Next Thursday, Nov. 18, marks the 40th Anniversary of publication of the “Bolle Report” in the Congressional Record in 1970 (Bolle Report in pdf). Our readers are likely familiar with the Bitterroot controversy and the importance of the Bolle Report in shaping contemporary National Forest law and management. But here is some background I wrote a while back just in case:
The Bitterroot controversy was a major flashpoint in American environmental history that engendered significant changes to national forest policy. It served as an important reference during a larger national debate about public lands management. The case brought into stark relief several issues that would come to characterize U.S forest politics and conflict, including the practice of clearcutting, forest economics, road building, federal budgetary pressures, and the role of public participation in natural resources management.
Responding to increased demand, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) began to more aggressively harvest timber after World War Two. This national change in management philosophy, from so-called custodian to timber production agency, was very apparent on the Bitterroot National Forest (BNF), located in the northern rocky mountain region of western Montana and Idaho. Here, the USFS used clearcutting and terracing silvicultural techniques to meet its timber production goals. Several citizens of the Bitterroot Valley, however, disliked this degree of intensive forest management and charged that it was environmentally and aesthetically harmful. Among other complaints, citizens objected to the practice or intensity of clearcutting and/or terracing, stream siltation and watershed impacts, excessive road building, the level of timber harvesting, real estate effects, and the inadequate attention given to other multiple uses.
In response, the BNF conducted its own task force appraisal acknowledging that land management could be improved and that communication between the agency and public had been “seriously inadequate.” It found insufficient multiple use planning principally at fault for management problems on the Bitterroot. It also observed an implicit attitude among personnel that “resource production goals come first and that land management considerations take second place.” But in the agency’s defense, it noted how this pressure to meet production goals comes from the federal level, and that Congress and the Executive branches had shown great interest in making sure the BNF met its timber sale objectives. While the Task Force admitted that mistakes had been made in the past, it defended the approved allowable cut on the forest, and found other criticisms regarding environmental impacts unwarranted.
Shortly thereafter, Montana Senator Lee Metcalf, from the Bitterroot Valley himself, responded to widespread constituent complaints about forest management, especially about clearcutting and the dominant role of timber production in USFS policy, by requesting an independent study of the problem by Dean Arnold Bolle of the University of Montana’s School of Forestry. Bolle appointed a select group of faculty members from the University of Montana to investigate, and this group went further in its critique of forest management on the Bitterroot and beyond.
The Committee began its report with the startling statement that “[m]ultiple use management, in fact, does not exist as the governing principle on the Bitterroot National Forest.” It viewed the controversy as substantial and legitimate, with local and national implications. The Committee’s approach was to contrast the actions of the USFS with the written policies and laws governing forest management. From there, the “Bolle Report,” as it became known, criticized the Bitterroot’s “overriding concern for sawtimber production” from an environmental, economic, organizational, and democratic standpoint. Other multiple uses and resource values were not given enough serious consideration according to the Report: “In a federal agency which measures success primarily by the quantity of timber produced weekly, monthly and annually, the staff of the [BNF] finds itself unable to change its course, to give anything but token recognition to related values, or to involve most of the local public in any way but as antagonists.” The subculture of forestry, it seemed to the Committee, was out of step with shifting American values and goals. Though professional dogma was partly to blame, the Bolle Report also found that “[t]he heavy timber orientation is built in by legislative action and control, by executive direction and by budgetary restriction.” The Report also focused on the economic irrationality of clearcutting and terracing on the Bitterroot, and the serious lack of democratic participation in forest management.
Together with a parallel case on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, the Bitterroot controversy helps explain the significant changes that were made to U.S. forest policy in the 1970s, including new guidelines on clearcutting in the National Forests, and passage of the National Forest Management Act in 1976. Though its significance continues to be debated, the latter at least partly addressed some of the issues in the Bitterroot conflict, like by placing limits on clearcutting, and giving the public a more meaningful role to play in forest management and planning. But these and other issues, like top-down federal budgetary pressures, road building, the economics of forestry, and the purpose of planning continue to cause controversy.”
A few years ago I spent a few days going through Dean Bolle’s files and correspondence that are archived here on campus. I left pretty humbled and a few things struck me. First, it made me really appreciate how controversial the Report actually was at the time. Newspaper coverage and clippings galore. And the Bolle Committee certainly took their lumps from disgruntled powers, from Montana’s timber industry to the Society of American Foresters. But it was also neat to see letters from distinguished faculty members from all over the country that were so impressed with the mavericks at Montana, some asking Dean Bolle how they could come to Missoula and do work that matters.
A lot has obviously changed since 1970. Take the Bitterroot for starters, as one could make the case that motorized recreation and development in the wildland urban interface are now the big issues of the day. When it comes to forest management, the general context is fundamentally different than it was back then, from new science and law to international trade deals.
But some of the issues addressed in the Bolle Report have been stubbornly persistent. Problematic Forest Service budgets, road building, the economics of forestry, and the purpose of planning and public participation continue to cause controversy. Consider, for example, some of the debate on this blog about financial incentives and the USFS and the use of commercial timber sales. And Some of our contributors still reference things said by some Bolle Committee members, like Dick Behan’s provocative argument that NFMA was a “solution to a non-existent problem.” He wasn’t exactly enamored with the forest planning mandate that somehow came out of the Bitterroot/Monongahela controversies—what he considered to be place-based problems with place-based solutions.
And so here we are, closing in on 2011, and we continue to ask about the purpose of planning, the adequacy of NFMA, and the meaning and future of multiple use.
Martin Nie, University of Montana
43 thoughts on “40th Anniversary of Bolle Report”
Thanks for this thoughtful post. The Bolle Report was before my time in this field, so I appreciate learning more about it. Synchronistically, a colleague asked me to look up the Organic Act and MUSYA today, so MUSYA was echoing through my head when I read your post. What surprised me was how much MUSYA sounds like what we would call sustainability and ecosystem services today.
I also noticed that a site pointed out in our biomass discussion- Save America’s Forests – is about passing legislation to stop clearcutting. Another echo of the Bolle Report …
Here’s another quote from Save America’s Forests:
One has to wonder if Mr. Bolle would think today that the pendulum has swung to far to the other extreme. In 1969 the BNF logged 4700 acres. In 2008 it logged 600. 75 of those acres were clearcut. At that rate it’ll take 1000 years to log “just” the suitable acreage.
Does such a low harvest violate Sharons sustained yield act quote of “Sustained yield…means achievement..of a “high level” annual output…”? Would logging .1%/year be called high level?
Thanks for a great post about the 40th anniversary of The Bolle Report.
Any mention of the Bolle Report and the Bitterroot Clearcutting/Terracing Controversy really should also include a mention of the significant roll that Guy M. Brandborg, former Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor (1935-1955), played in bringing this situation to the attention of the media, Congress and the nation.
Historian Frederick Swanson, who is completing a book on GM Brandborg, published this article in 2009:
A Radical in the Ranks
G. M. BRANDBORG AND THE BITTERROOT NATIONAL FOREST
BY FREDERICK H. SWANSON”
SNIP from opening:
“The controversy over clearcutting that erupted in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest in the late 1960s originated with a retired forest supervisor named Guy Brandborg, whose conservative approach to forest management was cast aside during the postwar boom in timber production. He orchestrated a classic confrontation with the Forest Service that had less to do with the visual appearance of the clearcuts than with the disputed aims of public forestry. ”
The entire article, which I would highly recommend reading, is available here:
The article also goes into detail about the significant role that Dale Burk, at the time a reporter with the Missoulian, had in exposing the Bitterroot clearcutting controversry and covering the Bolle Report, as well as Congressional hearings.
“In 1969 the BNF logged 4700 acres. In 2008 it logged 600.”
Derek, and in 2001 the BNF’s FEIS for their “Burned Area Recovery Plan” called for 46,000 acres of logging in the BNF. Through a court-ordered settlement between the timber industry, Forest Service and some conservation groups, that logging was reduced to 14,700 acres. All of that logging was completed.
Also, Derek, could you please provide documentation regarding the 600 acres logged on the BNF during 2008?
You should know that in 2008 the BNF had thousands of acres of logging/thinning/fuel reduction projects already through NEPA just sitting there, either with no bidders in the timber industry or even if under contract, the logging companies just sat on them.
Heck, the only reason the logging resumed at the Middle East Fork HFRA project in 2009 was because $1,000,000 in federal stimulus money was used to pay for the helicopter logging. Or what about the Trapper Bunkhouse project? No appeals, no litigation, been sitting on the shelve for a few years…with no bidders in the timber industry and, honestly, very little interest. That specific project would do commercial logging (what the FS calls it) and commercial and non-commercial thinning over about 5000 acres.
I hope I don’t need to remind you that we’re in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Lumber consumption is down 50% in 5 years and new home construction is down 70%. Think this economic reality might have something to do with a reduction in logging? Or should we just continue using taxpayer money to log taxpayer-owned public forests when there is no market for lumber? Thanks.
The Bitterroot is a prime example of how to mismanage a National Forest. Between off-road jammer clearcuts on helicopter ground to letting massive wildfires burn, to “preserving” bark beetle habitat, the Bitterroot (and the court) has consistently made wrong decisions resulting in environmental damage. The Bitterroot is a poster child for the wildly swinging pendulum of forest mismanagement.
Mathew, the source is the Northern Region “acres harvested by methods” database. You’ve seen it. It’s on your “Tester” website. Perhaps the Northern region was in error. Or perhaps the 14,000 acres was rotten from delay and never sold? There are a few years in the early 2000’s where they cut a couple thousand acres. Interesting question isn’t it. I’m at work now, and we all know shouldn’t be “surfing” the internet, but I’ll post the link later when I get home.
Regarding some of your other claims, Derek, it’s interesting to me that you’d claim the “Bitterroot is a prime example of how to mismanage a National Forest” and then go onto claim that the courts have “consistently made wrong decisions resulting in environmental damage?”
Really? What are those wrong court decisions that have resulted in environmental damage? Could you please provide us with documentation and the names of these supposed court cases?
Are you saying the court-order (Forest Service, timber industry approved) settlement on the “Burned Area Recovery” project in 2002, which reduced logging from 46,000 acres to 14,700 acres resulted in more environmental damage? Could you please explain how that works?
Do you even realize that since Feb 2002 (almost 9 years ago) there has been exactly ONE lawsuit on the ENTIRE Bitterroot National Forest regarding a timber sale? And that that one lawsuit was on the Middle East Fork HFRA project? Which was delayed an entire 30 days because of a court-order injunction? And that, as I mentioned above, the logging companies who owned the contracts to these sales weren’t even logging because of the low lumber demand and economic crisis (until they got $1,000,000 in federal stimulus money)?
Or how about the fact that between 1985 and 2002 there were 534 timber sales on the BNF? And that during that time period 95% of all commercial timber sales went through without any appeals? How come this info never makes it into your comments?
Regarding your statement “Or perhaps the 14,000 acres was rotten from delay and never sold?” Again, you put out rumors on this blog without doing any fact checking. If you’d have fact-checked first, you’d have noticed that by Winter 2005, according to the BNF’s own figures obtained via FOIA, 11,742 acres were logged as part of the 14,700 acres called for in the settlement agreement.
We can have disagreements…I’m totally fine with that. But I think playing loose with the facts and just making stuff up based on rumors or assumptions really doesn’t get us too far. Thanks.
Opps…I obviously thought both of the previous comments were from Derek. The first part of my response was obviously directed at Larry/Fotoware’s comment, while the second half of my comment addresses Derek’s claim. Sorry about that.
The condition of the Bitterroot is testament to how badly it has been managed. The court sealed most of its fate when the court mandated such a low amount of salvage after all the fires. This created a “perfect storm” of conditions for bark beetle populations to explode…literally, explode. The “potential lynx habitat” is now reduced to vast stands of skeleton trees.
Of course, the Forest is going to attempt to do the tiniest and least controversial projects to “pad their stats”. I actually worked on the Middle Fork project, and I shudder to think what the Forest looks like today, due to further mismanagement. Hmmmm, maybe it’s all part of a local conspiracy to reduce property values and make real estate there much more affordable than it has been?
Someday, the public will actually learn that forest management is a LOT more complex than the preservationists are admitting to, and that maybe they should trust the people who actually went to college to study such complex things.
Fotoware: Mountain pine beetles don’t attack dead trees. The Bitterroot post-fire salvage logged (or would have logged) dead trees.
That was the whole problem, Andy! We all know that trees attacked by bark beetles or damaged by fire can take years to die. Once the tree has difficulty taking up water, all the stoma in the needles close up tight and very little respiration occurs. The ability to cut those “brain dead” trees could have eliminated significant amounts of bark beetles. The decision to leave all trees with even one green needle allowed vast amounts of brood trees to supply generations of bark beetles, overwhelming even the most resistant stands. I’ve seen the exact same thing happen in other places, like the San Bernardino NF. Trees with obvious signs of bark beetle infestation, or cooked cambium, or excessive crown loss should be able to be harvested if they meet established guidelines. Otherwise, they become part of the bark beetle buffet.
Fotoware: But you blamed the judge for the Bitterroot bark beetle epidemic: “The court sealed most of its fate when the court mandated such a low amount of salvage after all the fires.” My comment corrected that misunderstanding.
The judge had nothing to do with scope of salvage since the only trees that could possibly have been affected by the court’s ruling were already dead, i.e., it was the Forest Service that limited salvage to dead trees. The court opinion concerned only the FS’s failure to allow for administrative appeal, as required by the Forest Service Decisionmaking and Appeals Reform Act. The ultimate salvage prescription was negotiated by the parties, not prescribed by the judge.
Regardless, no sentient entomologist attributes today’s Rockies-wide mountain pine beetle outbreak to any court decision, singular or in the aggregate. Nor to any salvage decisions or lack thereof. The epidemic in lodgepole pine extends from Alberta to Colorado; it is most intense in central British Columbia. The stage was set for the epidemic about 100 years ago when stand-replacing fires swept through the Rockies. Remember the 1910 burns? Old lodgepole pine mixed with drought and several warm winters are a recipe for beetles.
Now, back to Martin’s interesting article. Many an old timber beast has finally come around to see that forest restoration is now the way to go in timber management. Many others have retired, unable to adapt their way of thinking. Is there someone out there now, Martin, who could convince everyone that there are, indeed, “best of all worlds” solutions for a great many kinds of forests? My recent revelations (from that Rainforest website posting) that most of the American public is quite ignorant of forest facts and issues make me think that the public isn’t quite educated or progressive enough to accept these solutions.
I’m also not convinced that any political solution can work, without legal reforms. Politicans don’t even bother to learn the laws when they attempt to write new ones.
I had the unique experience to drive around and work in much of the Bitterroot. Despite all the dead trees, I was captivated by the geology and ecology. It took me a few weeks to discover that this was quite different from other parts of the country I had worked in. Clearcutting of steep ground with jammers was something I had never seen before. All the forest roads were either right there in the streamside zones, or endlessly switchbacking, higher and higher. I thoroughly enjoyed my 3 months working out of Darby. I even showed the local guys how to find and feed ant lions! I can easily see why rich Californians want to buy a second home there ;^)
Your comments are actually quite relevant to the Bolle Report for a couple of reasons. First off, I think Dean Bolle and his Committee would take issue with your framing of the issue, which is something like the ignorant public versus professionally trained foresters and the need to trust the latter. (I’m generally suspicious of both). As Dean Bolle summarized back then, the public may know little about how clearcutting ought to be done, but it should have a whole lot to say about whether there should be clearcutting in the first place. This is why the USFS Task Force, Bolle Report, and then NFMA placed such an emphasis on public participation. I think agencies and professions get into trouble when they make assumptions that their diagnoses and prescriptions should go unquestioned because of their relevant expertise. Such expertise comes bundled with all sorts of norms, values, and assumptions that might not be shared by the public.
As for legal reforms, that is definately something to consider. I have written some stuff in favor of convening a federal forest law review commission or something like that in order to determine what changes, if any, might be helpful. In making this case I have referenced the Bitterroot since it was such a catalyst in writing NFMA. Consider, for example, all that has changed since 1970/76 in the Bitterroot Valley and NF and elsewhere.
I never said that we should push onward despite the public’s ignorance AND distaste for cutting trees. I’ve also never been a big fan of clearcutting. I’ve said all along that until we have MAJOR losses of lives and property, we will continue to struggle with forest management rules, laws and policies.
There are also many groups and people who will fight against any and all management of our forests, despite the “unintended consequences” of scientific ignorance. I never said that foresters’ solutions should go “unquestioned”. With science on our side, full transparency would surely be welcomed.
Sadly, the new Planning Rule won’t fix any of this, further limiting active management and encouraging more catastrophic wildfires. How long will it take before the public learns that their forests are disappearing (in huge toxic clouds of GHGs)? Of course, the full blame will continue to go to “global warming”, enhancing the idea of “letting nature takes its course” despite increased human-caused fires.
Foto- your comment about the public reminds me of Pinchot’s maxims..
I am afraid that perhaps we (public foresters) have fallen down on the job..
I didn’t think I was attacking anybody. I’m just making an observation. Here’s the link to my source: http://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5134430.pdf
It lists “acres harvested by cutting method” for every forest in the Northern Region for every year back to 1945. The column “silv removal total” I’m sure you all know as silviculture removal total. I’ll leave it up to you all to decide if it’s a usefull tool in bringing a bit of percentage based perspective to the issue. You guys are the career soldiers and the policy wonks. You tell me if it accurately represents the facts of the timber harvest history.
For those who want to take the round about way-go to USDA northern region website, click on(>) land resource management >resource management>timber sale summary reports and accomplishments >acres harvested by cutting method.
While you’re at it, you can click on the following link to see the FIA (forest inventory analysis reports) for the state of Montana. It’s pretty simple to arrive at the amount of “forested acreage” logged in 50 years. Or should the most obvious be more complicated. :http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/ogden/publications/montana.shtml
I’ve “ground truthed” it a bit with the indivicual forest “monitoring” reports. It seems to be what they use when reporting harvested acreage. However, upon looking into it further, I agree with Mathew in that there seems to be an anomoly on the Bitteroot. The data base shows only 6200 acres harvested in the 2002-2005 period, and yet the 2008 Bitterroot monitoring report makes reference to salvage harvesting on 11,400 acres. Unfortunately, the Bitterroot only has the 2008 report listed on it’s website.
You would think that knowing “how much was logged” and “how much is being logged now” would be one of the most important questions to be answered in this debate. Where’s academia on this? You might just find there’s enough for everyone.
When the public is convinced that Federal foresters want to clearcut the Giant Sequoias, its no wonder that they will listen to the Sierra Club, instead. Nothing, absolutely nothing we can say will convince the public we can manage unhealthy forests better than a feminine fundamentalist entity. We’re tainted as sources of information, because of what dead foresters did in the last millenium, dropped to the level of saying “I told you so! I told you that would happen!”. I get no pleasure out of that, at all.
Pinchot lived in a very different world. The press doesn’t help the Forest Service, the public doesn’t trust the Forest Service, and the Forest Service doesn’t like to defend its decisions in public. It’s a vicious circle.
At some point, when the public is fed up with its “new wilderness” of snags and brush, fed up when their favorite camping spot has no shade anymore, and fed up when there are no tourist dollars on the horizon, the public might be interested in truly saving what little will be left after the next decade. I’m hoping that forester hatred isn’t very “sustainable”.
Foto- You mention a “feminine” entity as if somehow that was part of the problem.. And the combination of “feminine” and “fundamentalist” while alliterative, is unusual- I don’t know of many fundamentalist organizations where women call the shots.. But there is a long history of those organizations oppressing women, e.g. the Taliban, witchhunts, etc.
Please explain what you meant..
I was merely using a creative term for “Gaia” or “Mother Nature”, just as those people who commented on that Rainforest website put their “faith” in. Science takes a backdoor to these “fundamentalist” people who truly “believe” that everything will be just fine by doing nothing. The right certainly doesn’t have the patent on “fundamentalism”.
At the risk of sounding hopelessly pedantic and as usual, literal-minded, here is the definition of fundamentalism from the Merriam Webster online dictionary.
Now, Goddess and Earth-based religions don’t have any recent history of fundamentalism (and of course men followed Earth-based religions until other religions arrived on the scene).
That’s why we never hear of Wiccan oppression of other religions..
Anyway- in my opinion, a variety of individuals can believe a variety of religious things without those religious convictions, in and of themselves, impelling us to a specific policy solution for any environmental issue.
So, Andy, do you think the Forest Service voluntarily limited fire salvage to trees without a single green needle?!? Of course not! A previous lawsuit elsewhere put a national ban on salvaging trees that had any green needles on them. I blamed that decision for accelerating the bark beetle problems.
Regarding the current 22 million acres of dead forests, I’d bet that a HUGE portion of that land was overstocked and not of the same species composition compared to pre-colonial times. And then there’s that little issue of wildfire suppression. Why do we continue to embrace expanding lodgepole forests? When mixed stands burn, guess what grows back?!?
“A previous lawsuit elsewhere put a national ban on salvaging trees that had any green needles on them.” Pure fantasy — no such lawsuit exists.
Not anymore, because new guidelines were crafted by Sherrie Smith. Try more searching, Andy.
Regarding Matt, the current mindset of the American public is to do nothing. When you don’t know about the “unintended consequences”, it’s easy to side with the Sierra Club and other Gaia-ists.
As a last resort, I’ve supplied Sharon with a picture I took in 2004 of the Bitterroot, showing many of the problems the Forest has encountered in the past. If she displays the picture, I’d like to know if THAT is the kind of National Forest you want?
Since my Forest Service career seems to be over (they no longer need people experienced with controlling loggers), I shouldn’t really be bothering with the shape of our forests and its very dim future. I’ll just have to learn how to like seeing my predictions come true. It is doing no one any good for me to fight for good stewardship when the public doesn’t want it anymore.
So, I’ll just shut up and lurk (since no one believes foresters), hoping mega-wildfires will come sooner than later, maybe changing the public’s view on forest management. Chances are very high that change won’t happen in my lifetime.
Fotoware: Help me out here. What is the legal citation for the “previous lawsuit” you claim “put a national ban on salvaging trees that had any green needles?”
Who is Sherrie Smith? And what did she do that’s relevant to the “national ban” lawsuit.
Methinks you’re sort of making this up as you go along. Disabuse of me of that notion, please.
Foto’s picture..you can click on it and it gets larger with more detai.
All: you can post photos in your comments without my intervention or having a websit of your own if you use Google Documents and post the link in your comments. Derek has done that in the past and it seemed to work. A picture can be very illustrative of your ideas.
I’m sorry Larry Harrell/Fotoware, but you are acting a tad paranoid here. I mean, seriously, you expect any of us to believe that some little on-line petition site (which you are calling the “Rainforest site” http://www.thehungersite.com/clickToGive/campaign.faces?siteId=3&campaign=SequoiaMonument&pageNum=1) proves what the American public thinks about forests, foresters, etc?
You wrote: “My recent revelations (from that Rainforest website posting) that most of the American public is quite ignorant of forest facts and issues make me think that the public isn’t quite educated or progressive enough to accept these solutions.”
Seriously Larry, 2,878 people (out of a US population of 307,000,000) signed the damn petition. Yep, this is conclusive proof of what the “American public” believes. Certainly the fact that 2,878 people signed a petition is proof that “most of the American public is quite ignorant of forest facts and issues.”
Andy has done a decent job setting you straight about the Bitterroot and your claim that “[the courts] have consistently made wrong decisions resulting in environmental damage?”
Above I asked you specifically “What are those wrong court decisions that have resulted in environmental damage? Could you please provide us with documentation and the names of these supposed court cases?”
You’re response, Larry, has been to just ignore the question and continue lobbing non-sense out there, despite the fact that BNF has faced a whopping ONE timber sale lawsuit in 9 years!
You seem to acknowledge above, when taking about your 3 months on the Bitterroot that “Clearcutting of steep ground with jammers was something I had never seen before. All the forest roads were either right there in the streamside zones, or endlessly switchbacking, higher and higher.”
Yep, as someone who’s lived in Western MT for the past fifteen years – and have hiked, backpacked, hunted elk, deer and morels, fished, bird-watched, foraged for huckleberries on the Bitterroot National Forest I will agree with you’re observation above.
Yet, you also very clearly claim the Bitterroot is so mismanaged before not enough logging has taken place, either after the fire or to supposedly fend off bark beetles (by the way, on the Bitterroot, Doug fir bark beetles were more common in the recent outbreak than MPB).
And to honest, I really resent it when people (usually supporters of more logging) give the public the impression that our national forests suck and are just comprised of wastelands. That’s really what some of you guys are doing in my opinion. The Montana timber lobbyists do that all the time and so do most of our politicians. But you know what? For the most part, our national forests are in great shape compared to the rest of the US landscape. And you what? For the most part, the healthiest, most diverse parts of our national forests (with the healthiest wildlife populations, watersheds, etc) are found in Wilderness and roadless areas of our public lands.
Personally, I’m proud of our national forest legacy and I appreciate the fact that as Americans these public lands belong equally to all of us. Personally, I appreciate the tremendous diversity and mosaic created on our national forests by natural processes such as wildfire, insect and disease. I’ve spent plenty of time in the woods walking through the burnt forests in Montana and Idaho from wildfires over the past decade and what I see with my own eyes is incredible diversity and renewal. Perhaps we all just view the world through different lenses.
For what it’s worth, here is a link to a bunch of info (including dozens of photos and vid links) specifically about the Bitterroot National Forest’s Middle East Fork project. Larry claimed that “The ‘potential lynx habitat’ is now reduced to vast stands of skeleton trees. Check out photos from the actual area and judge for yourself. http://nativeforest.org/middle_east_fork.htm
Also, if anyone wants some information about the Bitterroot NF’s “Burned Area Recovery Plan”, which came on the heels of the 2000 wildfires, check out this newspaper primer: http://nativeforest.org/pdf/Bitterroot_Primer.pdf. I even put your good friend, Chad Hanson, on the cover for you Larry!
Oh, and Larry, I just now see your comment, “So, Andy, do you think the Forest Service voluntarily limited fire salvage to trees without a single green needle?!? Of course not!”
Larry, the fact is that large, green trees were, in fact, cut down as part of the Bitterroot’s “Burned” area recovery project. I even have photos, one of which is on page 3 of that primer linked above. Oh, and I made a quick TV ad about this project. You can watch the Ad here (http://nativeforest.org/movies/Bitterroot_PSA.mov) and you’ll notice about half-way through a few pans which clearly show large green trees on the ground. I was up there that day with a reporter for German Public Radio and I believe it was near the Two Bear area. And damn, does my 1993 Toyota truck look nice crossing above that cut bank on the road up the N. Fork of Rye Creek. The past 8 years have not been too friendly to that truck!
Finally, I agree with Derek that “You would think that knowing ‘how much was logged’ and ‘how much is being logged now’ would be one of the most important questions to be answered in this debate.” You all might recall that one of the first steps former timber industry lobbyist, Mark Rey, took when he became Bush’s Undersecretary, was to do away with the Forest Service’s TSPER’s reports. It’s always good when our government decides to give the public less info, right?
So here are my personal opinions..
1) I don’t know that we could have, in the past, or will be able to, in the future, keep ahead of MPB or other beetles or insects or diseases or complexes.
Sometimes we did keep ahead, sometimes we didn’t AND we don’t really know because with climate change the past can’t predict the future. My gut instinct is that the investment to try to do it is more than we will be able to muster (depending on the insect, but thinking of MPB in lodgepole specifically).
2) Certainly, some of the logging that was done was “too much” and was not done as carefully as we know today to be good. But if “too much” is “too much”, does it follow that “none” is best? That’s not where our friends on national forests in the Southeast appear to have ended up. I wonder why.. cultural?
3) I would not like it if the fear of doing “too much” kept us from talking about what might be “just right.” Especially for local energy production.
(Sorry if this sounds like the “Three Bears ;).”)
Thanks, Martin, for calling attention to the anniversary of this pivotal event in USFS history. Those of us who are old enough to remember the affable, patrican, pipe-smoking Dean Bolle certainly recall the political firestorm his little committee generated. Yet Arnie professed no intention to stir up a hornet’s nest–as he said in a 1990 interview, “We thought we were being constructive and straightforward and honest and we weren’t condemning anybody. We were just putting the facts down as we saw them.”
Yet Martin and Sharon are right–some of the issues his “Select Committee” identified are still very much with us, including public involvement, timber sale financing, and pursuing long-term investment in forest productivity versus capturing a stand’s immediate value. Interestingly, the Bolle committee seemed to be advocating the latter with its concept of “timber mining” — that is, carefully removing some of the merchantable volume through selective cutting without engaging in the terrifically disruptive site preparation work (e.g. terracing and machine planting) that the Bitterroot NF was doing at the time.
It’s one of the great ironies of the Bitterroot Controversy, I think, that many of those terraced clearcuts are now growing good stands of ponderosa pine. Not without issues, of course–they badly need thinning, and the BNF’s soil scientist has been grappling (literally) with how to reduce the soil compaction that has occurred in many of the older, jammer-logged clearcuts.
Thanks also for mentioning G. M. Brandborg, Matthew. The Montana Historical Society is running another article in its most recent issue–this one for a more general audience. My publisher says the book will be out this winter!
I’m going to try this “documents” thing Sharon. Here’s a picture I call “celebrating the works of man”. From the Sula RD. BNF. https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=10YiYE6utfyqd3j3mOmXCA3dX0_mdxx4_HpvR54jj_18
Derek- looks like it needs thinning plus some release of non-ponderosa species to get more species diversity. But I think a field trip is needed to get better perspective..;)
Sharon, I do believe these terraces were stocked at twice the density of today. The theory was that half of them would die-but as you can see it looks like none of them did. The terraces were kind of the “sledgehammer to kill an ant” approach to regen. My “forest role reversal” picutre with the with elk walking into ponderosa plantation was near here. Only 28 years old and much larger. But coming from the engineering world, the gracefull lines of a highway is art to me.
PS. Mathew gave me an idea. Why should a researcher, or myself, be burdened with compiling USFS records regarding how much was logged in the last 50 years and what the percentage of harvest rate is now. Why not submitt a FOI request to the Northern Region. Or every forest in the region if need be. Sounds like good winter work. One of my relatives answers these FOI requests for the USFS all the time, I’m sure he would guide me through it.
I’ve read many “monitoring” reports. Harvested acreage is not big on the monitoring priority list anymore. It’s there, but not at all consistent among forests. Some don’t list it for years. And the number you get is clumped together with “non-commercial” treatment acres. My favorite is listing “firewood permits” as timber sold.1/2 the official timber sold on the Beaverhead is 10 chord permits! Like anyone cuts 10 chords anymore. I think the timber stand management record system (TSMRS) data base that I linked to the other day is the best source-but what would be more official. Me or an FOI.
Derek, I admit the info and data can be confusing, in no small part because there is simply no uniform accounting.
However, I really have to question some of the figures you put out there about the timber sale program on national forests in Montana. For example, today you’ve commented on an article about Sun Mountain Lumber in Deer Lodge laying off 30 people. The mill owner, in large part, blames a lack of national forest logging.
Derek, you comments on the article (http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/article_1abd415a-eeda-11df-bada-001cc4c002e0.html) say: “For the last five years, the Beaverhead Deerlodge Nat. Forest has logged an average of 500 acres/year.”
Yet, in this oped from the Supervisor of the BHDL NF it states clearly states that in 2009 32 million board feet of trees were cut on the BHDL NF, enough to fill 6,400 log trucks. Given that the BHDL NF is one of the least productive forests in the entire west I seriously doubt that 32 MMBF of trees can from only 500 acres.
“This past year multiple timber sales were conducted to remove hazardous or dead trees. Timber sales on the Forest totaled 32 million board feet in 2009. A million board feet is the equivalent of 200 logging truck loads. Wood products typically go to local mills in southwest Montana. The Forest also treated 5,100 acres to reduce hazardous fuels through small sales, thinning trees, burning the slash, or using prescribed fire.”
This makes me wonder if the FS could help move the discussion forward by presenting annually key statistics of interest to the public. I think we are good about presenting figures of interest to Congress; and to our individual program areas (fuels, timber) but perhaps not so good at answering other questions the public would like to know and would help inform our debates.
Now, I am not an expert, but a brief exploration with some colleagues gave me the impression that between the fuels database and vegetation database, it is not simple to get total acres treated.
It sounds to me like you all are interested in how many acres per year have been treated (for all purposes, wildlife, timber, fuels reduction, forest health)by:
1. prescribed burning
2. thinning (could be separated by size of trees thinned- now is separated by commercial and precommercial, which are not useful in many cases.
3. seed tree and shelterwoods
What I think we have is separate by purpose, which is good if you are trying to track where the funds are going, but since the same project can have different purposes, the total acres treated as described above can’t easily be gotten from the reports the FS generates.
I agree with Derek that these seem like important figures to know; from my angle particularly in discussion of cumulative effects.
If anyone else out there can shed more light on whether it is possible to get this information from existing databases, please do so!
I noticed several months ago that the BDNF “sold” 30 million board foot (MMBF). I celebrate that! It’s obviously in response to the fire lit by Sen. Testers Partnership and the MPB. However, does one year a trend make? For the five years previous the BDNF sold an average of only 8 MMBF/year. Are your comments above an endorsement for increasing the timber haravest three fold from previous years Mathew? I think 25 MMBF/year, “ever year”, would be a good step towards compromise.
This is the link to the USFS “cut and sold” reports-another usefull source of confusion:
I have to “clarify” my sold amounts. I only count “saw timber”. Of the 32 MMBF mentioned above, 7 MMBF is “personal use firewood permits”. You can identify this amount by looking at the “sales to $300” and under “fuelwood”. That certainly does the mills no good. I think it’s a rather dishonest way for the USFS to “bulk” up it’s “sold” reports since the sold amounts are so ridiculously far below the “plan” estimate. Frankly, the actual firewood harvested is probably much less than that “sold” and does nothing to reduce fuel levels on a landscape level nor does it really alter stand characteristics.
Oh I’ll stick by my 500 acres/year figure- but I think I’ll modify it a little upwards, for reasons explained below.
Perhaps Sharon could find a Northern Region Wonk, IT guy, GIS guy, Forester, of some experience with the “acres harvested by cutting method” data base I’ve linked too. It’s the same one you have Mathew. Perhaps he (or she) could render an opinion on the data base as to it’s veracity, accuracy, and credibility, as an accurate record of what was actually logged.
From what I can glean, I think it’s based on the Timber Stand Management Record System (TSMRS)which among other things “keeps an historic record of all treatments” and “provides information to update and amend the forest plans”. After 2005, the data base uses FACTS (forest service activity tracking system). I have a funny feeling that if I do an FOI request the data base I linked to is the data base they’re going to use.
I have cross checked this data base with individual USFS forest monitoring reports. As explained above, the reports are lacking but I’ve found anomalies. In other words, the “timber harvest acres” reported on the individual forests for a particular fiscal year (FY)does not match the data base. On the Flathead, it matches perfectly. On the Lolo, the individual years vary up or down, but the “ten year amount” is within 3% of each other. On the Beaverhead-Deerlodge there is a lot of variance in a FY, but the ten year total is within 5% of each other. I theorize the FY difference may have to do with when a “stand” is declared harvested in the data base vs. when a timber sale is harvested. It doesn’t matter-as long as the ten year totals balances out.
The year to year variances don’t matter as far as “historic logged acres”-the data base agrees with forest monitoring. But a ten year “smoothing” average should be used instead of five for assesing trends. This would also take out economic bumps.
The data base stops at FY 2008(and thus doesn’t include 2009). So my new calculation, which has been verified with monitoring is ” for the last ten years, the BDNF has logged an average of 800 acres per year. At that rate it’ll take 30 years to log 1% (that’s one!) of the “forested acreage”.
I want to know “acres logged” and Sharon wants to know “acres of fuels treatments”. I’ve found that to be a very frustrating number to find Sharon. I’ve read Monitoring reports that say 1000 acres were commercialy thinned, then the same 1000 acres were pre-commercially thinned, then the same 1000 acres were piled and burned. And it was triumphantly proclaimed to be 3000 acres of “fuels treatment”. I can’t stand that. It’s true, but not true. I suspect that “personal firewood permits” are given an “acreage” and attached to timber harvest outputs. You would think, that with the “stand data base” date, you could “queery” and get the actual acres treated.
Anyway, enough. I’m tired. Mathew. At the risk of sounding like a nut. I know now that God shaped (or twisted) my life for this. But God does not want me to make an enemy of you. I’m sorry if things get heated. I deal with contractors, and voices get raised, but when the next job starts, as it invevitably does, we still respect each other. Our journey is a lot bigger than the woods. And I admit to stumble more than most.
Changing our minds about some things isn’t selling out. Changing our minds about some things doesn’t mean everyhting we believe in is wrong. Please understand,by showing how much is being logged now, I’m trying to give you a WAY to compromise.
The following is a link to the 2009 Beaverhead-deerlodge “monitoring” report.
Page 83 lists timber harvest(acres)for 2009 and the last five years. 2009=668 acres.
Fuel reduction acres = 13,443 acres (3365 WUI). They don’t say, but most of this kind of thing is prescribed burning and some “slash pile burning”. Of course, the timber acres harvested are included in this. I read a lot of these on a lot of forests, and the one thing I notice is a huge uptick in prescribed burning acres in the last 5 years. I support that. In Arizona, it’s the only thing they can do.
page 84 shows “timber offered and sold”. Notice the table showing “personal permits” = 6.1 MMBF. Out of 32 MMBF total sold. Thats firewood.
I never see them list TSI (pre-commercial thinning)
It is complicated.
Derek and Matthew- if you both can agree on what information would be informative in terms of vegetation treatments per year..similar or not to..the quote below (from a comment above), I would offer to either get some numbers or explore further why we can’t get those numbers.
And at the risk of invoking further controversy, I think we should rethink the concept of “timber stand improvement.” That is a timber kind of word, and most of the time the activities we do are not to improve the economic value of a stand. I think we should simply talk about the vegetation treatments we do, and be clear with the public on why we do them. It is OK to have them multipurpose or multifunded, but I think since we do so many projects that are not primary purpose for timber, seeing the world through the timber terminology lens is not really helpful. Not to speak of the fact that our guidance on timber was written as if timber had value and now has to apply to timber with no value, and that with negative value. Again, I think FS stovepipes (especially when they are rusted out with concepts from the past) are not helpful to anyone.
Sharon – John Rupe, in his post on March 2, 2010 entitled “Addressing NFMA Timber Requirements Through the Restoration Lens” mentions a paper by Sally Collins and Hutch Brown that speaks to this issue of terminology.
Thanks Marek! Here’s the link to John’s post (for others). I did get off track on the terminology as a barrier to clarity when I was mostly focused on getting numbers that give information of value, and not dispersed and disjunct due to functional silos.
Sharon, these are the questions I would ask:
The following shall be listed by fiscal year (FY)
#1–“List how many acres were “commercially” logged, for every Montana National forest, for every year back to 1950″. Also list acreage commercially logged, by forest and by year, by type of harvest (clearcut, shelterwood, intermediate, ect. ect.)
#2–“What “percentage” of the “forested acreage”, on every Montana National Forest, was commercially logged in the last 50 years (back to and including 1950)(list by year and forest-which might be a little too much to ask)
#3–What “percentage of the forested acreage”, on every Montana National Forest, was logged in the last 10 years” (The back of my bar napkin says the average ranges from 1.5% on the Lolo to .3% on the BDNF)
#4– On the Beaverhead-Deerlodge Nat. Forest, what “percent” of the roadless acreage is “forested”. Also list total “roadless acreage, then list total forest acreage by species. Example: % non-forested, % of spruce, %lodgepole, % douglas fir/Ponderosa. (do you see where I’m going, perhaps Doug Fir will show us what percent is “low elevation”) For comparison to the whole forest, also show the above as a forestwide total. What percentage is open to snowmobiles.
#5–Percentage of “forested acreage” treated by “prescribed fire” for every year on every forest.
#6–Acres of “actual non-overlapping fuels treatment acres” (ANOFTA-??-how do they come up with those nifty sounding acronyms). Example: 1000 acres thinned followed by the same 1000 acres burned = 1000 acres. Percentage of ANOFTA “WUI” acres treated every year.
Definition of “commercial logging”: Includes sawtimber and pulp(and perhaps non-sawtimber for smaller lodgepole 7-9″ dbh).That which is sold to and/or processed by a commercial wood processing facility. Does not include individual firewood permits, pre-commercial thinning, mastication, Aspen coppicing,non-commercial post fire erosion contour falling,non-commercial post fire road ROW clearing.
There-it’s about time I got some of my tax dollars back!
THOUGHTS ON THE ABOVE:
#1–Big numbers mean nothing, only percentages lead us to perspective.
The public only understands percentages. Big numbers are a cop out.
#2–Total acres mean nothing, only forested.
#3–In reality,because of multiple entrys,the actual acres harvested is going to be smaller than the “total acres harvested reported”. For example, A commercial thinning done in 1975 may have had a shelterwood done in 2005. Conversely, I recently saw a stand that was “overstory removed” in 1950 being commercially thinned this summer. In clearcut country like Montana, I’m guessing that only 5-10% of the stands have been entered more than once-that’s why I “round down” my total acres harvested.
#4–It’s gonna be tough Sharon to find “acres thinned by size”. I’m sure the individual forests could find that with their “stand data”?? You would think the wonders of GIS would tell you. The “intermediate treatment” category is thinning.
COUPLE QUICK THOUGHTS ON MONITORING
#1–this is a planning blog. Is there no set “national” rules and protocol for Forest Monitoring. They all seem to be their own fiefdom. The “outputs” vary widely. Some show timber offered, some timber sold, some timber cut. Some don’t show them for years. Aren’t they required to do it every year? I can’t find some for even 5 years. Maybe they just don’t post everything on the internet. Maybe the past Bitteroot monitoring reports just aren’t posted? On the bright side, before the internet-no one in the public ever saw them. It truly is the information age. Much more “transparent” don’t you think.
Anyway. I talk too much. I’m taking a sabbatical.I will be reading-just not babbling-as much. I have to study for licensure in Wyoming and Montana. If you think this is boring, try Western water law and subdivision rules. I feel I’ve gotten my message out. I can’t believe that the USFS can’t tell the public how much has been logged, and how much is being logged now. If they can’t do that, then it sums up what’s wrong with this country.
Mathew, tell us about Roadless. Did the Bitterroot ever accomplish all the “restoration” they promised in the settlement? Write something for this blog. I wanna know the big deal about it. I used to think wilderness was *#%!-but I changed my mind. I used to think that all MPB would burn-but I was stimulated by others to recall many outbreaks that never burned. My own mind turned against me. We can’t lie to ourselves.
We all share a love for the woods, don’t we. In closing, I’m going to share with you the only poem this left brain-right wing mind ever wrote. A long time ago livin’ in a VW van cuttin trees in Targhee.
The river is my rhythm,
the wind my melody.
full moon is a risin,
through the pointed trees.
Sweet north breeze,
blow a message home for me.
They don’t understand,
livin down on those flatlands.
That the trees,
have never lied to me.
I have to add one more thing. Right below question #3 at the top, I’d like to insert “what percentage of the forested acreage”, on every Montana forest, is WUI.