Newsbite: Alaska Roadless Decision

For those of you who follow roadless, here’s a link.

This was an interesting quote:

The Sierra Club’s Mark Rorick says that’s not the case.

“The roadless rule does not stop personal use wood permits, and it does not stop access or road-building to mines. It allows utility corridors through the roadless areas. It allows corridors for hydro. All these things that people are saying the roadless rule would stop are just not true.”

Not too long ago, in a courtroom not far away, we were in litigation about a pipeline where the plaintiffs argued that building a linear facility required the equivalent of a “road” which was not OK by the 2001 Rule. We argued the same as Rorick and won. It’s nice when we can all agree.

49 thoughts on “Newsbite: Alaska Roadless Decision”

    • And “productive forest land” is a pretty meaningless statistic since most it is uneconomic to log and is lower quality habitat. A great statistic to use, however, if one wishes to conceal high-grading. The Tongass has been high-graded for decades.

      • Question, if high-grading is defined as
        “HIGH-GRADING – A harvesting technique that removes only the biggest and most valuable trees from a stand and provides high returns at the expense of future growth potential. Poor quality, shade-loving trees tend to dominate in these continually high-graded sites”

        I thought that clearcutting was commonly used in Alaska? What is “economic” high-grading?

      • Another way to describe high-grading is “forest pollution”. Taking the best and leaving the worst impacts that forest for a VERY long time. I always liked working on “reverse high-grades”. It’s no wonder that high-grading is illegal under NEPA and the ESA. I’m sure there are alternatives to the more destructive styles of logging. People also need to know that longterm deals are still under contract with mills in Alaska. Profits will have to be sacrificed to meet the law. Maybe even jobs but, forest ecosystems should not needlessly suffer.

    • Ah yes, “yet only 10%…” (POG).

      The halls, cubicles and easy chairs abound with “yet only” percentalists, who peddle numbers amongst themselves and the public as if they had the magic formula for sustainability.

      They obviously don’t or we wouldn’t be on the verge of listing two critical oldgrowth dependent species on the Tongass. Were it not for salmon hatchery production filling in for the ghost fish from their hammered habitats, we’d know the real story there too.

      Anyone familiar with the Tongass knows it’s an archipelago– an array of islands which are individuated vegetative mosaics and are naturally fragmented by glaciology, geography, oceanography, soil type, and microclimates.

      Now consider the manmade fragmentation overlaying the natural fragmentation. Now add deep winter snow to many hundreds of thousands acres of clearcuts and several thousands of miles of logging roads and that “only 10%” figure is preposterously meaningless at best, and obscenely arrogant and ignorant at worst.

      These islands are prone to endemism, and the hardest hit have endemic species we’ll be seeing in the news because of flagrant abuses by land managers such as the Forest Service touting “yet only 10%” and native corporations such as Sealaska Corp who frankly don’t care and have consequently been the single biggest factor for their own tragic cultural, and socio-economic catastrophe in native villages. The ANCSA corporate model as causation has been revealed over and over, but I recommend ethnologist, Dr. Kirk Dombrowski’s “Against Culture: Development, Politics and Religion in Indian Alaska.”

      The Forest Service here has run up a billion dollar bill on the backs of taxpayers in pursuit of “yet only 10%” and there’s still hundreds of millions of dollars needed to repair and restore their mismanagement. Fortunately, the agency finally seems to get this at some level, as do the courts. (This is where environmental laws really become nuisances to some people.)

      The full effects of stem exclusion in even aged management have yet to descend upon oldgrowth dependent species on the Tongass. The leave strips and oldgrowth reserves of prior clearcuts of the pulp era are now today’s timber base (such as the Logjam Timber Sale currently being cut and yarded).

      The “yet only 10%” occurred on the most biologically productive areas of the Tongass, and removed the biggest and the best and the easiest to access timber and yet even in its heyday, the “timber industry” couldn’t turn a profit. These days, practically half of the timber sales the Forest Service plans never receive a bid, and the “timber economy” represents less than 1% of the regional economy.

  1. The recent Ninth Circuit Court decision to reverse the Roadless Rule Exemption on the Tongass National Forest, brought by the Organized Village of Kake and others, was long overdue. The 4-5000 miles of logging roads already interlacing islands of the Tongass provide plenty of opportunity for future sustainable logging on the Tongass.

    Justice has been served to all American owners and residents of the Tongass, but the native village of Kake in particular, deserves this victory more than most. Kake being among the most severely impacted communities by unsustainable logging.

    The worst of the thousands of acres of clearcuts surrounding Kake are from the native corporate logging of Sealaska and Kake Tribal Corporations, but include those of the Tongass National Forest. In aggregate, they attest to the socio-economic and cultural tragedy of rural communities of Alaska treated like third world countries.

    Even the United States Forest Service admits “restoration” of past forest mismanagement is required, along with hundreds of millions of dollars needed to repair hundreds of miles of roads on the Tongass which are currently threatening salmon streams.

    This Ninth Circuit Court reversal of exempting the Tongass from correcting the legacy of the last fifty years is good news for all Alaskans, the rest of the American public, and the millions who flock to southeast Alaska each year to appreciate this spectacular place.

  2. 70% plus of class 1 volume strata logged. 98% of big tree karst stands gone forever. Tongass has been economically high graded. Cost / benefit: on average over 8 years, $350,000 for one year direct logging job. Not including subsidized road building. F S can spend 2 million for a road alone and revenue from sale, 70,000 $.

  3. Sharon- “stem exclusion”

    Productive old growth (relying upon solar aspect, well drained soils,etc.) is characterized by uneven-aged trees(as a result of re-vegetating canopy gaps created by windthrow events, landslides, falling snags, etc.)

    What results is “coarse canopy” which allows for the greatest species diversity in the understory and also essential canopy interception of snow allows for greater mobility and access to browse in winter habitat for Sitka blacktail deer, etc.

    Even aged management defeats this dynamic of structure and function and resets the biological clock back 2-4 centuries. As naturally re-vegetating clearcuts regrow, even in thinned stands, stem exclusion (stem canopy interlocks overhead, excluding light to forest floor, resulting in very little understory diversity (in many places, a veritable desert for browse).

    Paul Alaback has recently produced a paper showing promising possibilities with gap thinning techniques, but which of course, do not provide for an optimal yield of board feet/acre.

  4. (Stem exclusion ensues at 15-20 years after harvest, briefly abated (15-20 yr) by pre-commercial thinning, and then resumes canopy closure.)

    Economic highgrading:
    Our recently post glaciated landscapes result in highly diverse soil conditions and only well drained soils with good solar aspect allow for the best growing conditions. With 12ft of rain annually, its all about drainage, but drainage does not occur uniformly over most areas. Even a mountain side can have a mixture of soil types producing very different timber volumes because of drainage characteristics. This includes lees in landforms which provide shelter from frequent storms.

    So economic highgrading occurs when:
    1) units are typically laid out around highest volume stands to maximize volume within working distance of roads or by helicopter.

    2) demands for “economic timber” is the constant complaint/refrain of what’s left of the timber industry here. This explains why close to half of the timber sales planned by the agency never get bid on.

    • OK, thanks David. I remember that concept of “stem exclusion” from early days as a silviculturist. So I guess what you are saying is that:

      1. There have been clearcuts in the Tongass (coastal Alaska forests).
      2. Forests are growing back, but
      3. When the crowns have closed there will be less wildlife habitat in the understory, and we haven’t yet seen the impacts of that yet.

      Highgrading has a couple of definitions in my experience:

      1) General highgrading- taking the good healthy trees and leaving the poorer suppressed trees that won’t grow very well in the future.

      2) Species highgrading- taking the valuable species and leaving those less valuable, say in the old days in central Oregon, taking the pine and leaving the true fir. This has implicit valuation about species, which may not match between mills and biologists.

      2) Genetic highgrading – within a species you take all the good older mama and daddy trees and leave the poor parents genetically. We used to have long talks with Jerry Franklin about this in the 80’s, but based on the best science at the time, it is very difficult to tell whether a tree is genetically “better” or “worse” in wild stands; also often the next generation is growing or in the seedbed before the older trees are removed.

      3) “Economic” highgrading – not sure how this relates to biology, unless the highest volume stands also have some biologically unique features (??).

      Whenever we use a value-laden word (e.g., “highgrading” “integrity”) it is an opportunity to mix facts with values. I just like to be clear about how they mix to promote better public discussion.

  5. “Obscenely arrogant and ignorant at worst”. In all my posts I’ve never called anyone arrogant or ignorant”. It seems to be the insult of choice directed at me though. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a screamin match on a jobsite. But that’s not what I’m supposed to do. David, I offer you my other cheek.

    Now, back to the debate. Lets see, high grading? According to the FEIS of the new 2008 forest plan, only 20% of the “large tree productive old growth”(Stand Density Model 6-7) below 800 feet was logged in 50 years. That’s your stands with the largest trees and the highest amount of Board foot/acre. Only 13% of your “high volume POG” was logged. That’s the “Large tree” component plus slightly smaller stands(SD5N and SD5S) Tell me “what old growth species can only exist on SD67 stands but can’t on the slightly smaller(SD5N-SD5S) stands”. Is there such a thing. Another 40% of the POG is considered medium volume/acre.
    Now how many timber lives were ruined to preserve 80%?? You do think about those lives don’t you. I’m sure they have all found good jobs washing the feet of eco tourists.

    Will you agree to the following statement. yes or No. “the ecosystem is collapseing on the Tongass because because 20% of the biggest trees were logged”. You realize that by saying yes you are inferring that the ecosystem is not working on the remaining 80% of the “high value old growth”.

    I hear this from every enviro whenever I mention the low amount that was logged on the various forests. It’s as if the loggers launched a surgical targeted strike against the heart of the ecosystem. Excelent. Everything is going according to plan. Must be that delicate web of keystone processes thing again.

    Below cost timber sales. The USFS must have “drawn” all the lousy timber in the country. Some how the States, private, and tribal, all make money on the wood they got. I realize the Tongass is expensive, but doesn’t SEALASKA build roads too? Didn’t they log like 4000 acres/year? I don’t know. Tell me. Are their roads subsidized by the Federal govt.?

    Without wasteing the rest of my night looking it up again(it would take me about five minutes), I think the Tongass harvests around 60-70 MMBF/year. On a 5 million “productive old growth” forest. Hell, Jims 1,000,000 acre Mississippi forest harvests that. Since 1992, the USFS started to harvest less “large tree” (17%) and more “medium volume” lands(31%)per year. Prior to 92 33% of the harvest came from large tree. Sounds like they were already making the switch. You mentioned above 5000 miles of roads and “sustainable” harvest. Now, how many MORE million board feet can I put you down for?

  6. Derek, you’re giving all the indications that this will not be a useful dialogue. The chasm which separates our points of view is too wide and too deep.
    Your “yet only 10%” quip, followed by your sarcastic summation “Revolutionary” admittedly, pushed my button.

    But let’s go back to my statement: the “(yet) “only 10%” figure is preposterously meaningless at best, and obscenely arrogant and ignorant at worst.”

    At best:
    We’ll leave it up to you to decide if “yet only 10%” is at best, meaningless (which was the whole point of my comment demonstrating your percentile abstraction as truly meaningless in regards to structure and function/fragmentation/species viability issues on island ecosystems. Those issues go far beyond facile percentile abstractions.)

    At worst:
    Or, alternatively, you decide “yet only 10%” is somehow still defensible, even though being fully aware of the structure and function/fragmentation/species viability issues– in which case, myself and many others would regard such a position as (offensive to moral principles) and employing (an exaggerated sense of faith in one’s capabilities to understand why an isolated percentile is all that matters in this discussion) Indeed, a great deal more matters than your isolated percentile.

    Your most recent quips such as “… how many timber lives were ruined to preserve 80%??” inferring “enviros” were responsible, demonstrates an acute lack of awareness, or curiosity about historical fact, environmental laws, and most importantly, on the ground realities.

    Your quip, “(loggers) have all found good jobs washing the feet of eco tourists” only demonstrates how wide and deep the chasm is.

    In the spirit of dialogue, I resolve nonetheless, to give this a try:

    After personally bearing witness to the “timber lives ruined” for the last 28 years, (especially during the pulp mill era, in which the USFS presided over the legislated duopoly of two 50 year Contract holders which were not only legally ripping off the taxpayers and their publicly owned virgin forests, but were later convicted of destroying scores of family run gyppo loggers (as they proudly called themsrelves), running them out of business through price fixing).

    Believe me, your blame game couldn’t be further off the mark. The duopoly (think: monopoly X 2) of a Japanese-owned pulp company “Alaska Pulp Company” and Georgia Pacific, “Ketchikan Pulp Company”, represented the worst of the worse corporate scammers far more complicit in the misery of “timber lives” as you say, than what you claim “enviros” perpetrated.

    I should have asked you first: “Have you worked on the Tongass? Have you even visited the Tongass?” Or are you getting your talking points out of the revised and supplemented TLMP’08? (you know, the one which attempted to double market demand, just for the hell of it?)

  7. Let’s not forget that the lawyer who represented Ketchican Pulp in 1981 was John Crowell, who was rewarded with the Assistant Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment (now an undersecretary post) job under Reagan. I think it was technically Louisiana Pacific, not Georgia Pacific but they were really the same company. LP and other big timber companies were subsequently bailed out of their responsibility for huge speculative timber contracts with the Forest Service through legislation that was sold as helping keep small purchasers from going bankrupt but mostly benefited large corporations.

  8. Ahh . . . the good ol’ timber era, may it rest in peace. I saw the timber bail-out Jim writes about up close and personal. While a lobbyist for Associated Oregon Loggers (independent, family-owned companies), I was sent to D.C. to testify against the first bail-out bill, which was sponsored by Oregon congressman Jim Weaver. With not much time to prepare, I wrote my testimony on the plane, typed and xeroxed it at Weaver’s office (he was my congressman, after all), and testified that afternoon. Jim chaired the hearing.

    AOL opposed the bail-out bill because its members relied on the government and timber purchasers to fulfill their contractual terms and log the timber. Weaver was taken aback with our opposition to his bill. I testified about the innocent third parties who would be harmed by the bail-out. And these were Weaver’s people — salt-of-the-earth characters out of a Ken Kesey (another Weaver constituent) novel.

    As the hearing ended (I was the last to testify), Weaver descended from the dais, grabbed me by the arm and hauled me off to the members-only dining hall — “order anything on the menu,” he announced. Over lunch, Weaver asked “What will it take to get the loggers on board this bill?” Ever the smart-aleck, I answered “More than a free lunch.”

    I was to find out a couple months later exactly what it took to neutralize AOL’s opposition, which had effectively stalled the bill. Each of AOL’s board members received a phone call from the timber companies with whom they contracted explaining that there are lots of other logging companies with which to do business.

    Having neutered the AOL board, the timber purchasers came after me, telling my boss at AOL that I sold secrets (what secrets?) to environmental groups. Although AOL defended me, I chose to take another job that afternoon. In my new position, with National Wildlife Federation, I had the privilege of putting together the Mapleton and spotted owl lawsuits.

    What goes around, comes around.

  9. If that’s the same as “buyback” (???)I do remember it helping local industry. Of course where I worked, in Central Oregon, there was no LP “and other big timber companies.”

  10. Another memory of the good/bad ‘ole days: In the Crowell era, as forest plans were written, they had to be vetted by his office. If the ASQ was “too low”, they got sent back. Later, under a different Undersecretary, some revised plans with ASQs that were “too high” got sent back for fixing. I wonder what the sticking point for the next round of plans will be– too much/not enough OHV trails, prescribed fire, ski area expansion. . . ? Is there any way to write a rule that would shelter locally agreed-upon plans from this kind of top-down interference or can the right phone calls always change the necessary minds? Maybe not if the process is truly transparent and collaborative. Or maybe I’m just a dreamer.

  11. Thank you for filling in my gaps Sharon.

    3) the highest economic values (species/volume/acre) coincide with the highest biological values. Their biologically unique features include greater species diversity/fecundity/abundance, enhanced interception capacity due to coarseness of canopy, and more developed understory.

    Present timber market conditions combined with economic effects of past highgrading have hit hard here. Living memory of prior biological productivity testifies to significant declines– especially in areas with high road densities.

  12. So tell me Dave. You never answered if that 10% means the ecosystem is collapsing?
    It’s a tired old enviro tactic to muddy the waters with ramblings about the incredibley complex tangled web of life. Hence the butterfly effect and keystone species blather.

    Here’s a little thought experiment. The pine beetle just killed off 100% of the old growth on a couple million acres in Colorado. I can see thousands of Goshawks perishing now. There won’t be any old growth species there for a hundred years.No more thermal cover. Now does that mean the ecosystem is collapsing? Surely if only the 10% that was removed in Alaska is causing an ecological collapse, then surely 100% must mean devastation in Colorado. The ecosystem has been radically changed a hell of lot more than Alaska. Overnight.

    Of course you don’t think it will lead to collapse because it’s natural. But be carefull. It could be global warming-which means it would be man-which then means that man IS causing a collapse of the ecosystem-right. Which double standard do you apply. An enviro for all seasons.

    Yes I do use the USFS FEIS. Its proven far more reliable than the information I’ve read on this blog. The problem with you guys, is nobody has ever checked your work-and you get away with it. They’ve proven that the “highest biological values(species/volume/acre) still exist on 80% of the Tongass. Why do you dismiss them? Is it because you believe they are lackeys of capitalist pig timber barons? Now it has less to do with ecology and more to do with ideology doesn’t it. I notice no numbers in any of your postings. No statistics. No acreages. But then how do you quanitfy the spirit of the wild. Our chasm is basically a right brain left brain thing. I seek perspective on issues, I don’t know what you seek. You’ve never even read the FEIS did you?

    Here’s another little tid bit I ran across awhile ago. It seems the State of Oregon, whose lands make up only 3% of the “forested acreage”, harvests more timber than the entire USFS in Oregon. At the current rate of harvest, the Willamette will harvest 20% in the next century. I guess the powers that be have proclaimed that 60% of Oregon (fed lands) will be managed for snag and wildfire habitat. It would be simpler to do away with the USFS and make it all a national park.

    Sharon, I admire you and I respect your purposes for establishing this blog. I realize it’s a blog for enviros with the intention of making them feel “included” so maybe they won’t litigate the planning rule. Finding “common ground” and all that. I’ve noticed a distinct lack of any “industry” perspective on this blog.I’m sure none were invited. I’ve tried to get a few industry people to get involved and they just laugh. The only common ground your going to find is that which these guys in all their benevolence will bestow upon you. They won the timber wars, and they’re the man now. The 20% in a century is their benevolent token timber harvest so they can claim “we’re not against timber harvest-just sustainabale”(after all we all live in wood homes). Logic and perspective means nothing. How many times did we both reach out to Koehler(who I like), esplained to him how little was logged, and he disappears. Him and Beebe are cut from the same clothe. They have no intention of compromising anything.

    The problems for the USFS moral began when the USFS moved away from the locals and began managing for the urban. It turned their neighbors against them. Perhaps in a democracy that is the way. But thats not the way Pinchot sold it 100 years ago. Of course, their biggest moral problem is all the usless NEPA. I don’t blame the USFS. We both know that on forests that aren’t litigated, the USFS is a pretty damn effecient machine-don’t we.

    I’m gonna enjoy spending the next ten years watching their loud mouth ignorant arrogant ideology crash and burn. Change will be thrust upon them. Public opinion is a fleeting thing, and congress must act to cure the crisis of the moment. Wildfire hazard isn’t getting any better boys.You broke it, you bought it, Your gonna get the blame boys. Enjoy the view from your zenith boys. Everything I say will come to pass. Within ten years I expect to write a book titled “Forest disasters:how radical enviros bungled forest policy”.

    Frankly, I don’t think anybody reads this blog. So on to new projects.

    • Derek:
      This is what I would’ve included as an introduction to the NCFP blog coverage on the recent Roadless ruling, and what the court said about the Tongass Exemption to the Roadless Rule–

      “Because the reasons proffered by the Forest Service in support of the Tongass Exemption were implausible, contrary to the evidence in the record, and contrary to Ninth Circuit precedent, the court concludes that promulgation of the Tongass Exemption was arbitrary and capricious.”

      The court stopped there not even considering the rest of the points of clear violations of law by former timber industry lobbyist, Mark Rey and his agency.

      This would not have happened without a patient, persistent, and dedicated defense of environmental, legislative, and agency mission integrity. (Sharon, here, as elsewhere, I use “integrity” invoking ‘a quality of “wholeness”‘, and as “a concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes.” of the agency mission of “caring for the land”.)

      Derek: To directly answer, “You never answered if that 10% means the ecosystem is collapsing?”

      In your apparent defense of an agency (whose mission is caring for the land) yet whose model has historically precipitated destabilization of the health of multiple ecosystems across 193 million acres of publicly owned landscapes, I’ll remind you that the whole point is to keep ecosystems from collapsing, which requires a forward looking approach incorporating biological indicators and trends.

      You can persist with falsely attributed hyperbole if you must, but I never said the “ecosystem is collapsing”. You did.

      The whole point, again, is to recognize warning signs and that’s why the agency uses “management indicator species”(MIS)and Habitat Suitability Index (HSI). The MIS here such as Queen Charlotte goshawk, Alexander Archipelago wolf, marten, etc. are not doing well on managed landscapes here. The goshawk (not far away in BC, no longer has a functionally breeding population in the wild) is now recognized as “a species of concern”. Our subspecies of wolf (ligoni) is especially not doing well and the USFS is in total denial of this, ignoring the urgency because wolf predicament is connected with deer predicament which is also about human predicament and not having enough deer for rural subsistence needs.

      There’s a great deal of pertinent information on species viability that is not present in the TLMP ’08. Just as prior versions of that document were found by the court to have violated NEPA in three significant ways, as well as APA.

      Were it not for “enviros”, these violations would be ongoing to great detriment to ecosystem integrity. (By “integrity”, Sharon, I mean wholeness to the extent of system health and resiliency) One of the violations had to do with failure to assess the cumulative effects of ANCSA native corporate logging on these island landscapes.

      Which is another point you seem to miss consistently Derek. These island landscapes are microcosms with isolated endemic populations– rendering percentile abstractions such as “yet only 10%” completely meaningless.

  13. Derek concludes (emphasis added):

    I’m gonna enjoy spending the next ten years watching their loud mouth ignorant arrogant [environmentalist] ideology crash and burn. Change will be thrust upon them. Public opinion is a fleeting thing, and congress must act to cure the crisis of the moment. Wildfire hazard isn’t getting any better boys.You broke it, you bought it, Your gonna get the blame boys. Enjoy the view from your zenith boys. Everything I say will come to pass. Within ten years I expect to write a book titled “Forest disasters:how radical enviros bungled forest policy”.

    Frankly, I don’t think anybody reads this blog. So on to new projects.

    I too wonder whether anyone reads this blog. Why not? This morning I called an old friend who works in the PNW Regional office, in planning. My friend has never heard of this blog. When I used to pitch “sustainability, etc. stuff” via email (future blog post) to FS folks, I made sure they knew that we existed. What type outreach is being made here?

    I have never wanted a blog that was one-sided. It is much more fun to get folks from at least two sides to engage. Unfortunately, we seem to have problems in outreach, particularly to “other than enviros”. What ought we to do about it?
    PS.. Derek. I wanna read your book. So if you leave us, at least let us know when you publish your book.

    • “It is much more fun to get folks from at least two sides to engage.”

      Dave, I coulda sworn there were at least two sides engaging here. Not so?

      “I’m gonna enjoy spending the next ten years watching their loud mouth ignorant arrogant [environmentalist] ideology crash and burn.”
      makes for a curious choice of quotable quotes in reference to dialogue invoked by the Tongass exemption Roadless Decision.

      Obviously, feelings are strong here, but dear me Dave, are you endorsing Derek’s misattribution of cause/effect of wildfire hazard to “enviros”? The history of agency fire suppression, the agency failure to fund basic silvicultural treatments and responsibilities, the plethora of science exposing the profiteering and malfeasance of Bush/Rey’s “Salvage logging”,”Healthy Forests”, etc. and the enviro defense of all that science along with pleas for a meaningful response to climate change suggests Derek’s attribution of blame to be rather off the mark.

      Back to the topic of the post though, this is my choice of quotable quotes worth repeating on this matter — from the adjudicators’ mouths:

      “Because the reasons proffered by the Forest Service in support of the Tongass Exemption were implausible, contrary to the evidence in the record, and contrary to Ninth Circuit precedent, the court concludes that promulgation of the Tongass Exemption was arbitrary and capricious.”

      • “… malfeasance of Bush/Rey’s “Salvage logging”,”Healthy Forests”… ”

        Ummm, just so’s ya know, David, the Democrats did substantial re-writing of the Healthy Forests Act, before they would vote for it. It was definitely a better bill as re-written, including public input. And, as Matt seems to be saying, “Healthy Forests” did, indeed, reduce litigation with a new process. So, talking bad about “Healthy Forests” doesn’t ring true. Where are the “giveaways to the timber barons” that eco-groups had promised?? Bush’s “Healthy Forests” never went into law. it was CONGRESS who altered and passed the law, making it their own!

        Regarding salvage, if you are going to hang your hat on “Donato’s Folly”, that is THE perfect poster boy for slanted science, and only using selected parts of the study. On the Biscuit, helicopter logging was mostly used, reducing the impacts of salvage logging by very signifcant amounts.Additionally, the Biscuit only harvested completely dead trees, away from roads. Donato’s study excludes a great many factors that show reduced impacts from logging. Nowhere does it say that salvage logging reduced natural regeneration to below established stocking levels. In fact, it probably reduced the glut of small saplings that sometimes seed in after a fire. Besides, if no logging occurs, the trees eventually fall and kill the baby trees anyway. At least fallers can directionally fell trees to minimize damage to the surviving stand.

        The kneejerk opposition to salvage logging ignores the fact of catastrophic re-burns in unsalvaged wildfires, like the Biscuit and the Meadow Fire in Yosemite National Park. Recovery from these newer fires has been extended for how many decades? How long will it take 3-needle pine trees to migrate into vast expanses of “nuked” lands. I do have pictures of both places.

  14. As far as forums go, Sharon tries to keep things moderated by welcoming all points of view. If you’re like me, it’s enough to share your experiences, opinions and observations. If the preservationists don’t like it, they can keep spouting all the bought science they want. What we need first is, agreement on the assessments of of public forests. This won’t be easy but, we have to start somewhere. Pointing out, specifically, that all is not well with our forests will go a long way towards consensus. I tend to think we’ve done ample monitoring of the forest health crisis in this country, to know that our mixed conifer forests are at the highest of risks. This doesn’t include the high elevation. pure lodgepole stands. This DOES include the sizable transition zones where lodgepoles have encroached.

    Just take a little break, Derek, and then come back renewed and refreshed. I know there are a lot of “you’re either with us, or against us” types of people in the preservationist camp.

  15. Derek-
    You said:
    “Sharon, I admire you and I respect your purposes for establishing this blog. I realize it’s a blog for enviros with the intention of making them feel “included” so maybe they won’t litigate the planning rule. Finding “common ground” and all that.”

    That is SO NOT why I convinced Martin to start this blog with me. Discussion is learning to me, and learning is good. I like to play with ideas and scrutinize them. If it wasn’t fun to think about things, write about them, and debate ideas, I certainly wouldn’t be spending as much time on this as I do.

    I also feel a blog is an opportunity to “give voice to the voiceless,” the people whose work will never be in New West or HCN; who won’t be quoted in the NY Times or even the Denver Post. They won’t be setting up appointments with the Secretary or the Chief, or elected officials. Yet they have observations of the same world that the more powerful inhabit, that should also be heard in the name of social justice. I also feel a responsibility to seek peace; I don’t think it’s a good idea for other kinds of human endeavor and a bad idea for public lands issues.

    If I have another agenda, it is to help people understand some of our complicated issues when they are not adequately covered in the press. Journalism, like any field, has a standard normal curve. There are fewer journalists today than there were. Some journalists are biased, and some are too busy to do a quality job, and some are not that concerned about quality. (note: this could be said for people who work on FS projects as well). Because our blog contributors and commenters know quite a bit (and know how to find out more information) we can help honor the good and correct the inadequate. It is a technology for helping the public be better informed on our issues.

  16. I had another thought on this after having read our morning newspaper’s op-ed section. I guess it’s just easier to call people who disagree with you venal and misguided or tell your own story of how wonderful you are and how bad other people are. It’s pretty simplistic, and goes like this:
    1) find a policy you don’t like
    2) talk about who supports it
    3) say they are bad.

    To some extent, our society is losing learning and community building- just the kind of traits that will build societal resilience to climate and other changes- , by accepting snark and name-calling as a way of doing business. I think that we can model a different way of being. I often disagree with others on this blog, but I hope I treat them with respect. It is sometimes a narrow line between entertainingly colorful expressions and being snarky but hopefully we are soft on people and hard on ideas and facts.

    Anyway, if you remember that old saying attributed to Francis of Assisi “preach the Gospel, if necessary, use words” I think our society could use more people modeling respectful discourse and fewer people preaching about the dearth of it. checking the origin of the above quote, I found this list of misquotations, which I thought is interesting.

  17. re: Fotoware at 5:02 PM.

    Looks like we’ve reached the limits of WordPress’ embedded comments, so this one’s going to start things fresh, as a reply to Fotoware’s #23:

    We did the Donato Affair (which you call Donato’s Folly) earlier on our Forest Policy blog. As to your claim that it is “THE perfect poster boy for slanted science, and only using selected parts of the study.” I’ll leave it to you to prove it. My conclusion went the other way, as per earlier noted post that links to earlier posts.

    As per Democrats in Congress making HFRA, 2003 into something better than what the Administration proposed, again I ask “What proof”?

    Same too for your claim that “[r]ecovery from these newer [re-burn] fires [Biscuit and Meadow Fire in Yosemite] has been extended for how many decades?”

    • Well, I have been to both the Biscuit Fire (22 days of fieldwork) and the Meadow Fire in Yosemite (both after the A-Rock Fire, 20 years ago and in the last two years after the latest fire), so I have seen the conditions and impacts in person. Have YOU, Dave? What used to be majestic old growth in Yosemite National Park, is now reduced to barren dirt, rock and a little brush, with huge gaps between potential seed trees. As you know, pine seeds are heavy and cannot travel over even moderate distances through seed dispersal.

      Donato failed to display how the dead tree logging damage would continue past the extremely short time he studied the project. An old growth stand with 99% mortality would surely be a pile of jack-strawed logs, with a mantle of thick small trees and brush interspersed in the middle of it all. You think that stand is going to turn back into old growth any time soon?!? All Donato proved was that when dead trees fall on reproduction, trees die. The Biscuit burned a part of the 1987 Silver Fire, and that struggling forest burned at high intensity, causing recovery to be reset back to zero. And, remember, that the original controversy was about logging dead trees on a mere %4 of the entire 500,000 acre Biscuit Fire area.

      I don’t need to prove anything about the HFRA. It’s all in the historical record, for YOU to look up and verify. For me, it is now history. I was vocal against the Republicans version of it, and my comments about it on the Internet still endure. I did support the revised version, and those comments are also still out there, locked-in for near-eternity.

      • No, I haven’t been there. You have, and that gives you a vantage point from which to express opinions, assess possibilities, etc. I derive my vantage points, largely by pondering what others have written, said, as well as having spent 30 years in the “planning wars”, in the middle of the discussions/debates/appeals/lawsuits. Still, neither your vantage point nor mine give permission to liable folks, e.g. Donato.

        I guess that “name calling”, accompanied by a little whiskey, prompted me to reply to your comment last night.

        I think that Scott Conroy’s statement, thanks Sharon, sheds much light on the Donato Affair.

        But even here I take a minor exception. Conroy concludes,

        There is hope and opportunity for good results when honest people deal honestly with each other. Un-researched, unsupported, exaggerations and intentional misrepresentations designed to inflame rather than to enlighten serve no common good.

        One last truth you should know. The time and resources spent battling such claims could have been more productively spent restoring our landscapes in hope of avoiding another ‘Biscuit’ fire on your lands.

        I agree completely with the Conroy’s first conclusion. As to the second, public discourse if often heated, exaggerated, etc. Sometimes we all need to hash through things in heated debates, discussions, etc. Sometimes science claims are exaggerated and folks need to speak up to counter them. Sometimes the “public interest” is best discovered amid the acrimony of heated public discussion. That’s the world we live in.

        Finally, if we haven’t already entered this into this discussion, we probably ought to: The Facts and Myths of Post-Fire Management: A Case Study of the Biscuit Fire,
        Southwest Oregon (pdf), Dominick A. DellaSala et al. I haven’t time this AM to assess this, but a glance suggested that it ought to be part of this record.

        • There is also an element that Scott doesn’t talk about. The way I remember it, the Forest initially proposed a much smaller salvage effort that would have been more acceptable to many parties. Other parties wanted much, much more. I have no doubt that Scott’s decision to expand the project was influenced by the sort of direct pressure that the Undersecretary was infamous for. That’s “debate and discussion” that the public doesn’t get to see or participate directly in. It’s the kind of pressure that the extractive industries count on applying when the Republicans are in the Whitehouse and that the green groups count on when the Democrats are in. (Of course it’s not that clear cut, the ski area industry seems to be able to apply it regardless of who is president).

          Scott said: ” There is hope and opportunity for good results when honest people deal honestly with each other. ” I’m pretty sure that in this case, a lot of the dealing was not direct or honest. I’m not defending the apparent outright falsehoods perpetuated by some of the opponents, but perhaps, having seen the sort of things that the other side has been capable of, (see David’s comments earlier in this string) they decided that all’s fair in love and salvage wars.

          Once again, I ‘ll ask “Is there anything a new planning rule can do to address this aspect of the process or is it just the way of the world?’ I choose to believe that there are ways to do better. When people meet face to face, talk together, visit the place they are talking about, eat and drink together, it becomes a lot harder to lie to someone you see as another person with a contrary view rather than an evil force.

    • From one of your links, Dave.

      “The bill passed quickly in the House, (173) but stalled in the Senate over fears of a filibuster by Senate Democrats. (174) The bill did not seem destined to reach the Senate floor until mid-October 2003, when deadly fires broke out in the southern California foothills. (175) These fires, which scorched 750,000 acres and 3,640 homes and took 23 lives, increased the political pressure to reach a compromise. (176) With this impetus, a group of ten senators, mostly from the West, brokered a compromise, settling the divisive issues of fuels, project funding, proposed old growth protections, and provisions about judicial review, public participation, and NEPA alternatives analysis. (177) President Bush signed the Healthy Forests Restoration Act into law only a month later.

      • What was at the time (and still is) so sadly ironic about the October 2003 southern California wildfires being used by politicians as an excuse to pass Bush’s “Healthy Forest Restoration Act” is that, according to the USGS Western Ecological Research Center, forests comprised only about 5% of the total acreage burned in those fires. The fact of the matter is that chaparral and related shrublands dominated the vast majority of the landscape burned during the October 2003 fires.

  18. I’ll just say here the whole Donato business had problems both from a strictly science standpoint and a science and policy standpoint. But to cut to the chase, I looked at the Biscuit EIS at the time and the purpose and need was to recover economic value. So while scientists all agreed on the answer to a question, it wasn’t the question people were asking. Looking for a quote from the purpose and need, I found this piece here by Scott Conroy. The italics are mine, and hopefully (to go back to what this blog should be about) this blog should be a place where in the future the different opinions, flaming rhetoric and whatever can be investigated and discussed.

    ‘Truth’: A Casualty of the Biscuit Fire
    The last of the Biscuit fire salvage sales is nearing completion, marking the end of a significant and controversial chapter in the history of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. It also provides a time for review, and a time to test the claims of many about what the Biscuit Recovery project was or was not.

    The Biscuit Fire Recovery Project served as a lightning rod in the national debate over post-fire logging. It attracted protests, congressional hearings, news stories, publications, scientific debate, and of course, many lawsuits. The conflict was serious, heated, and waged with a “no-holds-barred” intensity to a degree I have rarely witnessed in my 30 years in natural resource management. Unfortunately, there were casualties, and from my perspective, one of the most saddening of these casualties was ‘truth’.

    Claims were made about the ‘Biscuit Fire Recovery Project’ that frequently left my staff and I open-mouthed in wonder that otherwise reasonable people could make them, and that others would unquestionably embrace them as true. Here are some examples of actual newspaper headlines:

    “Healthy Old Growth Trees to Be logged in the Biscuit Fire Area” accompanied by a picture of an unburned old growth forest. Truth: no unburned old-growth forests were salvage logged, and only fire-killed trees, or trees that constituted a legitimate safety hazard, were authorized for cutting.

    “The U.S. Forest Service lost more than $9 million logging trees burned by the massive 2002 Biscuit fire in southwestern Oregon” Truth: we spent about $5.8 million to analyze, document, prepare, administer, and legally defend these salvage sales. The sales generated over $12.3 million to the taxpayer, and provided about $40 million of value to the local communities. One critic published a prediction that our loss would be almost $14 million without ever bothering to ask to look at our books. Where did that come from?

    In court, there was testimony that the sales were located in Wilderness (which would have been illegal); that we didn’t retain enough snags for wildlife (have you seen the millions of snags still present throughout the Biscuit fire area?); and that our goal of salvage logging to assist with reforestation was proven unnecessary by research findings.

    That last claim was made again and again. Opponents frequently misrepresented our intentions for salvage logging as though we believed logging was necessary for forest recovery. My decision to salvage log was to realize both the potential jobs for local communities and the economic return to the Federal government. I also knew these sales would be implemented with rigorous environmental protections and generate funds for recovery efforts.

    One claim heard often was that these sales were illegal. My staff received letters and phone calls from people around the country aghast that we were engaging in actions so
    obviously against the law. The courts, however, disagreed and ruled in favor of the Forest Service in over seventeen rulings. Seventeen. The Forest Service has prevailed in every court decision.

    “Truth” is an unacceptable casualty in matters concerning debate over the management of our National Forests. These lands are treasures, and I am charged with managing them according to law and for your greatest good for the long term. To do so, I need the productive participation of citizens willing to acknowledge and deal in what is true, even if it doesn’t support their beliefs or desires. There is hope and opportunity for good results when honest people deal honestly with each other. Un-researched, unsupported, exaggerations and intentional misrepresentations designed to inflame rather than to enlighten serve no common good.

    One last truth you should know. The time and resources spent battling such claims could have been more productively spent restoring our landscapes in hope of avoiding another ‘Biscuit’ fire on your lands.
    Scott Conroy, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest Supervisor, May 7, 2007

  19. Here is a photo of the Meadow Fire in Yosemite. This re-burn of an unsalvaged catastrophic wildfire is testament to how much is destroyed when fuels are not reduced. This used to be a stand of 400 year old trees that have survived decades of frequent fires, because of Indian burning. Now, it is dirt, rock and a little bit of brush. The second picture is another view of the complete incineration of every living thing.

    Here are some pictures from the Biscuit Fire that show how extreme wildfire conditions were. This is a part of the ESA foraging habitat, adjacent to a spotted owl PAC. The second picture includes that spotted owl PAC, located across the canyon, completely dead.

    If the Biscuit Fire was all about “economic recovery”, then why was only 4% of the entire burned area prepared for salvage. Now, I’m not saying that the salvage project was perfect, or even good in design. I would have pushed for some marking guidelines for trees with a poor live crown ratio, as those trees did become “brood trees” for increased bark beetle attacks. I was amazed in looking at a cutting unit I worked in, designating snags as “leave trees”, at how many new snags there are, in addition to the largest and most valuable snags we were required to save in that particular “late successional” stand. Also regarding the Biscuit Fire, locals were united in the slogan of “not one stick”. Interestingly, those locals have now been surprisingly quiet about forest issues, these days.

    Finally, here are bonus pictures of a successful salvage project I worked on as Sale Administrator.

    These images were taken just 7 months after logging and all treatments were complete. I would think that this kind of salvage logging did not “hinder recovery” or damage ecosystems. Donato used a very broad brush in painting salvage sales as destructive and always bad for forest ecosystem recoveries from wildfires.

  20. More info about the Biscuit Fire, and the proposed post-fire logging project, can be found here:

    Suffice to say, the photos and words being provided in this forum by Larry /Fotoware don’t even come close to telling the entire story.

    For example, while referred to repeatedly as catastrophic, devastating and unnatural, the reality is that 84% of the Biscuit fire area was either unburned, or burned at low to moderate intensity.

    “We don’t anticipate any (long term) adverse effects out there on the fish and wildlife and flora. There is a lot of unburned area, and there’s a lot that burned at a very low intensity. This is by no means 500,000 acres that has been wiped out.” – Greg Clevenger, resource staff officer for the Rogue River and Siskiyou National Forest

  21. Matt obviously wishes to eliminate my input here by making sure that my last name is splashed about. He obviously wishes that I never get hired by the Forest Service again, and that is a violent response to my postings here. My pictures show the intense damages. When nest trees burn, owls have to find new, less secure nesting sites, often already occupied by another owl, or goshawk.


  22. Once again, good to see that Sharon wants this blog to be the land of make believe, where people can just say any crazy thing under some “anonymous” posting. Whatever….

    And Larry, I did address your photos. I said they don’t even come close to telling the entire story…which they clearly don’t. Why don’t you address that Larry?

    Larry, why don’t you address the reality that 84% of the Biscuit fire area was either unburned, or burned at low to moderate intensity. Why don’t you address the fact, Larry, that much of the high intensity burn was actually the result of USFS backburns?

    Why don’t you address the comments regarding the Biscuit fire from the resource staff officer of the Siskiyou NF? Or should we just continue to play pre-tend and make believe here?

    • Matthew

      Just to be clear. Sharon didn’t edit your posts, I did. If Sharon thinks that was inappropriate, she can reedit them, and I’ll stay out of this particular argument. Dave presents some good arguments for anonymity in his recent post.

      Jim Fenwood

  23. Wow! Calling “Fotoware” by his real name is “violent response”?!? Wow! Call the cops Larry. I’m just sorry to see the University of Montana, which I’m an alumni of and I pay taxes to, promoting anonymous postings on a site discussing public lands policy.

    • You are certainly free to leave, Matt. You KNOW that you are just PUSHING BUTTONS, trying to get me to leave, and eliminating my middle-of-the road comments. Your attitude that “you’re either with us or against us” is not conducive to collaboration and consensus. However, that just might be your intention, to reach consensus without forester input. You KNOW the reasons why I don’t use my real name, and you KNOW that Sharon removed my last name the last time you posted it, so you seem determined to shove me out of the blog by any means, even if it affects my life in a very bad way. That is stalker territory, Matt. That is intended harm, and yes, that IS a form of violence.

      Ummm, as I posted on another thread, the preliminary assessment of mortality had 190,000 acres of dead forest. The surely conflicts with your 84%, Matt. I’ve also seen that bark beetles have killed a significant additional amount of trees, both inside and outside of the fire area, including private land. Your comment about backburns makes me wonder if you think we should have let the fire continue to burn into the towns in the Illinois Valley and the city of Grants Pass, itself. How else do you control a firestorm?!?! When burning conditions are off the scale, do we do nothing to stop the flames? My pictures show intense mortality, over a great many acres, and burned land as far as you can see on the horizon, in one of the pictures. The backburns were a last resort for stopping the fire at the property boundary. You are grasping at straws, trying to paint the fire as a good thing. I’m guessing that the Resource Officer is defending his turf. I’m not seeing any mention of the wide variety of rare plants and animals that used to live within the fire area.

      There is also the study on the Biscuit Fire that estimates fire temperatures over 700 degrees F. Soils were actually vaporized and bulk densities have significantly increased, compared to measured pre-fire conditions. Organic matter in the soils in the study area is non-existent. Hydrophobicity will persist for many years, leaving communities along the rivers and streams coming out of the burn flood prone until the hydrophobic layer is remedied. I wonder if Clevenger would say that his comment still rings true today. The Biscuit area was a remarkable place for legacy plants from another time and climate. Letting it burn represents a big loss to world diversity. No comments will bring back those ultra-rare species, like Brewer’s Spruce, back to their former populations.

      I’m NOT saying that the Biscuit plans were good. I would have made adjustments in both directions, based upon my extensive experience in salvage sales. One of the keys is eliminating issues that are dealbreakers to stakeholders in the middle of these issues. Clearly, eco-groups wanted ZERO harvesting within the Biscuit. The bigger issue was harvesting within the LSR units. The compromise was to leave some of the biggest and best snags. Whenever we ran across a giant 70″ dbh sugar pine, we marked them as leave trees. We wanted no part of a controversy that would accuse us of not marking enough giant trees, and not following the plan. Hey, we even marked MORE snags than the plan called for!

  24. Sometimes I am amazed at the synchronicity of this and my other major vocational avocation. This morning I was working with my spiritual community on finding a new name, and heard some might fine preachin’ on the importance of names and naming. I was listening, not writing, but I found some similar thoughts on the internet, in a 2010 speech for a baccalaureate service at Wake Forest University by a fellow named Bill Leonard, who is or was the Dean of their Divinity School. Here it is in full. Below are some excerpts (OK, the cat part is a bit off topic, but priceless).

    (Note: I think this is relevant because part of the above discussion is about Foto naming himself).

    Naming is a serious matter for the people of the Bible. Indeed, for the Hebrew writer, a thing is not real until it has a name. One commentator notes that in Hebrew scripture “a name is necessary for … full existence.”..

    Think of all the people you have named and in doing so changed their identity, gave them a new kind of existence: father/mother, friend/enemy, lover/spouse, and teacher/employer…

    And what of the people who taught you to name things? Today, can you recall individuals who led you to name letters and numbers, trees and flowers, animals and birds, novelists and philosophers, cutthroats and heroes? How many of us were changed forever because someone in a lecture, class discussion or a text challenged us to name our own ideas and issues in the Arts, the Sciences and the Humanities?

    So the story goes, the animals came trooping by and Adam named them everyone. And as far as we can tell the animals accepted those names, except, as Ursula Le Guin says, the cats, who “steadfastly denied ever having had any name other than those self given, unspoken ineffably personal names which, as the poet named Eliot said, they spend long hours daily contemplating.” Indeed, Le Guin’s article, entitled “She Unnames Them,” deals playfully and poignantly with the possibility that Eve herself cast aside all the names Adam gave because they were imposed or uninvited. Thus the power of unnaming captures the transforming nature of prophetic spirituality and troublesome pedagogy. Whatever else a college education does for us it must teach us to name what we have not known before and unname (or rename) some ideas and issues we thought we had settled long ago.”

    Perhaps a blog can be like a college education in that respect?

  25. Foto: You know, it’s kinda funny and ironic that you are making such a big deal about me using your real name. You know why? Because you are regularly using your real name to post these same type of criticisms about the Forest Service’s planning rule, wildland fire use policy, lawsuits of timber sale, etc on the USDA-Forest Service’s very own Facebook page.

    Plus, under your real name you have established a very open and public facebook page titled “Please Don’t Let Our Forests Burn Catastrophically” that anyone in the world can view and anyone in the world can join and become a member of. Here’s the link to that:

    As anyone can see, under your real name on this facebook page you yourself actually direct people to this very NCFP website so they can check out your Biscuit Fire photos.

    So, Foto, while you blast me as supposedly being “violent” for simply using your real name…and while you write that I “know that using [your] real name could affect [your] entire future”….it’s kinda ironic that you yourself have very publicly (using your real name) directed people to check out your Biscuit Fire photos posted on this very site, but anonymously. Furthermore, you did all this on Saturday, a full day before I even used your real name here.

    Given these facts, methinks Foto is feigning outrage here. The truth is that at this site, and other sites like, Foto has made it a regular practice to hide in anonymity and say some completely untrue things about those of us who work for non-profit conservation organizations, our intentions and our vision for federal forest management. When people in our line of work regularly get harassed or receive threatening phone calls, emails, etc I’m not going to sit back and let a site, initiated by the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation and Forest Service, become yet another place when anonymous posters can anonymously stir the pot against environmentalists. Thanks.

  26. Ohhhhh, the horror of anonymous posting….Ohhhh, the HUMANITY that such an evil person would hide his name for reasons of his own! Yes, I can also cut and paste my response to your childish posting, Matt.

    So very, VERY childish, Matt! You are the one who is overreacting to my anonymous name. You are the one who is flinging the childish “Liar, Liar” thingy. You are the one who is using stalker methods. You are the one whining about a barely-linked blog to the U of M. Hey, WordPress is totally disconnected and unrelated to any University. You are the one flinging insults and namecalling. You only do this to irritate me, hoping I will stop posting. Nice fascist manuever, bud.

    Finally, what is the big deal about me posting anonymously? I’ve already stated my reason for keeping my real name out of this blog. Is that reason a worthy one? I certainly think it is, and I don’t care if you don’t think it is. You obviously see me as a threat in influencing how people think about forest management. Just HOW FAR will you go to try and shut me up. No one else seems to have a problem with my anonymous postings, although they may disagree with what I am posting. It’s perfectly fine to disagree with my opinions but, I DO NOT LIE! I tell it like I see it. I present photos which display concepts and educate people. I use my 20+ years of experience in forestry, owl and goshawk surveys. I have ZERO connections to the timber industry.

    I have NEVER sent you an e-mail, harrassed you personally, called you on the phone or stalked you on the Internet. However, I do thank you for the free advertising in my quest to stop forest destruction through catastrophic wildfires. I consider myself to be a “true environmentalist”, advocating the restoration to healthy managed public forests, with robust wildlife, clean water, clean air and resiliency.

    Finally, it seems to me that the forest management discussion needs to have the pot stirred. If you look in the comments on forestry articles of major publications, you’ll see vast amounts of anonymous posters claiming things like, “the Forest Service is clearcutting Roadless old growth and sending the raw logs to the Far East”. I also see the same thing on the other side of the issue, where people want to log it, drill it and use it. My goal is to bring the extremists back to the middle.

  27. People, anonymous and not, say a variety of true and untrue things about other people’s (and organizations, including the FS!) intentions and actions. I see the point of this blog to get to the facts by sharing views and perspectives. If something is untrue, or misleading statements are made, I think we are lucky to have a variety of people reading this blog with skills to piece together the truth, or at least hone in on why people describe the same facts differently.

    As for me, I respect the choice of anyone to remain anonymous. The more voices we hear, the closer we will get to a better understanding.

    PS I still don’t see how we got on this topic since we started with powerlines in Alaska roadless.

    • Having started with “powerlines in Alaska Roadless”, much was revealed about other, more significant lines of power. In an attempt at retracing those lines of power in retrograde fashion, I’ll start with your last comment Sharon.

      When I first chose to enter this conversation on NCFP, I’d given the option of anonymity some consideration myself. The full extent of anonymity has some interesting options, but the question is, whether at a masquerade party, or confronted by a disguised thief, or whether appraising the masked visage of a freedom fighter or “terrorist” alike on a TV documentary, what are the circumstances of the occasion requiring anonymity?

      That is, “Why anonymity — especially here, on a blog about the taxpayer funded management of our national forest system?”

      The answer is partially revealed in impassioned dialogue in defense of the commons, in defense of personally held values, and in defense of livelihoods. My take is your objective for the blog, Sharon, is being fulfilled in that we cannot help but to learn from each other, and even learn certain nuanced aspects about ourselves in this dialogue, which bear reconsideration.

      Tao Te Ching opens with the recognition that names and language itself, have serious shortcomings, but it of course must use language and names to demonstrate this. My sense is, let us own our names and thereby hold ourselves accountable to them.

      Further, let us seriously question the circumstances by which our names are forced to be masked, in order that we may then speak our personal truths.

      What of those lines of power which threaten to destroy people’s lives and families and careers because they dared defend their personal truths? I’m confident such truths are shared by many, many others.

      I’m also confident the true nature of the threats from those lines of power, are precisely about attempting to prevent people from sharing and supporting each other’s truths. When coercion into silence happens, democratic principles are destroyed. When this happens, lines of power and coercion become more powerful. When this happens, we then experience the actual Tragedy of the Commons — not Garrett Hardin’s long disproven thesis, but the tragedy of the mismanagement of the commons through such lines of power.

      Lastly, this retraced route returns to the starting point of this Post– about the commonality of oppositional legal defenses of pipelines (in Montana?)and “powerlines in Alaska” as it deals with the Ninth Circuit Court ruling which found the metaphorical lines of agency power to be “implausible, contrary to the evidence in the record, and contrary to Ninth Circuit precedent…arbitrary and capricious.”

      In many senses, Alaska’s virgin oldgrowth temperate rainforests of the Tongass represents the outermost (latest) wave of the destructive components of “management” of public lands, and despite the welcome court decision, there are massive concurrent timber sales planning efforts in the works here.

      The Big Thorne proposes 100 million board feet off of 5800 acres requiring 37 more miles of logging roads and reconstructing 26 miles of old roads. Then there’s Wrangell Is Project proposing at the same time, 91 million board feet, the Tonka Timber sale off of Kupreanof Island at 64 million board feet, the Central Kupreanof Island Timber Sale at 26 million board feet, and many others.

      All of these, of course, in aggregate, will not end up returning a dime to the US Treasury, will push further to the edge both subsistence-dependent communities and oldgrowth dependent species, and force citizens to take their government to court to challenge the lines of power that would force well meaning individuals who work for the agency to remain anonymous and fearful for their families and their careers.

      Such is the true Tragedy of the Commons on the Tongass National Forest.

      • David,

        You note,

        in impassioned dialogue in defense of the commons, in defense of personally held values, and in defense of livelihoods … we cannot help but to learn from each other, and even learn certain nuanced aspects about ourselves in this dialogue, which bear reconsideration.

        Yesterday, I was finally struck with how our “word wars” here are just one manifestation of the broader holy wars being waged in and around our public lands.

        Samuel Hays’ Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency, alongside David Clary’s Timber and the Forest Service both build on self-righteousness to the point of religious fervor among many who chose to work on the land, and their evangelists (pundits, professors, etc.).

        Similar books could be written — likely have been — talking about the religious-like fervor of the environmental community.

        So I thought, yesterday, that maybe I’ll reach out to a noted historian to write a sequel — sort of — to Hays’ book, provisionally titled: The Gospel of Restoration Forestry. I can envision Wally Covington center stage, preaching. But I can also see, earlier, Jeff DeBonis working up his dream of “Green Tele-evangelism,” as he once called it.

        But that title wouldn’t do justice to the holy wars that have raged over the public lands, often with NEPA and The ESA at the core of the debate, that have arguably caused much damage to the environment. Who knows what damage, or not, might have happened without the wars. We can’t replay history.

        Note: Remember that Sally Fairfax set a stage for continued disdain for NEPA among forest practitioners with her 1978 Science article titled A Disaster in the Environmental Movement. Counter that with Jim Kennedy’s NEPA note: Legislative Confrontation of Groupthink.

        Warriors on the practitioner side of the wars — timber wars, fire wars, grazing wars, etc. — vilify the enviros. Warriors on the “enviro” side vilify who they can, either corporations, else government “lackeys” for the corporations.

        And on it goes..

        While I was digging around on the internet yesterday, I found both Bob Keiter’s (U. of Utah Law School) book Keeping Faith with Nature, and his 2007 article Breaking Faith with Nature. The two trace certain aspects of emergent gospels. The former traces what I’ll call the “ecosystem awareness” movement in the Clinton era of government, and the second the “Healthy Forests Initiative, ACT” reactions during the Bush/Cheney era.

        Aside: I still use Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, but mainly as it applies to our national interest in a working money and banking system, e.g. here. I agree that Hardin’s “tragedy” metaphor has been abused by those, maybe Hardin included, championing private property rights. But Hardin’s main message was that we humans would plunder the planet via unbridled population growth.

        PS. Sorry for too many hyperlinks, and rambling. I’m staging up of a possible future “post.”

        • Dave–

          Since we are now up to 49 comments and perhaps have wandered a bit I think it would be great if you spun this off as a new post as you hint at in your comment. It might be interesting to explore more of Keiter’s conclusions on the actual impact of changes that were wrought during the Bush years. For example, I initially assumed that the HFRA had to be an evil plot hatched by Mark Rey. I couldn’t find much to fault in the language though. What has been the impact of projects implemented under HFRA?

  28. Matthew Koehler :What was at the time (and still is) so sadly ironic about the October 2003 southern California wildfires being used by politicians as an excuse to pass Bush’s “Healthy Forest Restoration Act” is that, according to the USGS Western Ecological Research Center, forests comprised only about 5% of the total acreage burned in those fires. The fact of the matter is that chaparral and related shrublands dominated the vast majority of the landscape burned during the October 2003 fires.

    Yes, that is verifiably true but, at the times of those fires, the risk of fire getting up into the MILLIONS of dead trees in the San Bernardino NF (and other forests) put entire cities in danger, like Big Bear, Crestline and Idyllwild. Lake Arrowhead was particularly riddled with bugs, and that is where a big chunk of concentrated residential properties were burned. I spent a lot of time working on fire salvage projects down there in 2002, and saw that insect mortality was increasing, setting the stage for future fires.

    The San Bernardino NF poured money into fuels projects (with great inefficiency but…), while the Angeles stumbled and sputtered, culminating in the Station Fire. Other parts of the country were also having mortality with insects and wildfires, as well. Does anyone really think that western Democrats would have broken rank during the Bush Administration for any reason other than improving wildfire safety? Yes, it was obvious that forests were, indeed, “unhealthy”. Then, there was also the history of previous bark beetle “blooms” across the west that Senators could not ignore.


Leave a Comment