It’s Baaack.. The Beetle-Fire-Science Fracas!

Photo by Bob Berwyn.
After some internet searching, couldn’t find more than this AP story, but I’m sure we can find the journal article itself in time.

Study ties pine beetle to severe Wash. wildfires


YAKIMA, Wash. — A new study mapping the mountain pine beetle outbreak in north-central Washington shows that infested areas were more likely to experience larger, more destructive forest fires.

The study, which was a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Forest Service, aimed to detect bark beetle infestations and to evaluate the link between them and forest fires in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.

Satellite data showed regions of the forest experiencing water and vegetation stress, and analysis tied these regions to beetle infestations. Additional review showed highly infested areas that subsequently burned had more intense forest fires than areas without infestations.

The forest has experienced severe wildfires in recent years, including the Tripod Fire, which burned on more than 273 square miles.

Now, I have argued that the whole “more/worse fires” controversy isn’t particularly relevant to real-world management decisions, as most bark beetle funding (in lodgepole country) is used on hazard trees and making defensible space around communities. But I could be looking at the world through dead lodgepole-colored glasses. However, every new journal article seems to fan the flames of controversy so here goes..

You can find more photos by Bob Berwyn (and other good information) here at the Summit County Voice.

43 thoughts on “It’s Baaack.. The Beetle-Fire-Science Fracas!”

  1. As a colleague from Oregon pointed out, just yesterday the Joint Fire Science Program publicized the Simard (2011) paper which come to the opposite conclusion.


    And as a colleague from Washington also pointed out yesterday, if NASA/FS had factored fire suppression, I think they’d find that fire suppression (and back burning), and not insects, was the prime contributing factor to the scale of the Tripod fire.

    Okanogan-Wenatchee NF has attempted to unnaturally suppress nearly every fire in northcentral Washington for decades. That means only the big ones get away. Tripod fire burned to the border of Farewell and other old burns, and then stopped.

    • Awwwww, shucks! I guess that study means we can’t log in pure stands of dead lodgepole at high elevations in National Parks and Wilderness Areas!! *smirk*

  2. At least for now, the science regarding this issue is not definitive. Also, his discussion gets complicated by the differences among historic fire return intervals in various types such as lodgepole vs. Ponderosa pine vs. Doug fir. The suppression of naturally occurring fires undoubtedly has influenced fire severity in Ponderosa pine stands where frequent low intensity fire would be the norm unlike lodgepole which is subject stand replacement fire when it naturally begins to die from beetles and other causes once it reaches maturity (at a fairly “young” age).

    Some of the Smokey Bear rhetoric in the past has contributed to this confusion by lumping all forest types together regarding the benefits/need for thinning to reduce fire severity. One of the most egregious examples I have seen was in 2003 following severe fires in Southern California when some Forest Service spokesmen suggested that lack of management was a factor in the severity of fires which burned primarily in chaparral.

    It’s hard for public affairs types to resist dumbing-down the message in order to capitalize on “teachable-moments” that occur during and right after wildfires that impact human communities.

  3. Perhaps a good study would be to interview every USFS fire incident commander and get their opinion. They seem to think it’s a fire hazard. Or wouldn’t that be “the best available science”. The trouble with litigation driven emphasis on BAS is if it hasn’t been published, then it’s never happened, and what judge listens to the common sense observations of those who’ve spent their careers getting their hands dirty.

    On a related note, Lets compare the costs to “treat” MPB killed lodgepole in Montana Vs. Colorado. Or should I say a state that still has a timber industry Vs. a state that “encouraged” it to expire.

    I was looking at a Montana State DNRC timber sale that sold last week. It salvage clearcuts MPB killed lodgepole with an avg. DBH of 9″. Pretty small stuff. And yet Montana “got payed” by the loggers a stumpage of $111/thousand board foot(MBF). Pretty high stumpage for the “great recession”(another “recession” irony is that the Montana timber industry “harvested” more USFS timber last year than in the last ten years-I thought nobody was buying it).The state will get “paid” an average of $670/acre.

    In Colorado, the USFS is “paying” loggers, under stewardship contracts, $1000/acre to cut 9″ avg. DBH MPB killed lodgepole. The logger turns arounds and “buys” the timber at $10/MBF. What he does with the wood is his problem, just get it out of the forest. Of course, most of the $1000 goes to hauling the lumber 250 miles one way to the last mill.

    A part of me thinks that the good people of Colorado, who once frankly despised logging but now claim to have just invented forestry, should be “assessed” the cost to fire proof their towns and ski areas. How about an “adopt a clearcut” program. Every landowner in Breckenridge should have their property taxes increased to pay for it. One home, one acre. Or is it time for the timber wars to be over.

    • Interviewing incident commanders might not be such a good study. “A few key sources of evidence for the manager to know about— listed here in increasing order of reliability— include anecdotes and expert judgement, retrospective studies, nonexperimental (observational) studies, and experimental manipulation … As a whole, anecdotal information should be used with a great deal of caution— or at least with rigorous peer review— to help avoid problems such as motivational bias. … [E]xpert judgement cannot replace statistically sound experiments. … Anecdotes and expert judgement alone are not recommended for evaluating management actions because of their low reliability and unknown bias.” V. Sit and B. Taylor, eds., Statistical methods for adaptive management studies. B.C. Ministry of Forests Research Branch, Victoria, B.C. Chapter 9: Marcot, B. G. 1998. Selecting appropriate statistical procedures and asking the right questions: a synthesis. Pp. 129-142)

  4. I’ve spent a lot of time around a lot of incident commanders and I believe they would all say that fire behavior depends primarily upon fuels, terrain, and weather. The Simard paper concludes that weather may be the most significant factor. Since towns like Breckenridge can’t control the weather or topography, it makes sense for them partner (as in pay part of the cost) in efforts to reduce fuels (there’s no such thing a “fire-proofing”)in and around their community (as well as insisting on appropriate building standards.)

    Yes it is time for the “timber wars to be over.” They largely are in many parts of the Southern US where locals, greens, and the timber industry can all get behind thinning of timber stands to restore ecological communities through thinning and prescribed burning. There is even support for clear-cutting when necessary to restore native longleaf pine communities or manage endangered scrub jay habitats in Florida sand pine.

    As devastating as the pine beetle situation is, it provides an opportunity for stakeholders to come together and craft a vision for what the landscape will look like once the beetles run their course. Wouldn’t it be exciting to restore some of the wet meadows that were invaded by lodgepole pine as as result of over-trapping beaver and suppressing fires?

    Sharon– I know it looks pretty ugly, but don’t you think your part of Colorado is a pretty exciting place to be right now in terms of having a populace that is willing to be engaged in forest planning issues?

  5. Yes, it is exciting for a number of reasons..I spent the week at a series of meetings so my blogging was inhibited. but I will do a post this weekend on one of these meetings and explore why things are different here and significantly more positive, than rounding up the usual suspects and having the usual discussions.

  6. Of course “weather is the most significant factor”, but do you think the consensus amongst all the incident commanders you’ve been around would be that the MPB “increases” the fire hazard. Yes or no. Especially the fire hazard in the deadfall period 15 years down the road, which is suspiciously absent from much research. Somebody must be telling the USFS hierarchy it is because I’ve read every USFS “MPB” salvage EA and EIS in Colorado and Montana, and reducing fire hazard is pretty prominent in the “purpose and need” and “fuels” section. I’m sure nobody here thinks its just an excuse to “get out the cut” for a “big timber” that no longer exists.

    I spent Christmas reading about Sen. Bingaman’s pet project in New Mexico called the “Jemez Mountain Collaborative”. Sen. Bingaman runs the commitee that wouldn’t let Sen. Tester’s (MT) bill out of committee because of concerns about a “harvest mandate”. The Jemez collaborative proposes to log 9,000 acres/year. Heck, Tester’s revised bill only proposed 5000. That’s a 6 times increase on the Santa Fe NF. For the last 10 years the SFNF has harvested an avg. of 3 MMBF/yr. The “collaborative” proposes a harvest of 25MMBF. That’s slightly less than what was harvested during the 80’s! Santa Fe county gave Obama 76% of the vote. The WildEarth Gaurdians have endorsed it! Once again, it appears that the only place you can radically increase timber harvest is where the majority of the locals consider themselves environmentalists.

    Of course there’s no timber industry left. I agree the next five years are going to be exiting. But the “buzz phrase” isn’t going to be litigation, it’s going to be “attracting infrastructure”. How to “gaurentee supply” is the buzz phrase I’ve heard from potential investors. By the way, the WE Gaurdians filed a lawsuit in June asking for an injuction on further projects until the USFS analizes the Mex. spotted owl. Doesn’t sound like a good way to attract investors to me.

    I think from looking at the GAO report on litigation it’s pretty obvious that the “timber wars” are still going on in Montana. I acknowledge and celebrate the fact that “timber sold” in the Northern region is twice what it was two years ago. As I said above, every bit of that was harvested in the middle of the great recession(which ought to tell you a little about the supply and demand situation). Now, the Helena Nat. Forest is proposing to radically increase it’s harvest of MPB killed timber. Within the next two years they plan on having decision notices for 35,000 acres of harvest.Thats up from a 10 year average of 700ac./yr. When all those projects come on line, we’ll see if the “timber wars” are over in Montana.

  7. Hazard is a tricky term that is often misused. I think that most ICs (and I) would agree that the presence of a lot of dead trees usually means that wildfires are likely to burn with greater intensity and be harder to suppress.

    I remain convinced that the key to widespread support for increased management is collaborative approaches that are geared towards using timber harvest as a tool, not an end in itself, to accomplish a shared vision for desired ecological conditions on a landscape. When the “purpose and need” is to capture economic benefit, support dwindles. I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter whether or not I think that it may be perfectly legitimate to harvest trees in order to make products, many folks think that “commercial” timber harvest is inherently bad and are willing to litigate that position. They certainly have plenty of bad examples from the past to point to to make their case.

  8. I’m glad the timber wars are over in the South. Being from the West, I always dismissed the USFS lands in the east as scrubby lands abandoned in the 30’s. Then awhile back I looked at “cut and sold” reports. You guys are timber beasts. I haven’t added up the numbers yet,but I would venture a guess that the USFS cuts more timber east of Kansas than they do west of Kansas. Even though you have what, a quarter the acreage(don’t quote me on any of this)?

    But how controversial was timber harvest in the south? Alabama harvests what, 2 billion board feet/year. And your little pissant national forest supplys 1% of that. The USFS only makes up 3% of forested acreage and it’s hailed as a great collaboration? I doubt industry even noticed it. You probably have to beg them to come in and thin USFS. I doubt “halving” the USFS harvest was even noticed much less seen as a traumatic issue as out West where the USFS owns 80% of the forest land.

    Do you think environmentalists went too far? Especially as it relates to Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona? Do you think any enviro in those states would admit to going to far? They’re paying for it now. We are all paying a much much higher cost to fire proof their forests since they shut down the timber industry in those states.

    I have no interest in shouting “I told you so”. It just bothers me that when the history books are written, there will be no mention of it. Where is the hard hitting investigative reporting about WHY it costs so much. I guess the time for finger pointing is over, especially if you might have to point it at yourself. Will there be no self critism? No speculation that gee, maybe it would have been nice to have a timber industry now? Maybe we went to far? Mendacity.

    I do think it’s unfair that the “environmentalist forests” get a “waivier from NEPA litigation” while Montana still struggles with it. It’s unfair that EA’s and EIS’s in these enviro forests are half the size of Montana’s. There’s no lawsuit proofing. Lets not be naive.It would be great academia research to compare the two. There’s no shortage of timber being “offered for sale” in Colorado.There will be no shortage in New Mexico. The fly in the ointment now will be “infrastructure”. Keep your eye on that ball. Let’s see if the sword of NEPA litigation will still hang above investors heads.

    Hey, either way I win. If the sawmills and OSB mills are built and the tens of thousands of acres are thinned every year and the great wildfires sweep through and spare those forests for all to see-then Forestry wins. And if they don’t get built in five years when the great wildfires blow through and a frustrated public and Senator Bingaman demands NEPA reform-than forestry wins.

  9. Well, the Sierra Club STILL clings to their quixotic quests of “eliminating timber sales on public lands”. That was spelled out as recently as the comments on the new Planning Rule. So, expect MORE litigation where infrastructure still exists.

  10. Wouldn’t it be nice for everyone (or most everyone) in Montana to win? Healthy ecosystems, healthy local economies, fire-safe (not fire-proof) communities, fewer lawsuits. Of course we’ll have to move beyond finger pointing and hand wringing about what is or isn’t “fair”.

  11. Wouldn’t it be nice if people would actually acknowledge that in Montana:

    1) Lawsuits and appeals of timber sales are actually down quite dramatically over the past 10 years.

    2) The Forest Service in Montana has more timber volume under contract to loggers/mills than at any point in the past decade, and much more in the pipeline.

    3) That’s we’re not really logging any of the IRA’s in Montana anymore and that the over all health of these roadless ecosystems is quite good. And that critical habitat has been established for bull trout and will be established soon for Canada Lynx

    4) That the Forest Service, state, local gov’t, conservationists, etc have all worked together quite well to ensure that bona-fide fuel reduction work around homes and communities takes place.

    5) That the Forest Service, state, local gov’t, conservationists, etc have worked together to identify lots of bona-fide watershed restoration work that has either taken place, or will take place once federal funds become available (think the $2 trillion spent invading Iraq/Afgan might have been better spent?)

    It just gets pretty old for us to be in the midst of potentially the worst economic crisis of its kind the world has ever known (100% caused by over-development, over-consumption and “free” credit) and to see some people still blaming enviros because we’re not logging enough…while at the same time completely ignoring all the very real steps the environmental movement has taken over the past decade to try work together with a variety of interests on public lands management and policy. A little more accuracy and honesty of the situation would be appreciated. Thanks.

  12. Well said, Matthew.

    I am most familiar with places such as Mississippi and Alabama where many environmentalists, including Sierra Clubbers, are supportive of timber sales as tools when that is an appropriate and efficient means to accomplishing shared objectives for restoration and maintenance of ecosystems and/or protection of human communities. I’m sure that’s true in other places across the country as well.

    I think it would be productive to focus on these positive examples and figure out ways to spread them to places that are currently mired in old contentious ways of doing business.

    I’m trying hard to stay optimistic in the midst of the current rush to blame all our economic woes on:
    1. The size of the federal government.
    2. Burdensome and “silly” federal regulations.
    3. Liberals, enviros, and climate-change believers.
    4. Over-paid federal employees.
    5. Etc.

    Whoops, I was about to go into a rant about how money from corporate interests such as the Koch Brothers and the National Chamber of Commerce has been funneled into think-tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and co-opted university researchers while media outlets such as Fox News have confused and incited the American public through disinformation. But that just elevates my blood pressure.I’m much happier when I focus on the positive trends such as the improving situation you describe in Montana!

  13. It’s hopeful that some Sierra Clubbers don’t agree with the National ironclad policy of eliminating timber sales on public land. I’d bet that 90% of salvage sales are litigated, still. As one southern eco-lawyer said to the Forest Service, “Hey, it’s just business!”

  14. Larry/Fotoware: Please provide evidence and documentation to support your claim that “I’d bet that 90% of salvage sales are litigated.” None of the reports coming from the GAO or other indy sources even come close to this figure. Thanks.

  15. Fotoware:
    I would also be curious to know what kind of rationale for the need to salvage was used in the instances that were appealed. Have you looked at any of the NEPA documents?

    Some instances I’m familiar with which weren’t appealed or litigated:

    1. When I worked on the Mendocino National Forest we successfully salvaged a portion of the area burned by the Spanish Fire in 2003. This was accomplished by meeting in the field with interested parties, assessing burn severity andrisk of erosion,and need for site preparation to reestablish vegetation and then limiting salvage to just several hundred burned acres that really needed some treatment. In retrospect, I’m not sure that even this limited salvage was necessary ecologically or silviculturally but we were able to make a convincing case that we could do it without causing further damage and that it was an opportunity to address some serious erosion concerns.

    2. Following the hurricanes of 2005, numerous salvage sales were completed in Texas and Mississippi without an appeal or suit. This was accomplished by assessing the need for ecological restoration, then getting consensus that since prescribed burning was critical for those systems and that there was now excessive fuel on the ground that needed to be removed before burning could resume, then salvage was the cheapest and fastest way to address those concerns.

    One reason for appeals in the past has sometime been a failure to make a strong case that salvage is needed to restore ecological conditions. I happen to think that salvage can sometimes be appropriate just to capture some products before they rot, but only when it can be shown that this will be ecologically benign. Preferably though, salvage should just be another tool to produce desired conditions on a landscape.


    Just a few articles describing litigation of salvage sales. In my own experiences, I’ve worked on many salvage sale projects, including high profile controversial projects, which had either the threat of litigation, or actual litigation enjoined. I worked on the Biscuit Fire, fires on the Sequoia NF, an Allegheny NF hardwood project, many Bitterroot NF salvage sales, Tahoe Basin insect salvage projects, major insect salvage projects on the Eldorado, The A-Rock fire salvage project on the Stanislaus, many Tahoe NF salvage projects. the Power fire salvage project on the Eldorado NF, the HUGE Rabbit Creek Fire salavge on the Boise NF, the Plumas NF Moonlight Fire salvage projects, a Shasta-Trinity fire salvage project, and the Plumas NF Storrie Fire salvage project. People like Chad Hanson file suit against EVERY northern California salvage project, on behalf of black-backed woodpeckers, which are merely a “species of concern”. In my 20 years of working on salvage projects, there are a tiny handful of projects that weren’t litigated. Some of those weren’t litigated solely because the Forest Service acted quicker than the eco’s could put their suit together.

    I put it to you, Matt, to come up with salvage projects that had ZERO litigation against them, and no intended litigation that failed, including injunction attempts and appeals. I’ve seen CBD appeals that were form letters with the wrong sales filled in the blanks.

  17. Larry H/Fotoware: You previously stated “I’d bet that 90% of salvage sales are litigated, still.”

    I asked you to provide evidence and documentation to support your claim. And you simple paste a few articles and websites? That doesn’t cut it Larry. If you are going to make claims based on a fuzzy recollection of your anecdotal evidence I’m going to call you out every time. Can we at least bracket these discussions with reality? Thanks.

  18. You can choose to not believe me Matt but, you are in the minority here. You can call me a liar but that only hurts your cause. You can fling insults but the reality doesn’t change. I asked you to provide evidence specifically referring to salvage sales and you have provided nothing. I don’t care if you believe me, as I am NOT lying. I have actual experience on the ground on all those projects.

  19. Larry H/Fotoware:

    Larry H/Fotoware: This will be my final attempt to try and get you to provide documentation for your statement. Again, you said, “I’d bet that 90% of salvage sales are litigated, still.”

    I asked you to provide evidence and documentation to support your claim. You have been unable to do that. For the record, I never called you a liar. I also fail to see how you making a claim (that 90% of salvage sales are litigated, still [as in currently]) and failing to back it up with actual evidence or a study hurts my cause? Seriously, Larry. If you are going to make statements of fact here on this website, expect to back them up. When you make a claim that currently 90% of salvage sales are litigated, and then offer some perspective from 20 years ago, or a few websites, that just doesn’t cut it. If you take offense at being called out, perhaps you should make certain what you are saying can be verified. Thanks.

  20. Jim- you said

    “I remain convinced that the key to widespread support for increased management is collaborative approaches that are geared towards using timber harvest as a tool, not an end in itself, to accomplish a shared vision for desired ecological conditions on a landscape. When the “purpose and need” is to capture economic benefit, support dwindles.”

    That is true, but there is another problem- when some people think cutting trees IS a tool to make trees more able to fight off insect attacks, or to reduce fuels, some people still don’t like it, and appeal and litigate. So it may not be so “clearcut”, so to speak. For example, we recently had what I call a “neighbor-lawyer” case where an individual litigated a project intended for fuel treatment (the case on the Huron- Manistee is another of these) . In Colorado, at least,given the lack of industry, it is pretty clear the FS is not designing projects with timber harvest as an end in itself.

    Also, a reader alerted me to this paper from from the 4th international fire ecology congress on the Tripod fire. Thank you!

    Derek- I would like to do exactly what you said and interview suppression folks on this subject. We’d either need a volunteer grad student or some funding. I have some ideas as to grant programs where a well-designed study along these lines could get funding, but don’t have time to write a proposal.

  21. Derek, Well, for starters, despite what you and some other people have claimed, I was never responsible for very much timber sale litigation anyway. But, hey, nothing like being blamed for something you’re not actually responsible for, right?

    I’d estimate that I’ve been responsible for about 10 timber sale lawsuits over my 16 years of focusing on national forest management. Our organization also hasn’t filed a new lawsuit in about 3 years. One of the reason is a lack of resources and expertise to do this type of work.

    Another reason, which again, people like Derek and some others don’t seem to acknowledge, is that our organization (for our limited size and scope) has been fairly involved with various collaborative efforts working with the agency and other stakeholders. I believe that national forest management has been generally headed in a better direction for a few years now, so many of the issues we were bringing up on appeal or in litigation have either been solved, or we’re trying to work them out in other ways.

    Another aspect is that about 4 years ago I saw the writing on the way as far as the crash of the economy, housing industry, etc. It was clear that the impending crash of the economy would result in less building, less consumption, etc. The fact that US lumber consumption is down 50% since 2005 and new home construction is down 70% since 2005 provides some indication that our forests aren’t facing the same exact pressures they once were. A new report also just showed that North American consumption of printed paper (newspaper, books, mags, etc) is down 33% over the past decade. I’ve seen examples of where US oil consumption is also down almost 10% because of the economy. Hope this helps, Derek. Thanks.

  22. What do you think would happen if the standard “recovery of economic resources” WASN’T included in the project documents?!?!? Eco-groups simply don’t believe the claims that salvage sales have ecological recovery aspects. Just look at the Biscuit hubbub against harvesting trees which were completely dead. I saw a more recent picture of a high-profile cutting unit I worked in, marking “leave snags”. The stand is now choked with dead trees, victims of barkbeetles and cambium scorch. The insect infestation has also crossed the old fireline/proprty line and the private property has significant mortality.

    The key is that eco’s hold these projects hostage, demanding collaboration and satisfaction, otherwise they will litigate in the “not-one-stick” mode, like on the Biscuit. Basically, it is extortion, saying that you MUST satisfy us, or ELSE! In Jim’s example, it seems that the locals wanted action, and were willing to give up some issues in order to expedite action. The difference in the West is that locals don’t seek compromise. They do not like the three “C-words”…


    Chad Hanson’s case is merely about profitable litigation, because the proof of “no ecological damage” is more fuzzy. Judges always side with stopping short term damage at the expense of very longterm damage they don’t understand.

  23. Sharon–

    I’ll admit that some people are just opposed to harvesting, period. We need to examine why they feel that way. One possible reason is that they are reacting to some of the simplistic statements sometimes made in the past about the need to thin or clearcut or salvage in forest types where the ecological basis for these treatments can’t always be demonstrated.

    It’s much more straight-forward in the fire-maintained pine systems of the South where the majority of plant and animal species that are now rare became so due to fire suppression and type-conversion. If you want red-cockaded woodpeckers, plant pine (preferably longleaf), thin them when they get too dense, and burn the stands frequently.

    On the other hand, lodgepole doesn’t require thinning or burning to maintain conditions within the historic range of natural variability and it is completely “natural” for it to die and burn up when it gets to be 80 years old. We can make other observations about forest in the NW or the Intermountain region and elsewhere.

    Unfortunately these concepts are too complex and multi-faceted to debate intelligently with most Americans (remember only about 40% of Americans believe in evolution). On the the hand, many of the folks who appeal and litigate timber harvest projects are usually much better informed. They will have to be convinced with good science that salvage, for example, in lodgepole pine is the best way to produce desired ecosystem conditions (after agreeing on what those conditions are) and/or is necessary to protect human communities.

  24. This has been an interesting conversation. Thanks to everybody. A few observations on some of what has been said (hope I didn’t misquote anyone):

    “In my 20 years of working on salvage projects, there are a tiny handful of projects that weren’t litigated”

    Maybe after 20 years of pursing something unsuccessfully, it’s time for a different approach that might be more successful.

    “I put it to you, Matt, to come up with salvage projects that had ZERO litigation against them, and no intended litigation that failed, including injunction attempts and appeals.”
    “It appears that the only place you can radically increase timber harvest is where the majority of the locals consider themselves environmentalists.”

    I once again refer you to the South, specifically Mississippi, not exactly a bastion of environmentalism, after Hurricane Katrina. From a FS paper
    found at “Through salvage sales, hazardous fuel removal was completed on 99,000 acres. Final salvage volume (218 MMBF) harvested. . .”

    “The key is that eco’s hold these projects hostage, demanding collaboration. . .”

    What a great thing— people who care enough about their national forests to demand to be involved in their management. Managers should pursue collaboration as a model for decision-making, not loath it as a burden.

    “I do think it’s unfair that the “environmentalist forests” get a “waivier from NEPA litigation” while Montana still struggles with it. It’s unfair that EA’s and EIS’s in these enviro forests are half the size of Montana’s.”

    Unfair, perhaps. But also reality. We should be asking why. Since hand-wringing won’t change anything, let’s learn from this and move ahead.

  25. I’m gonna make a few comments and wrap this up too.

    We’ve all heard rhetoric that litigation is only necessary to make the USFS uphold the “law” and use the “best science”.Well, since there is no more litigation in Colorado, New Mexico, or Arizona-that must mean the USFS is following the “law” there. Since there is still litigation in Montana, that must mean the USFS there is not following the “law”. I’d say the USFS ought to start moving some people around then.

    And yet, here’s the paradox and the fallacy of that ideology. Last night I was looking at a 360 page DEIS for a timber sale(project)in Montana that would “thin”(and some regen)5,000 acres. I’ve mentioned before about an EA for a 5000 acre MPB salvage clearcut in Colorado that ran to 57 pages. Now, how can it be the place(Colorado) that is following the law has “rubber stamped” an EA, and yet the place that supposedly isn’t following the law produces this elaborate EIS?

    It has nothing to do with following the law does it. It has to do with the “enviro forests” wanting to streamline the process and get “out the cut” to fire proof their forests. Sounds to me like the “new boss is the same as the old boss”. Mendacity (I’ve always wanted to use that word ever since Burl Ives did!)Clarity of thought.

    Fotoware: Doesn’t “salvage logging” have it roots in the great Tillamook burn? Didn’t it reburn like three times. I read that 30% of the great 1910 burns in Montana reburned. When you look at “past fire” maps in these Montana EIS’s, it’s pretty evident. We’ll see if the Bisquit fire reburns.

    “Some folks think commercial harvest is bad and will litigate”. If they are opposed to commercial then it’s not about the ecology, it’s about some other ideology.

    Ecology is a philosophy trying to be a science. Is sociology even a part of ecology? Ecology is happy when a forest burns and extirpirates bull trout, and it’s happy when a forest doesn’t burn. Ecology can do no wrong to itself. Relying solely on ecology moves the USFS away from sociology.

    Mathew, I’m glad you’re not litigating. It hasn’t been lost on me. I’ve been wanting to ask you for a year now. I think the “smart” grant money will be flowing to those groups who stop litigating. I think you’re the one to steer the future of Montana environmentalism towards what Mr. Fenwood envisions. I’d like to see you move beyond endorsing the current “benevolent token timber harvest” coming off the USFS. C’mon, the Lolo is logging 1.3% a decade.

    The whole point of my “percentage based perspective” is so you will understand that you can have your roadless and the majority of Montanans can have their timber harvest. Tester’s plan would have logged 2.5% of the forested/decade. That’s 25% in a 100 years! The BDNF is what, 60% roadless? Only 25% of the “roaded” acreage was logged in 50 years. There’s plenty within the roaded! Why would anybody want to log in roadless? It’s not logical captain.

    I disagree with your prediction that timber use will never recover. Certainly you’ve heard of China. Hell I’m buying Weyerhauser now. How do you spell “levittown” in Chinese? China has no forest. They’re gonna be using lotsa wood. Worldwide lumber consumption ain’t gonna go down. Soon the Enviro establishment will be condemning the ecological disaster. But then, if you are going to condemn the Chinese for wanting to live like you, then shouldn’t you choose to live like they do now?

    Well, that’s enough. I’m tired and the codeine glow is coming over me.

  26. Derek: Could you please provide us with the name of the Montana timber sale you describe above [ie “360 page DEIS for a timber sale(project)in Montana that would “thin”(and some regen)5,000 acres”]?

    RE: China and lumber

    It’s worth pointing out that, according to this article, China may have as many as 64 million empty homes. Think about that: 64,000,000 empty homes! Can you say over-development, over-consumption and unsustainable practices?

    See: “The ghost towns of China: Amazing satellite images show cities meant to be home to millions lying deserted”

    I’d also like to point out that Canada, Russia and New Zealand are already major lumber exporters to China. Not sure the US can (or should) compete with timber-rich Canada and Russia. And most all of that NZ lumber comes from quick growing plantations, as our organization (then called Native Forest Network) worked throughout the 90s with NZ activists to successfully end native forest/old-growth logging on NZ’s public lands.

    Since this is a blog devoted to national forest management and planning, I’m also not sure we should be logging America’s national forests for export to China so that China and their billion plus people can over-develop, just like we did. Seriously, is this the USA or the Congo? There’s also a little matter of a current US ban on the export of raw logs from federal public lands.

  27. Sorry, Jim, but your link doesn’t describe the situation very much. What did the Forest Service give up in exchange for the lack of litigation? What did the eco-groups demand in order for the projects to go onward? Surely there was some haggling and the threat of litigation was right there in the back pocket of the eco-groups as a blunt instrument of compliance. The Forest Service was in a terrible bargaining position, with no chance of doing what they really wanted to do. Also, before you stated that the Forest Service cut 2 BILLION board feet of timber, and now you’re saying they cut only 218 MILLION board feet. How can we believe what you are telling us?

    If such a buildup of fuels is a critical issue for a place that gets ample rainfall over the enire year, why is it not a problem for the entire west, where dry summers are the norm?

    To Derek, the Biscuit Fire was also a partial re-burn. The Silver Fire burned during the “Siege of 1987” near Grants Pass, and the fire intensity and resultant damages were noticably increased in the unsalvaged portions. I’m mulling over an essay on the evolution of salvage logging from the 70’s to today, as I have seen in my long journey. It sure seems like the “moving the goalpost” issues continue to impact fire recovery projects, today.

  28. Fotoware,

    You said: “What did the Forest Service give up in exchange for the lack of litigation? What did the eco-groups demand in order for the projects to go onward? Surely there was some haggling and the threat of litigation was right there in the back pocket of the eco-groups as a blunt instrument of compliance. The Forest Service was in a terrible bargaining position, with no chance of doing what they really wanted to do.”

    Actually, from what I saw, the Forest service didn’t give up anything and pretty much did “what it wanted to do.” Of course, some sensitive and hard to access sites were not salvaged. This was not really an issue since there so much timber down, not all of it could be sold in a reasonable time and some couldn’t be gotten out without causing more harm than good. There was no desire on the part of the Forest to salvage everything. I’m sure there was “haggling”, but that’s what collaboration is all about. The Forest Service was actually in a great position– the enviros wanted the downed wood removed expeditiously so the prescribed burning program could resume and the timber industry wanted to buy the wood. Sure there’s always a possibility of litigation, but in this case, nobody felt the need to challenge actions for which there was widespread support. Sorry that I don’t have a document that better describes the whole process.

    You said: “Also, before you stated that the Forest Service cut 2 BILLION board feet of timber, and now you’re saying they cut only 218 MILLION board feet. How can we believe what you are telling us?”

    You can believe me because I didn’t say any such thing. That was a comment from Derek who said “Alabama harvests what, 2 billion board feet/year.” I assume he was referring to the entire state. This had nothing to do with the 218 million BF salvage volume figure that I quoted from the FS report. If you doubt my version of what happened in Mississippi, contact somebody in the R8 Timber shop for their take. I know that Roger Williams, retired Director and former R6 timber beast, was pretty darn happy about how it went. The National Association of Forest Service Retirees thought it went pretty well also. See for a story on their presentation of the McGuire Award to the Forest.

    You said; “If such a buildup of fuels is a critical issue for a place that gets ample rainfall over the entire year, why is it not a problem for the entire west, where dry summers are the norm?”

    The extreme build-up of blown-down fuels in Mississippi as a result of Hurricane Katrina is not the kind of situation occurring in most of the West. As an ecologist and former firefighter, I do believe, though, that lack of fire and the resultant fuel build-up is a problem in any timber type that is adapted to short-interval, low-intensity fire. That would include most of the southern pine types and western types such as Ponderosa pine. A long history of fire-suppression has moved many acres of these types to well outside the historic range of conditions. It’s not a problem in the “entire West”, however. Management of lodgepole pine, for example, cannot be accomplished with one simple prescription for all stands. Refer to for a discussion of some of the complexities.

  29. I did see that 2 billion figure from you in a thread many weeks ago. I did assume it was a typo and I asked for clarification, stating that it didn’t look like there was that kind of logged volume on the DeSoto. Now, I did see the heavy hand on the private ground, though so, I thought I would give you the benefit of the doubt. It makes sense to me now, that “only” 218 million board feet was salvaged. Maybe Derek also saw your typo, and that also makes sense? Maybe I didn’t see the concentrated impacts of fallen timber but, overall, it didn’t look like the RD was “blitzed”. Indeed, some of the cutover areas looked more thinned, than anything. That being said, bravo to the reaction time and plans. It looks as good as anyone can expect.

    I also got a chance to see their prescibed fire program in action and was impressed by how well-behaved the fires were. They seem to know their humidity levels and are able to keep the fires within prescription pretty easily.

    I do have pictures of the extreme fuels buildups, here in the west. These areas cannot be safely burned under prescribed fire, and those areas will end up as vaporized wood. The Tahoe Basin, for example, lost both pines and firs in 1989-1993, to bark beetles (different ones, of course). Some estimates put the tree loss at 1 out of every 4 merchantable trees. I also have pictures of that carnage. Probably about two thirds of those dead trees didn’t get salvaged due to the desire of eco-groups “to let them recover”, despite the fact that the trees were “brain-dead” and “red-dead”. Some residents actually enjoyed their new lake views, after they paid through the nose for tree services.

    Again, my beef is not with the high elevation pure lodgepole stands. It is where the lodgepoles have been allowed to invade into the mixed conifer stands where the biodiversity will be significantly altered for decades to come. Is it in anyone’s interest to allow stand conversions over to pure lodgepoles?!? Because that is what is and what will be happening in the mixed conifer stands, where fire suppression has done its dirty work.

    In fact, prescribed fire in the Rockies, as well as in other dry forests, is not preferred for fuels treatments. “Management wildfires”, allowed to burn for weeks on end, is currently in vogue, as liability issues come up more, and more, and more. If the Forest Service starts a prescribed burn, and it gets away, the lawsuits will fly and the monetary damages severe. Yes, the “entire west” is, indeed, at high risk. When fires start in the lower elevations, they can gain up a big head of steam, making their own weather, spotting ahead for miles, resulting in fire storms that burn everything in their paths.

    How many millions of acres will burn during the next ultra-dry fire season?
    10 million acres?
    12 million acres?!?
    15 million acres?!?!?!
    20 million acres?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    It’s gonna be really, REALLY bad!

  30. Sure Mathew. The Lolo sale is the “Cedar-Thom”. It thins 4500 acres and runs to 300 pages, not 360 as I stated above.(I don’t count appendices when I compare projects). I’ll bet you were a part of the collaboration. perhaps you can share with us some insights. here’s a link to the project.

    If anyone cares to compare the two projects, here’s a link to the “little Snake timber sale” EA on the Medicine Bow NF. It too “salvage clearcuts” 4500 acres and runs to 68 pages. (the 57 pages mentioned above was another sale)

    The “North Butte salvage sale” on the Beaverhead Deerlodge, which is also a MPB EA, runs to 160 pages for 400 acres! Here’s a link to that one.

    Sharon, maybe you can find a “Grad” student to compare apples to apples. It’s obvious when comparing that EA and EIS’s on forests that aren’t litigated are nothing compared to ones that are on forests that are litigated.Maybe the GAO ought to compare them. And I thought it was about following the law.

    238 MMBF of salvage in Mississippi? Wow. I am impressed. Try that in Montana Jim.

    Good point about China Mathew. I read that article awhile back. I don’t share your pessimism about the economy.

  31. Derek, Ok, so we’re talking about the Cedar-Thom Draft EIS on the Lolo National Forest. I’m quite familiar with this project, as my organization (and others like the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited) has been involved with in since its inception. I myself have only been on one of the official FS Field Trips, but we had Cameron very involved in the beginning and Jake’s been quite active on this project over the past year.

    Here is how Derek has previously described this Cedar-Thom project:

    “Last night I was looking at a 360 page DEIS for a timber sale(project)in Montana that would “thin”(and some regen)5,000 acres.” and “It thins 4500 acres and runs to 300 pages, not 360 as I stated above.”

    Unfortunately, Derek isn’t even close to giving the entire story here. He wants to make it seem like 300 pages is a lot for “only” a 4,500 acre “thinning” project, but that’s not even close to what this proposed project all entails.

    Again, I hate to keep harping on this issue with some of what Derek and Larry/Fotoware bring up in this blog, but if we are going to make comparisons, or use certain projects as an example of something, then we must ensure accuracy.

    Just so everyone can see it with their own eyes what follows below is how the US Forest Service, in its own official DEIS document, is describing the Cedar-Thom project, which Derek has only described as a “thinning” project for about 4,500 to 5,000 acres. As you can clearly see below, this project involved considerable more than just some “thinning.” The fact of the matter is that this project is as much about watershed restoration, recreation management, weed management, etc as it is about logging or “thinning.”

    So, Derek, perhaps some of this information below will help you realize why the DEIS is 300 pages. From where I’m sitting, 300 pages for the Forest Service to analysis all of this type of work really isn’t too much red-tape at all. Thanks.

    According to the Lolo National Forest’s own DEIS, Alternative 2 (the agency’s Modified proposed action) includes:

    • mechanical treatments on 6,808 acres;
    • prescribed burning on 10,733 acres;
    • aquatic restoration activities (Up-size 10 road culverts, stream rehabilitation, and riparian planting);
    • new road construction, some road decommissioning, storage and maintenance;
    • weed treatments along roadways; and
    • recreation enhancements, including development of an ATV route.
    • Some of the timber harvest would take place in Inventoried Roadless Areas,
    • Some of the timber harvest would take place within existing old growth stands.

    Below, the Forest Service talks about the four key issues that were brought up by the public:

    “Public involvement and internal scoping lead to the identification of four key issues that were considered in the design of alternatives.

    Water Quality and Fisheries
    Cedar Creek is identified as a priority bull trout watershed (INFISH 1995). Proposed activities, including timber harvest, road associated activities, and stream rehabilitation work, may affect water quality and aquatic habitat in both the short and long-term.

    Inventoried Roadless Area
    Approximately 47 percent of the National Forest System lands within the Cedar-Thom project area are within Inventoried Roadless Areas (IRAs). Some areas within the IRA have existing roads and have had past timber harvest and the rest is undeveloped. Management activities within Inventoried Roadless Areas are controversial with some members of the public regardless of the existing condition of the IRA. There is also a concern that management activities could affect the roadless character of the IRA and make the area less suitable for wilderness classification in the future.

    Old Growth
    Proposed timber harvest and prescribed burning could affect the quantity and quality of old growth forest and the habitat it provides for associated wildlife species.

    Wildlife Security
    There is a concern that proposed management activities including ATV route development, road construction and subsequent use, and timber harvest could reduce deer and elk security.”

    Next, this is more specific information about what the Cedar-Thom project would involved. The following work is common to all three of the Forest Service’s action-alternatives, with Alternative 2 also including timber harvest in IRA’s and within Old-Growth stands.

    Weed Treatments
    Herbicide treatment of weeds along roadsides where needed on up to 140 miles of haul routes, new road construction, and drivable road segments to be stored or decommissioned.

    Recreation Enhancements
    Construct new Thompson Creek trailhead about a mile down the road from the existing trailhead.
    There is insufficient stock trailer parking at the existing trailhead and trail-users have been parking
    on private land. Change the travel management designation on approximately 18.4 miles of the following trails to non-motorized use only:
    o LostLakeTrail#112
    o IllinoisPeakTrail#169
    o OregonLakesTrail#109
    o BonanzaLakeTrail#616
    o ThompsonCreekTrail#173
    o MontrealGulchTrail#163
    o CedarCreekDrivewayTrail#170

    These trails are currently designated as open to motorcycle use for a portion of their length and then are closed to motorized use on the remainder of their length because they enter or provide access to an area where motorized use is prohibited by the Lolo National Forest Plan. This situation causes confusion for the public and the Forest Service, which makes management very difficult.

    Construct new non-motorized trail from Mink Peak to Lost Lake (1 mile). There currently is a user-created motorized trail in this area where the Forest Plan prohibits motorized use. The new trail would be relocated to avoid riparian and other sensitive areas and the user-created trail would be closed and rehabilitated.

    Improve the Oregon Lakes trailhead to accommodate vehicle parking and turn-around needs.

    Watershed Restoration Projects
    • Up-size 10 road culverts to improve stream flow and/or fish passage

    • Replace ford on Snowshoe Gulch (Road 388) with appropriate structure (either a culvert or bridge –
    final determination of specific structure would be made at the time of engineering design)

    • Rehabilitate selected stream segments on California Gulch, Lost Creek, and Oregon Gulch that
    have been affected by past placer mining to accelerate the recovery process.

    o CaliforniaGulch:The purpose of this project is to rehabilitate several areas of California Gulch that have been impacted by an old mining road and historic mining activities in the stream. The
    stream currently runs down the existing road/trail in several locations and an old log crib dam has caused stream aggradation and loss of complex fish habitat. The project would involve removal of a wooden box culvert that is failing, along with rehabilitation of the stream for approximately 100 feet, installation of waterbars along the road/trail, and removal of a log crib dam and rehabilitation of the stream at this site.

    o Lost Creek: The purpose of this project is to rehabilitate approximately 1000 feet of Lost Creek that has been historically affected by placer mining activities. The stream channel has been moved over to one side of the valley bottom and channelized, leaving no connection to the floodplain. Lower in the affected reach, rock piles from placer mining located in the floodplain also constrict the channel. The reach is lacking large woody debris to create pools and overstory vegetation to provide shading and hiding cover for fish. This rehabilitation would involve the removal of placer mining rock piles that constrict the channel and floodplains, realignment of the channel where it has historically been moved to allow for floodplain connectivity, reestablishment of natural channel and floodplain dimensions, installation of large woody debris structures to allow for fish habitat, as well as stability, and planting of coniferous and other riparian vegetation.

    o Oregon Gulch (Big Flat Area): The purpose of this project is to reestablish a floodplain and plant riparian vegetation along approximately 200 feet of Oregon Gulch where placer mining rock piles are constricting the natural channel and floodplain. The project would move the rock piles away from the stream channel to construct a small floodplain for approximately 200-300 feet. Riparian vegetation would then be planted along the newly constructed floodplain to help stabilize the area. Several large trees from the area would be placed strategically in Oregon Gulch in the area of disturbance to help create fish habitat through this reach.

    • Remove about a 100-foot segment of the historic Amador railroad grade that infringes on Cedar Creek. The purpose of this project is to remove a portion of the railroad grade that is currently eroding and at risk of failure into the creek. The project would use an excavator to remove approximately 100 feet of the grade, establish a floodplain bench, install several rootwads or a woody debris jam to deflect water away from the bank and plant riparian vegetation to promote bank stability and overhead cover for fish.

    • Plant riparian vegetation along the Cedar Creek road (#320) where the road is located near the stream. The purpose of this project is to provide stability at several rip-rapped bank locations along the Cedar Creek road. A stinger (a long pointed attachment to an excavator) would be used to plant riparian vegetation such as alder, willow, wild rose, etc. in between the pieces of rip-rap to promote plant growth in these areas. Once plants begin to grow, their roots would provide stability and the plants would provide shade and overhead cover for fish.

    • Remove a failing culvert on a non-system road in Mary Ann Gulch.
    • Rehabilitate the ford crossing on Cedar Creek in association with the decommissioning of Road
    37237 (Cayuse Saddle road).

    Road Management
    Install a gate on Road 7823 (Mary Ann Gulch) at the junction with the Cedar Creek road (#320).
    This action would close the entire Mary Ann Gulch road (1.9 miles) to wheeled motorized vehicle traffic yearlong and would restrict snowmobiles to travel from October 15 to December 1 (Forest Travel Plan map designation would be a “B” restriction). Currently, the Lolo National Forest Travel Plan map code changes from OPEN to a B restriction at milepost 0.8. However, there is no physical closure device in place and the road functions as an open road. This closure is proposed to maintain elk security.

  32. I only count “commercial” treatments. Since my emphasis is how much timber makes it to the mill-I don’t care about pre-commercial thinning of plantations. Within the IRA of Cedar-Thom the following activities are proposed. 15 miles of “road” decomissioning, 5 miles “road” storage, 15 miles of “road Maintenance”. In the area of logging proposed in the IRA, it looks like around 25% has been clearcut logged. I won’t go off on the “fraud” of roads in a roadless area.

    I would like your insights on the “Cedar-Thom collaborative group” Mathew. How many members? Can you list the members. Do you think it was succesfull? Did you feel included? If so, would you abide by it’s recommendations? The “proposed action”, which includes timber harvest in IRA, was developed from recommendations made by the collaborative.

    That said, I’ll agree that the inclusion of logging in the IRA would probably taint the “apples to apples” comparison. Let’s narrow the criteria by including the same “management areas” in both projects. How about comparing the “Little Snake” EA on the MBNF to the “North Butte” EA on the BDNF. Both MA’s are in “general forest products” They’re both listed above.

    Here’s a couple new ones. Let’s compare The “Breckenridge EA” on the White River NF in Colorado to the “Warm Springs EIS” on the Helena NF. heres the links:
    Warm springs:

    I realize the Warm Springs is an EIS, but they treat the same things, and the final result is all that matters. Come to think of it, none of the “timber sale projects” on the WRNF are EIS’s. Conversly, it’s hard to find any “Timber sales” in Montana that aren’t EIS’s. Sounds like another interesting comparison angle. You would think that clearcutting 5000 acres in Colorado would warrent an EIS. They must not be following the same law as Montana.

    Back to the comparison. They both log MPB killed timber. The “management area” description for both is NOT forest products, but rather Elk Habitat, non-motorized back country, ect. ect. The Breck sale logs 230 acres in IRA the Warm springs none. They’re both near or adjacent to citys.
    –The Breckenridge Project salvage clearcuts 5000 and runs to 130 pages.
    –The Warm Springs project salvage clearcuts 2000 acres and thins 1000 acres and runs to 400 pages! The HNF reveals that the NEPA was contracted at a cost of $380,000 or $130/acre treated.

    Let’s change direction here a bit Mathew. Have you looked at the EA’s in Colorado. Why do you think they’re so much smaller?

    My points are once again:
    –can anyone seriously refute that “on forests that aren’t litigated the NEPA analysis is much less?”
    –If the NEPA analysis costs so much less on “non-litigated” forests, than couldn’t the USFS accomplish “more on the ground” with budget at hand?

  33. All- sorry I haven’t been participating in this interesting discussion.. I had to work last weekend (Jan 29-30; reviewing a very long EIS, as it happens), then had a backlog of household chores, a crisis with a volunteer group, had to help a member of my family move, and it is the time of year that American Idol is on two nights a week- all these tend to reduce my time for reflective blogging (as opposed to posting news items).

    I do have some ideas about litigation and the length of EIS’s and hope to get to that this week.

  34. This is positively absolutely the last comment I’ll make on this thread. Read my lips-no new comments.

    I might be full of it. I don’t know. But I think it would be fascinating for “Someone” to research the “size” of EIS’s and EA’s on “litigated” VS “non-litigated” forests. Where’s the GAO on this one. Where’s Academia on this one? Wheres the USFS internal revue on this one? Maybe nobody wants to know. After all, the timber wars are over.

    I think it would be a good idea for the USFS, perhaps under the “economics” section of an EIS to tell the public “how much it cost to prepare this damn EIS?”. Why is this not done. I realize they probably feel why bother making USFS employees keep track of it. And I can see the reasoning behind NOT throwing good money after bad-but don’t I have a right to know?

    My company keeps track of every JOB. We have Job numbers, “Phases” for job numbers, and “Tasks” under those phases.Not to mention “activity codes”. If you have a 30 million dollar project and you wlant to add ten door knobs, I’ll guarentee the contractor will “track” the costs for those door knobs.

    And Mathew, I would like to know your feelings on the “Cedar-Thom collaborative group”. I’m not being a smart ass here. I de believe it’s kind of a “ground breaking” thing on the Lolo isn’t it. To have a “collaborative group” participate in the planning of an EIS. Isn’t this what this blog is all about?

    You mentioned above the following: “I believe that national forest management has been generally headed in a better direction for a few years now, so many of the issues we were bringing up on appeal or in litigation have either been solved, or we’re trying to work them out in other ways”.
    Could you be more specific on “what issues” have been solved? Could you expand on “how the USFS is headed in a better direction”?

    Perhaps it’s better to wait for another posting. I’ll steer things that way again. It’s time to go see an old friend.

  35. One more time. I think the following link just answered “why EA’s in litigated forests are so much bigger than Non-litigated”. It’s a new story about the “North butte Salvage sale” on the Beaverhead Deerlodge NF that I mentioned above. I guess 400 pages wasn’t enough analysis for the Alliance of Rockies. You might read Mathew comments in the story.
    heres link:

    Still think good things are happenin in Montana Jim?

  36. Derek, I’ll provide my perspective on some of your questions.

    First, let me point out that I really didn’t make a comment regarding the North Butte project. I don’t know much about that project at all. What I did on the MT Standard site was simply post a copy of the press release from the two conservation groups, as I had a copy of it, and the AP article was completely lacking in any context or substance.

    Next, a few thoughts on the Cedar-Thom project and collaborative group. This is not “kind of a ground breaking thing on the Lolo” National Forest as Derek referred to it. I’m pretty sure I’ve provided this basic timeline before, but starting back in 2003 conservation groups and the Forest Service tried to do a better job working together and understanding each other’s issues. Around that time a guy named Mike Wood started a project called “breaking new ground,” which not only brought conservationists and the agency together, but also local loggers, a few timber mills and other interested parties. Mike would later go on to become a sort of “collaboration liaison” between the agency and various other folks. A newspaper article during that time indicated that this was the only position of its kind within the USFS.

    During the following years a lot of work was put into various projects, some of which were official “collaborative groups” through either HFRA (DeBaugan HFRA) or Stewardship Contracting (Knox Brooks) and some projects (like the Upper Lolo Watershed Restoration Project) we just all decided to work together on, but not through some official collaborative group.

    All of these groups and projects met with various successes and drawbacks. For example, regarding the DeBaugan HFRA project, our group was not only involved deeply with that collaborative group from the beginning, but I also raised $25,000 over a two year period to hire a local fuel reduction crew to conduct fuel reduction activities on private land immediately adjacent to the homes of elderly, disabled and economically-challenged members of rural communities around DeBorgia. Even though there was not one official objection to the project and the project wasn’t appealed, it’s not like it’s been moving at record speed. I’m not even sure how much, if any, of the work has taken place on the DeBaugan project, even though a Record of Decision has likely been in place for 2 or 3 years now. Jim Burchfield was very involved with this DeBaugan Collaborative group too, so he might have some perspective to share. I thought it was a decent group, but I wonder how much the collaborative actually changed or influenced what the USFS was going to do anyway.

    It’s my understanding that the Knox Brooks collaborative group and effort was a bust. Basically, as soon as the logging started, the group folded and nobody wanted to do any of the monitoring. I remember back in about 2006, during a stewardship contracting workshop we organized here in Missoula, Len Broburg (with the Sierra Club and also a prof at the UM) described himself as “The last man standing” from the Knox Brooks collaborative.

    The Lolo NF has also been a main focus of the efforts that came out of the Montana Forest Restoration Committee (2006), as a specific restoration committee was formed for the Lolo NF. Currently they even have a committee for the Westside and the Eastside. WildWest Institute has been very active in these efforts over the years, with various people taking the lead on this (first Jeff Juel, then Cameron Naficy and now Jake Kreilick). The Lolo Committee received the USFS Chief’s “Breaking Gridlock” award for 2008 (may have been 2009). So again, it’s not correct to look at this Cedar-Thom project as “ground-breaking” in any sort of way, in my opinion. It’s really just the continuation of something that’s been going on now for about ten years. Of course, for the most part, all of this stuff has been completely ignored by the local media outlets. Apparently a conservation group filing a lawsuit here and there is more “news-worthy.” I mention this, because I believe the lack of attention much of these very real, on-going efforts to work together get in the media and from politicians, is a big problem and one of the reasons someone like a Tester is wrongly trying to have Congress just mandate logging. Funny, but Tester and the three conservation groups that actually support his bill (MWA, MT TU and NWF) haven’t been involved with any of the true “collaborative” stuff I’ve mentioned above concerning the Lolo NF. Or if they are now involved, it’s more as a Johnny Come Lately. As such, you can image our frustration when someone from Tester’s office or these groups criticize us for not working together. That claim is complete bull-crap!

    Specific to the Cedar-Thom collaborative groups. I’ve mentioned a few things above in a previous comment. Mainly our involvement with the group has been through Cam and Jake, although I did attend one field trip to the project area in Oct 2009. The Sierra Club and national TU has also been very much involved with this project. I believe it would be safe to say that WildWest and the Sierra Club and TU have had concerns and issues with how the USFS portrays the collaborative group and how basically the USFS claims in the DEIS that the entire project is the result of the desires of the collaborative group. That’s not the way we see it. In a previous comment I mentioned something about logging in old-growth and within IRA’s, as just a few examples of stuff we don’t agree with in this project. I know that some of the local people, including those with the Mineral Co Historical Society, aren’t real happy with some of the proposals regarding historic sites on the forest.

    I think it’s generally good that the Forest Service wants to get a representative group together to try and work through some issues during scoping and the NEPA analysis. However, what I think we are seeing is that, often, the USFS just ends up doing what they were going to do anyway, but now they can basically over-sell the role of the “collaborative” group to create the appearance that everyone is in agreement with their proposed projects. This has been our experience anyway. I hope this helped give some perspective.

    Let me just finish by again pointing out that I don’t believe it’s accurate to compare projects in the way that Derek is attempting to do. For example, I’ve posted a bunch of information in this thread which clearly highlights all of the various resource issues and proposed work in the Cedar-Thom project. To call that project a “4,500 acre” thinning project and then point out that the DEIS is 300 pages is just completely dishonest, in my view. As anyone can clearly see, the Cedar-Thom project basically includes almost any resource management activity (weeds, roads, culverts, mining restoration, trailhead facilities, ATV loop trails, hiking trails, etc). Sure, if the Cedar-Thom project was truly ONLY about thinning 4,500 acres, perhaps a 300 page DEIS would be too much. But that’s clearly not the case here. The DEIS is 300 pages long, because the fact of the matter is that the Cedar-Thom project is a huge project in terms of all the proposed work within the project area. Thanks.

  37. In the end, I don’t have to back up my claims. You either choose to disbelieve, and move on, or you can respect the experience of my long career and the varied tasks I done over decades. So what if you don’t believe what I am saying?!?!?!? I don’t believe in what you choose to rail against, knowing that you are still clinging to a broken legal system, and knowing that these ecosystems that are at their tipping points, ready to fall like dominoes. We can embrace catastrophic wildfires and mortality, as evidenced by the last decade of record fire seasons, and claim that such forests are “natural”. Your vision for our forests is truly barbaric, wanting something that hasn’t existed since beofe man came to this continent.

    Sorry, Matt. My experience trumps individual studies meant to produce a single result for a specific site. You may not believe that but, who cares?!? Yes, you can ignore my 25 years of field-going experience. Yes, you can also believe that “I’m a shill for the timber industry” but, that also is simply not the truth. If you want to insult me and paint me as tied to timber companies, let’s see you back THAT up with “stduies” and “evidence”.

  38. Larry Harrell/Fotoware: Seriously, who are you addressing this last comment too? If it’s me, which it kinda seems to be, the fact of the matter is that I haven’t said any of the stuff you apparently are attributing to me, or claiming that I said about you. Thanks.


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