here). Now that I look more closely at “the usual suspects” I realize that they aren’t a bad lot after all. Maybe I would trust them to move this discussion forward — particularly if they were to begin a blog and perchance a wiki on the subject.

  5. Martin, going through all of these a little deeper it appears that they all are related to producing more certainty for existing forest industry. Do you think that is an accurate observation?

    The only outlier seemed to be the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which seems to use language from the 2001 Roadless Rule. It doesn’t seem to address any certainty concerns. If so, what gave rise to this one? Is there more of a story behind this that you could tell?

    • Sharon,

      Yes, certainty is key for all. But it goes beyond certainty for the timber industry. I can’t do justice to the full background and history of the Rocky Mtn Front proposal. But you’re right, it makes use of the 2001 roadless rule. There has also been quite a bit of instability on the front, from the oil and gas saga to increasing use of motorized recreation. This proposed bill is designed to deal with those issues via a customized piece of protected land legislation, with one part wilderness, and one part “conservation management area.”

      I included the Front proposal in the tables because it deals specifically with roadless, travel/motorized recreation issues, and it has been relatively non-controversial (compared to say the Tester and Wyden Bill). It is obviously very different from those two–but it does, in its own way, try to provide greater certainty in the form of legislated protection.


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading