Roadless Fact Check #1

The first piece I’ll look at is this one in HCN- not for any particular reason, other than I was reading HCN and ran across it. Here’s the link.

Been wondering what’s new with the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule? Well, being the inveterate wonks we are, we’ve got an update for you on the latest with this 2001 rule that banned most logging and road building (but not off-roading or mining) on 58.5 million acres of national forest.

But first, a bit of history: In 2004, Bush repealed the rule, but allowed states to develop their own forest-protection plans. Which meant that states had to petition the federal government to protect roadless areas within their boundaries, that residents of other states had no say in those petitions, and that each state could thus have a different set of rules. Idaho and Colorado quickly drafted proposals. Idaho’s regulations, approved in 2008, protect about 9 million acres and open 400,000 to road-building, logging and mining.

This February, a federal judge upheld Idaho’s rule after environmentalists charged that it would harm endangered caribou and grizzly bears. And last week, Colorado released a new draft of its proposal, which would protect most of its 4 million roadless acres but allow new transmission lines, logging to control pine beetles, temporary drilling and coal-mining roads, and energy development on roughly 100,000 acres. The plan is open for public comment until July 14.

As for Clinton’s original roadless rule, it was reinstated in 2006, but its legal status won’t be resolved until appeals of a 2008 injunction are decided, probably early this year.

Let’s take

1.

that residents of other states had no say in those petitions

This is not entirely true, as public comment was open in Colorado and Idaho to everyone across the country, and national interest groups played a role. In addition, there was a national advisory committee (RACNAC) that the designer of this process, Mark Rey, intended to provide a balance, and national perspective to the state petitions. I know the RACNAC folks and I don’t know any who are shrinking violets when it comes to stating his or her opinion.

” Idaho and Colorado quickly drafted proposals.”

“Quick” is not an adjective that I would use about anything that involves federal rulemaking, and particularly not Colorado….having spent time with the Task Force that developed the petition, I would argue that a better adverb might be “laboriously.”

Idaho’s regulations, approved in 2008, protect about 9 million acres and open 400,000 to road-building, logging and mining.

I am only slowly learning about the Idaho rule, but what is interesting to me is that it appears that temporary roads can be built for fuels treatments in the Backcountry Restoration Theme (more than 400K acres), but it looks like roads are allowed for everything else but mining on the 400K. If this is not the case, I would appreciate some enlightening by those more familiar with Idaho.

which would protect most of its 4 million roadless acres but allow new transmission lines, logging to control pine beetles, temporary drilling and coal-mining roads, and energy development on roughly 100,000 acres.

New power transmission lines are also allowed in the 2001 Rule as long as you don’t build roads. The 2001 Rule is therefore the same as the proposed Colorado Rule with regard to powerlines.

The tree cutting allowed is for fuels treatment around communities and to protect municipal water supply systems from fire, Controlling pine beetles is not really possible in this part of the country.

Temporary drilling and coal-mining roads on roughly 100 K acres.

There are 20K acres in the North Fork Coal area, and there is no other energy development. Unless the author is thinking of the so-called gap leases, (this requires another post) which are not 80K so I don’t know where 100K comes from.

Next edition: the wonderful world of “gap” leases.

23 thoughts on “Roadless Fact Check #1”

  1. “… and open 400,000 to road-building, logging and mining.”

    Just how many of those acres are in others areas closed to logging, like stream buffers, steep ground, wildlife PACs, archeological zones, Wild and Scenic Rivers, etc? The Forest Service cannot, and will not ignore those protected areas outside of the Roadless Areas. Also, I’ll bet some of those acres just don’t have economical resources worth building roads to, on difficult terrain. Again, it seems that the mere fear of management trumps reality. I’d expect that litigation will attempt to ban activities on those 400,000 acres.

    Reply
  2. Rebuttal of Sharon:
    “… as public comment was open in Colorado and Idaho to everyone across the country, and national interest groups played a role.”

    Uh, huh. Ever tried making a comment on state issues while living in another state? Oftentimes, if you don’t enter the appropriate home address zip code indicating you’re a state resident, you can’t comment at all.

    This “open to everyone” rebuttal is verging on disingenuous when factoring commonplace reality. The fact that the majority of the American populace is either somnambulant or too desperately strapped for time to make daily life’s ends meet to participate in the first place, consequently, makes this #1’s rebuttal specious at best…

    rebuttal of Sharon:
    “the designer of this process, Mark Rey, intended to provide a balance, and national perspective to the state petitions”
    Comment:
    The Mark Rey we’re talking about here, has two decades under his belt advocating for the timber/paper industry– his tenure in the Dept. of AG no less maliciously pernicious than James Watt himself.

    Rey narrowly escaped imprisonment for contempt of court in his personal pursuit of contempt of NFMA and NEPA. Sounded like an average, good-intentioned, balanced Under secretary to me! And now you too, Sharon?

    Rebuttal of Sharon:
    ‘“Quick” is not an adjective that I would use about anything that involves federal rulemaking, and particularly not Colorado….having spent time with the Task Force that developed the petition, I would argue that a better adverb might be “laboriously.”’

    Comment: (Might the use of “quick” been in context to other rulemaking timelines?)
    How can the use of “quick” in the original statement be contextualized in any other way than in the context of “relative to similar processes”? Please do not downplay the complexity of the task everyone knows is laborious by resorting to simplistic attacks.

    Reply
    • David-

      1. All the comments (from federal rulemaking efforts) were analyzed by contractors, who do not look at the state where the comments came from. Right now the public comment period is open for Colorado and the comment info is located here. The Forest Service gets the comments analyzed by the contractors the same way as the national planning rule. So by the time the FS looks at them, they are not even separated out by state of origin.

      2.I don’t believe that Mark Rey is a bad person. People have gotten caught up in their own partisan rhetoric, and he made a colorful and convenient target. I don’t believe that Wildlaw would have hired him if he were that bad. But even if he were bad, he could still have good policy ideas. Plus I don’t think that advocating for the timber industry is any worse experience for being an undersecretary than being an advocate for a sportsperson group, or an environmental group, a lawyer who represents ski areas, or a congressional staff person. If we are to make progress at resolving disputes, I think we need to put aside partisan hype and look at individuals and facts for themselves.

      The whole story of Mark possibly going to prison had a lot to do with enjoying a good fight and little to do with real contempt for NFMA or NEPA. I don’t believe he actually wrote the environmental documents in question.

      Finally, I wasn’t “attacking” anyone, let alone “simplistically.” Roadless is pretty darn complicated and it is hard to get everything right.

      I was just saying that contextually, I don’t know what “quick” means but here is the original Colorado process to get to a petition- from June 2005 to November 2006- and this was entirely a public process, as you can see here. That’s just the original petition, not the federal public comment process on the proposed rule and DEIS (let alone the revised rule and RDEIS).

      Then to say that the States put in petitions “quick”ly- in the case of Idaho, the original petition was changed significantly by the efforts of the RACNAC and the federal comment process. In the case of Colorado, this is 2011 and the second public comment period…

      In terms of quickness, in terms of similar efforts, let’s look at the 2001 Rule. I found these dates on the Earthjustice website in their history– so can’t vouch for them- others may want to weigh in.

      2001
      The roadless policy rule was published in the Federal Register January 12.

      In January, President Clinton issued the Roadless Area Conservation Policy directive, ending virtually all logging; roadbuilding; and coal, gas, oil, and other mineral leasing in 58 million acres of the wildest remaining national forests lands. The rule was the direct result of a tremendous outpouring of public support. More than 600 public hearings were held around the nation, and the public provided—more than 1.6 million comments on the rule — more than any other rule in the nation’s history.

      2000

      On November 13, 2000, the Forest Service released a near-final plan. The agency proposed to immediately prohibit roadbuilding and commodity logging on 49 million acres of wild forests. In 2004, it would be expanded to include Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, bringing the total acres protected to 58.5 million. Earthjustice worked to ensure that the final plan protected the Tongass.

      In May, the Forest Service released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement to implement President Clinton’s plan. Under the proposed policy, 43 million acres of roadless forest would be protected. The policy marks an important first step towards the preservation of our national forests, but it did not go far enough.

      1999

      In October, President Clinton announced that his administration would develop a more comprehensive policy to protect the remaining unprotected wilderness areas in the National Forest System. This effort would be conducted on a separate track from the previously announced transportation policy, which would primarily focus on areas within the national forests that are already roaded.

      So it sounds like it the idea started in October 1999 and they were done with the federal comment period and had a final rule (or near-final) in November 2000? Meanwhile say Colorado took a year and a half and only had a petition which had yet to become a proposed rule and DEIS?

      But I’m not sure that’s what HCN meant, in terms of quickness, it might have been simply submitting the petitions. I think the quickest petitions were those affirming the 2001 Rule, as those clearly took less time to do than Colorado’s Taskforce and Idaho’s community meetings.

      Reply
      • All the comments (from federal rulemaking efforts) were analyzed by contractors,

        I believe this to be a major flaw in extant process. There is an old saying that dropping a suggestion in a suggestion box is like to “whistling in the wind.” It may provide some momentary satisfaction, but it does no good. It takes personal attention to comments, even extended dialogue, to make any difference. Anybody besides me ever wondered whether or not this “contracting out” of “content analysis” ought to be abandoned?

        Plus I don’t think that advocating for the timber industry is any worse experience for being an undersecretary than being an advocate for a sportsperson group, or an environmental group

        Both corruption and bias are always in play. But there are degrees, as you note: “we need to put aside partisan hype and look at individuals and facts for themselves.”

        That said, I put Mark Rey closer to James Watt both in terms of what specifically he advocates for and in terms of depth of corruption, than to, say, Ron Brunner or Toddi Steelman, or Hanna Cortner, Anne Moote, or Maggie Shannon—all advocates for Adaptive Governance. The latter bunch advocate for dialogue and discovery in public policy development, not for particular “uses” or “FS functional disciplines.” While the latter bunch is biased, I’m not convinced that the term corruption applies. [Note: Brunner, Steelman, Cortner, Moote, Shannon all would be considered “corrupt” by those Steelman labels “scientific fundamentalists”]

        Reply
  3. Dave- It seems to me that the national advisory committee provided the opportunity for “extended dialogue” as you suggest. Here’s the information on their meetings, membership, etc.

    I don’t see the utility of assigning degrees of “corruption”; name-calling (or at least believing in the names) keeps us from working with each other. Especially for us federal public servants, if we really believe that one party holds Truth and Virtue and the other is Evil and Corrupt, this could interfere with our being able to carry out the wishes of officials elected by the citizens of the US.

    Reply
    • Sharon–

      Of course Mark Rey was not elected to his position, but I see what you are saying. However, one of the most important lessons that I took home from the Kennedy School program that you and I attended in 2005 was that sometimes a dedicated civil servant needs to find ways (perhaps fairly subtle ways) to avoid carrying out some of the wishes of those elected officials when then do not serve the long-term public interest. It’s frustrating when a large bureaucracy like the Forest Service doesn’t change fast enough to suit me but I’m damn glad it doesn’t change to suit every political wish, particularly when it’s the sort of wishes wished (at least in the past) by Mark Rey. I was once chastised by a Senate staffer for referring to Mark as the “Devil’s henchman”. She said “That’s not true, he’s the Devil himself.” I know that Mark has subsequently worked with Ray Vaughn and Chris Wood, two people I respect. Apparently they are enlightened enough to focus on the things that they have in common and are able to avoid labels that get in the way of shared goals. I can aspire to such enlightenment, but I’m not sure if I’m there yet.

      Reply
    • One man’s advocacy is another man’s corruption. Bias is an unfortunate reality that will never go away, and that is going to have to be fine with everyone. Bias can be marginalized by facts, and respect automatically deducted from one’s “score”. Watt was a genius at manipulation. He would propose something so totally off-the-wall, merely as a smokescreen, while loading up on other programs that fit his Administration’s framework. Rey was much more moderate than Watt.

      The preservationists have now learned that a kneejerk opposition to capitalist ideas in the environment is the safest way for them to go. That is why Rey had so much opposition. Even today, under an Obama Administration, preservationists are opposing Democratic capitalist ideas in the environment, and lamenting that Obama isn’t the guy they elected. Are they opposed to the forest projects, or are they opposed to the “monetary extraction” from our forests? Clearly, they never focus on what is left, or what “greater good” is accomplished, when a project is completed.

      Personally, I have opposed most of the Presidential ideas about our public forests since I was old enough to have an informed opinion. I had hopes for the Planning Rule but, it is looking more like just another partisan exercise in futility. The result won’t match the intent.

      Reply
    • The RACNAC is not even close to true public deliberation. Just another “advisory committee.” Remember FACA? FACA was put in place for a reason, but the track record for advisory committees is not clean even after FACA. If it were advocates for Adaptive Governance would be singing praises to “advisory committees.” Anyone hearing such songfests?

      BTW.. Did I say that Mark Rey was evil? Yes, the Enviros liked to call him “Darth Vader Lite.” That’s just what you like to call “partisan hype.” But Evil? Please! As for being corrupted by being ideologically linked to a cause, we ALL have to plead guilty. That doesn’t mean we can’t work with one another. It does mean that we have to be very aware of who we are and what we stand for. And when I say ALL, I mean not only industry and environmentalist types, I mean ALL including scientists, foresters and other forest specialists. This is the sense in which I used the word corrupt: “any corrupting influence or agency.” Where corrupt is defined as “infected; tainted.” I probably should have grabbed a different word, but I’ll stay with the one I used.

      Reply
  4. Sharon,
    Your previous comments on issues of endangered species and environmental legislation come into sharp focus now in your unabashed defense of Mark Rey here, an undersecretary unrivaled in the underhanded art of making matters worse for old growth dependent species pushed to the edge of extinction by unsustainable timber harvest. (Ah, but just another “Hoot and a Half” to you.)

    Since you find that an undersecretary “advocating for the timber industry is (not) any worse … than being an advocate for a sportsperson group, or an environmental group” it would be appropriate to provide evidence of equivalency of harms in your blithe comparison. What exactly is it you’re comparing? Are viable and well distributed populations of wildlife just not your cup of tea?

    Especially clear now, is your defense of the institutional mechanisms and dynamics by which the Forest Service’s long record of shameless mismanagement has been effected, and only matched by your attempts to blame mismanagement on regulations. Your reductionism also comes into play (“good” or “bad”?), here as elsewhere on this blog.

    Far too many others have written volumes of investigative expose’s on Rey for us to ignore here, including E.O. Wilson in the Washington Post, etc. etc. etc. Edward O. Wilson, “Selling Out Our Forests,” Washington Post Editorial, August 28, 2003.

    A worthwhile roundup can be found at SourceWatch
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Mark_Rey

    (A few quotes from that link follow)

    “Rey also authored Senator Larry Craig’s (R-ID) version of the National Forest Management Act, lifting the language of the bill almost verbatim from his American Forest and Paper Association successor’s recommendations to the House resource committee. The bill would have eliminated citizen oversight and made timber harvest levels mandatory and enforceable, while making environmental standards unenforceable “policies.” [4]”

    “A common tactic employed by Rey is to arrange the timing of his anti-environmental policy announcements to minimize scrutiny. Rey waited until late on December 23, 2003 to announce the removal of roadless protections to allow logging in the Tongass National Forest. [6] Other stealth tactics Rey has utilized to avoid public scrutiny and implement his pro-industry agenda include stalling on implementation of regulations, neglecting to enforce standards, misappropriating funds to benefit the timber industry, failing to challenge court actions against environmental laws and manipulating regulations. In “Dirty Secrets” Osha Gray Davidson describes Rey’s enforcement of the roadless regulations:

    “[A]fter more than two years of foot-dragging and resistance in court, the Department of Agriculture finally accepted a Clinton-era rule placing more than 58 million acres of national forests off limits to road building (and thus logging). But it added two caveats: Governors could obtain exemptions for federal forests inside their borders (as several have already done); and the rule wouldn’t apply in much of Alaska, where the largest stretches of roadless wild forest are located. In June, Undersecretary of Agriculture Mark Rey-a veteran timber lobbyist who is now the chief architect of the nation’s forest policy-announced that nearly 3 million acres of land could be opened to timber sales in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the planet’s largest pristine temperate rainforest and home to several species of animals found nowhere else on earth.” [7]

    Diversion of Forest Service funds to benefit the timber industry is evidenced by the use of brush reduction funds for commercial timber sales:
    “In April, a report by the John Muir Project of California (www.johnmuirproject.org) revealed that 83% of all projects funded by NFP brush reduction funds in the Sierra Nevada are actually commercial timber sales. Brush reduction funds were supposed to be used to reduce flammable undergrowth adjacent to forest communities in the West; however, not one of projects in the Sierra Nevada focused on the reduction of flammable brush near homes.”[8]

    Whew. And there’s a whole lot more too. I have to hand it to you though, your willingness to defend the indefensible certainly doesn’t lack ambition. It’s just that your methodology for fixing much of the problems Rey significantly helped create might well be approved with a wink and a nudge, by Mark Rey himself.

    New Century of Forest Planning indeed.
    Not unlike The Project for a New American Century.

    Reply
    • Hey, I just have to laugh when one side blasts the other for doing the same thing they did when they were the minority party. Like convening Congress on the first Sunday of Obama’s term to push certain partisan items contained within the then Omnibus Bill. In fact, there were so many contentious items inside that it never did pass on its own, finally attaching itself as an amendment to a bill already passed, to avoid having to get the two thirds majority. Dirty, dirty tricks!

      Ramrodding the Roadless Rule, in itself, didn’t follow NEPA, David. No analyzed alternatives! I guess since the Tongass issue originally passed, one could, indeed, say that Clinton was “corrupt”, under your views, David. Also, under Clinton’s watch, his Sierra Nevada Framework reduced diameter limits in some areas down to 12″ dbh, and reduced historic ASQ’s to 1/30th of their formerly high amounts. Rey restored those diameter limits in those areas back to a more appropriate 20″ dbh. The ultimate diameter limits were capped at 30″ dbh for the rest of California’s National Forests. Current ASQ’s are around 1/13th of their 80’s high points.

      Believing anything that Chad Hanson and his two-person eco-group says is suspect. Just what are “Brush reduction funds”? What specific program did Rey propose that Hanson was fighting? While the cutting of trees with an average diameter of 14″ dbh COULD be considered “commercial”, it surely isn’t “destructive”. I vehemently disagree that ALL 83% of those projects were away from homes. How far “away” does the project have to be?!?! How much unmerchantable material has to be treated to lose the label of “commercial”? Hanson is probably the most extreme of the serial litigators in America, with even the Sierra Club disowning him.

      Reply
  5. Jim, yes I skipped a step. Someone was elected (Bush)and then picked someone who picked someone who picked Mark (or a shorter or longer chain of picking). But I think I heard one of the judges at the 10th Circuit Appeals court at the Brimmer appeal say something like “the elected folks get to pick the policy, that’s the way it works.” (Does anyone else remember that? is the transcript available?).
    And Senate staff are indubitably partisan; that’s how they get and retain their jobs. So it’s in their interests to paint the other side as bad. When I was on the Hill, I was our staff’s representative to the Democratic Environmental Caucus. I was so naïve, I thought we might work across the aisles to fix something; I was assured that we couldn’t work with the Other Side, as it was more profitable to bash them for being against the environment, and thus to win future elections and then Do More Good Things. I think partisanship is like alcohol, if we don’t use it in moderation – we can wake up with a bad headache of a policy.

    David- you said I gave an “unabashed defense of Mark Rey”. All I said was
    “I don’t believe that Mark Rey is a bad person. People have gotten caught up in their own partisan rhetoric, and he made a colorful and convenient target. I don’t believe that Wildlaw would have hired him if he were that bad. But even if he were bad, he could still have good policy ideas.”

    Maybe I should have been clearer. I believe it is not ours to judge- so I don’t make judgments. I’m not saying he is good or bad. In my spiritual tradition, there is a strong view about not judging others. In fact, there’s even a plant-based story about weeds and wheat and Who gets to ultimately sort things out. Hint: it’s not other humans.

    I aspire to be soft on people and hard on ideas and facts. It’s easy for me to disagree with people about policy issues and separate that from thinking they are bad people. So we could go issue by issue and we could ascertain if I agree with Mark on each one.

    As for E.O. I’m not sure that I would believe his statements about forest policy, or really anything, without independent verification. To be fair, l I wouldn’t believe Mark Rey’s either. That’s the great thing about this blog- many readers have independent knowledge and citations that they are wiling to share.
    In 2002, I was working on a paper about plantations .. and wrote EO for a citation for a statement he made in Mother Jones. Here’s the answer. (thanks to the Archive function in Lotus Notes). I was looking for some kind of study which arrived at a specific percentage of biodiversity reduced.

    Here’s the paper I wrote.. you can see on page 61 I was trying to define what a plantation is since it can mean so many different things. That’s why I asked EO what specific kind of plantation his estimates were based on.

    ewilson@oeb.harvard.edu
    04/23/2002 01:37 PM To “Sharon Friedman/WO/USDAFS”

    cc ewilson@oeb.harvard.edu (Edward O. Wilson)

    Subject : Citation on loss of biodiversity from pine plantations- your statement in Mother Jones article

    Dear Ms. Friedman:

    It was a guess I made in a conversation, that then got into print. It
    can be straightened by simply taking out
    “estimates that a pine plantation contains 90 to 95 percent fewer species”
    and substituting
    “suggests that a pine plantation contains 90 percent or fewer species.”
    (I’ll lay money on that from personal experience.) And the “line of
    Wal-Marts” is OK.

    Best,

    Edward O. Wilson

    EOW:kmh

    Your message read:

    While researching for an article on views on pine management, I ran
    across a quote from you in a Mother Jones article, that stated “E.O.
    Wilson, a Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize winner, estimates that
    a pine plantation contains 90 to 95 percent fewer species than the
    forest that preceded it. He compares the effects of tree farms on
    biological diversity to “building a line of Wal-Marts.” .I would like
    to quote this in a paper I am writing on plantation forestry. Could
    you please give me the citation for your statement so that I can use
    it in my paper if it is from a paper or book or yours. If it was an
    interview, could you let me know what your thinking was based on
    (what tree farms you were talking about?).

    Reply
    • Sharon, thanks for the somewhat sketchy email exchange which apparently is sufficient for you to cast aside all credibility of this internationally renown scientist and author. I cringe at the thought of a hurried email response being sufficient to call into question, an individual’s credibility and career. As usual, your explanations depend upon leveling criticisms of fellow scientists with whom you disagree who are unlikely to defend themselves here, which is perhaps the most important failure of this blog, and represents a decidedly un-level playing field of discussion.

      While you stated, “I don’t believe that Mark Rey is a bad person…”, you also said, ““the designer of this process, Mark Rey, intended to provide a balance, and national perspective to the state petitions”. This, in stark contrast to the many, many, references to others who found Rey’s foot-dragging and end run around Roadless to be transparently devious, and consistent with his anti-regulatory agenda.

      This is clearly, to my way of thinking, an “unabashed defense of Mark Rey”.

      Since you find that an undersecretary, “advocating for the timber industry is (not) any worse … than being an advocate for a sportsperson group, or an environmental group”, again, it would be appropriate to provide evidence of equivalency of harms in your comparison.

      What exactly are the apparent harms of prior undersecretaries representing environmental or sports interests? Have they ever occurred? What are you referencing here that holds a candle to Mark Rey’s record of deliberately leveraging institutional regulatory failure resulting in serious environmental impacts and rampant forest mismanagement?

      Thanks in advance for your reply.

      Reply
      • David- I am sure that EO knows more than I do about many things. Not so sure he knows more than I about forests or forest policy. So yes, I do need to see as we say in the appeals business “the linkage between facts found and conclusions drawn.” I think that we (all of us) deserve to see that to have a serious discussion with each other. Otherwise we have “unsubstantiated knowledge claims” and the world is full of those.

        It’s not so much that I disagree with him; it’s that I think some scientists have gotten sloppy about the empirical nature of our business. Scientists are not oracles, spewing out opinions to prostrate followers. Scientists are supposed to ask nature questions, listen for the answer, and share the discovery with others, who can ask them penetrating questions as to their research study design and interpretation of data. The power of science is built on empiricism, not assumptions (even if they are quantified and even have complicated computer models!).

        I still believe that Mark’s solution on roadless was a reasonable policy experiment to balance local values (through states) with national concerns (through RACNAC). I can’t agree that he did an “end run around roadless” as there were legal problems at the time with the 2001 rule. Note: as of the time I write this- April 26th 2011, there still are. How can you do an “end run” around a regulation that has been deemed to be illegal?

        If Mark was so antiregulatory, then why were there at least two regulations, the 2005 Petitions Rule and the 2005 Planning Rule? Perhaps he was trying to improve regulations rather than simply “against” them?

        I disagree with many policy calls during that administration, but am not so sure about “serious environmental impacts” and “rampant forest mismanagement.” After all we have ESA, CWA and other environmental laws. Maybe some examples would be helpful in making your case?

        Reply
  6. I suspect that it is time to get rid of the “rating” feature here. I have not but “toyed” with it, but I cannot support a feature that allows one to rate one’s own comment/post, and I know this feature allows that. Neither can I support a rating feature that allows one to rate a post/comment each time one logs on to a blog, and I suspect that this one allows that. [Nope. Just tested it.]

    Just my partisan perspective, early in the morning before coffee. I attach this comment to this post because I perceive more use of the feature to drive wedges between people here than on any other post so far.

    Reply
    • Actually, I have been surprised at how little the feature has been “gamed”. I applaud everyone who hasn’t had a kneejerk response to an individual’s every posting, like I have seen on other less progressive sites. If I don’t like the actual message, I’ll vote to dislike. If I do like it, I vote for it. Also, I have refrained from voting for my own postings, on principle, and I expect that others have followed that practice, as well. As Sharon quipped when this feature was enabled, one may not like the votes for one’s postings. It makes you maybe corral your comments to be civil and reduces partisan blather, from either side. I tend to think it is working, and could encourage more people to eventually post comments.

      Again, I thank everyone for being adult and respectable (to most extents).

      Reply
  7. Sharon, you have yet again, chosen to ignore my repeated questions around your claims:

    ‘Since you find that an undersecretary, “advocating for the timber industry is (not) any worse … than being an advocate for a sportsperson group, or an environmental group”, again, it would be appropriate to provide evidence of equivalency of harms in your comparison.’

    ‘What exactly are the apparent harms of prior undersecretaries representing environmental or sports interests? Have they ever occurred?”

    I am forced to conclude your stated intention of this blog is not what you have claimed it to be. You have made specific claims (as above), and I have asked for an explanation of those claims.

    The courtesy of a reply is requested.

    Reply
  8. David- Let me explain. Your original post stated

    The Mark Rey we’re talking about here, has two decades under his belt advocating for the timber/paper industry– his tenure in the Dept. of AG no less maliciously pernicious than James Watt himself.

    Rey narrowly escaped imprisonment for contempt of court in his personal pursuit of contempt of NFMA and NEPA. Sounded like an average, good-intentioned, balanced Under secretary to me!

    You seem to imply that we should think a person who has been in the timber industry as a lobbyist is therefore bad. Somehow worse than a “balanced” one. But to me having weathered a multiplicity of undersecretaries, they are all selected to carry out the political inclinations of their superiors. That’s how the executive branch works. So I doubt whether a partisan process can actually produce a “balanced” undersecretary..that’s where it might be handy to have a FACA committee to guide the Chief on the FS.

    A person say, from the national office of an environmental group might be worse than Mark in terms of pursuing bad policies that unnecessarily (in terms of environmental benefits)irritate local people but please national environmental groups. They might have no clue how to manage large agencies (most undersecretaries don’t have this in their background, except for our current one). They might have never experienced the real world of compromise.

    Have folks forgotten that Mark used to be a staffer on the Senate Energy Committee. There is a bit of a revolving door of DC wonk-types which usually involves NGO’s, law firms, the Congress, the Executive branch, universities, and associations.

    Like I said, I don’t agree with a lot of the policies and what I might call “political interference” from that administration; however I could say the same thing about the previous administration. I guess that’s why I’m saying that partisanship (everything Lyons was right, everything Rey was wrong) keeps us from seeing the great middle ground beyond the partisan hype, where people locally, and in states, are simply working things out.

    Reply
    • (Sharon) asks, “Have folks forgotten that Mark used to be a staffer on the Senate Energy Committee.”

      I certainly haven’t. While in that position, in the 90’s Rey was helping Alaska’s Sen. Frank Murkowski foist one of the AK Delegation’s many privatization/deregulation schemes of the Tongass in a bill with “community” and “jobs protection” in the title. (Frank’s appointed daughter Lisa (who was narrowly reelected) is currently attempting the same thing under the guise of ANCSA land finalizations with the Sealaska native corporation (S.730).

      As then mayor of the smallest second class city in Southeast, I flew to DC to testify at a Senate subcommittee hearing, along with several other representatives of rural communities across the Tongass. According to the committee rules, we had to submit our testimony 24 hours in advance of the hearing.

      After reading everyone’s testimony dominantly opposed to the bill that was purported to be benefiting us, Murkowski realized he would be so embarrassed in front of his senate colleagues that he took the most unusual step of canceling the hearing the day we all arrived from Alaska. This was to keep our testimony out of the Congressional record. So instead of a real hearing, we were all given an opportunity to read our testimony and then get lectured by Murkowski and Rey for “misunderstanding” the bill’s intent.

      It was then that I had an opportunity to get to know firsthand Rey’s singleminded machinations and corrected Rey on his false assumptions that if clearcuts were “good for deer” in the lower 48, they were good for deer on the Tongass – despite Paul Alaback’s groundbreaking research in coastal temperate rainforests which showed the opposite.

      So, yes, Sharon, I do mean, as you said, “… to imply that we should think (Mark Rey) who has been in the timber industry as a lobbyist is therefore bad.” He most decidedly was.

      Bad, as a policy maker of public lands, bad for the health of temperate rainforest ecosystems and bad for the health of rural communities which depend upon those systems to provide their salmon, deer, and other myriad benefits as intact ecosystems, and bad for the local, regional and national economy by imposing already tried and failed, falsely marketed, unsustainable, economic models in strikingly similar fashion to third world usurpations by first world multi-national corporate predators. That model verified and attested to by John Perkins’ professional disclosures as a whistleblower in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” covering his tenure working with the IMF and the World Bank.

      Mark Rey no doubt collaborated in and celebrated with, Sen Ted Stevens’ successful appropriations rider to exempt the Roadless Rule from the Tongass.

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      • Bad, as a policy maker of public lands

        And apparently not very good as a policy implementer either, since the courts saw fit to overturn several of his policy attempts in the Northwest.

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  9. Since we’ve strayed very far from the intent of this post, I’ll continue the journey, and post up a word of caution about over-emphasizing empiricism:

    Sharon says at #13,

    I think some scientists have gotten sloppy about the empirical nature of our business. Scientists are not oracles, spewing out opinions to prostrate followers. Scientists are supposed to ask nature questions, listen for the answer, and share the discovery with others, who can ask them penetrating questions as to their research study design and interpretation of data. The power of science is built on empiricism, not assumptions (even if they are quantified and even have complicated computer models!). {emphasis added}

    While I agree in part, and Sharon and I may agree in total, I want to add a note of caution that derives from Karl Weick’s idea that “Believing is Seeing” (inverting a common notion).

    When we attempt to ask questions of Nature, we often hear back reflections (echoes) of our own questions, that are misperceived as Nature’s response. I suspect that is why Sharon notes that “scientists share the discovery with others, who can ask them penetrating questions as to their research study design and interpretation of data.” Too often, though, the “others,” often “peer-reviewer” others are caught up in the same ideological space (or paradigm) as those asking the questions. Paradigms are clung onto for too long as identified by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Here (pdf) is a little paper titled “How we invent what what we measure: A Constructionist critique of the Empiricist bias in IS research”,that outlines the problem.

    Speaking of paradigm shifts, some of us argue that the Gifford Pinchot-led scientific management/rational planning paradigm that still guides the Forest Service is overdue for replacement by an Aldo Leopold-led paradigm. But that is a story for a forthcoming post, a story that only tangentially interweaves with the empiricist bias noted above.

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  10. Sharon states, “I guess that’s why I’m saying that partisanship (everything Lyons was right, everything Rey was wrong) keeps us from seeing the great middle ground beyond the partisan hype, where people locally, and in states, are simply working things out.”

    I do not share your sanguine “middle ground” = happiness for all, assumptions Sharon. The “middle ground” having been bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists has demonstrated to be part and parcel of our governmental/socio-economic/democratic collapse. “Middle” is wherever our thoroughly corrupted governmental process happens to be, which is presently in the middle of a big ditch on a dead end road claiming to lead to “happiness for all”.

    As far as depending upon “people locally, and in states, (to be) simply working things out”, Rey’s enduring collaborative machinations bear further exposure as involving end runs around FACA vis- a-vis, the Tongass Futures Roundtable. That process is clearly little more than a launching pad for privatization by assembling local stakeholders with direct conflicts of interest in the devolved policy products of these roundtables to steer the outcome of the fates of national forests owned by all Americans.

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  11. The thumbs up, are easy to speculate about, but the question is, do the readers/raters who click the thumbs down, do so because they have no time to engage in dialogue, the primary purpose of this blog? What precisely do thumbs down mean? Were the points found disagreeable, disapproved, or disallowed? Rejection? Failure?

    Are perhaps the ratings anything more than a commenter’s rhetorical, nutrition-free, fast food? Can the rating feature be anything more than a tool to anonymously degrade others’ points of view and an open invitation for others to do likewise, all the while keeping their points unknowable and therefore safe from being rated themselves?

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  12. Hello: I’d just like to say that I really appreciate the perspective which David Beebe has shared here. Thanks David!

    Reply

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