Out-of-Date Planning

Last week the Colville and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests released their “proposed actions,” a new step in NFMA planning preceding the draft EIS and proposed forest plan.

This gem from both plans (the plans appear identical — only the maps differ) illustrates that adding more process does not make plans any more timely:

While the U.S. demand for timber remains relatively high and is expected to increase in the future (USDA FS 2000), timber harvests from 1990 to 2002 in Washington have declined by 39 percent (Washington State Department of Natural Resources 2004). United States lumber markets have relied increasingly on foreign imports, such as from Canada, to help offset declining timber harvests in the state. Softwood lumber imports into the Seattle Customs District from 1992 to 2002 have increased by 11 percent (Warren 2004), while inflation adjusted wholesale prices for Douglas-fir 2x4s have dropped by 33 percent (Warren 2004).

Washington DNR has issued no fewer than five state-wide timber harvest reports since the 2004 report cited here. And Deb Warren has published five more annual statistical summaries, up through 2009, since the 2004 version.

Lo and behold, using the more up-to-date statistics shows that softwood lumber imports into the Seattle Customs District have dropped 70% since 2002 — a far different picture from the 11% increase claimed in the already out-of-date plan.

I suspect that these “proposed actions” were actually written several years ago and have been gathering dust on the shelves while the Forest Service tried to sort out its planning process. Rather than up-date these documents, the FS just slid them out the door with nary a glance.

Just one more illustration of how silly it is for the FS to bite off more planning than it can chew.

7 thoughts on “Out-of-Date Planning”

  1. I would bet the softwood issue is related to the housing decline as the result of the recession. If the story is “we need to remove trees for ecological reasons and/or for fuels reduction and it’s good to sell it to offset costs, to reduce the federal deficit and to employ people in rural counties” not sure that all the import-export info is relevant.

  2. Out-dated and irrelevant — I agree. But, there’s more . . . both plans also engage in ethnic stereotyping:

    Changing demographics, such as the increase in use of the Forest by Hispanic families, is generating the need to provide appropriate infrastructure, such as facilities for large group use.

    Two generations ago, it would have been those immigrant Irish and their large families. With the Tecate/Mexican music fiasco on its minds, you’d think the FS would be more conscious. Just another reason to think that no one had read these plans since they were written and shelved years ago.

  3. I have often wondered, when does attempting to address the differing needs/desires of diverse cultures become “ethnic stereotyping”? It’s apparently OK to characterize American Indians as “having a special relationship with the Earth.” Scots (my ancestors on one side) can be “thrifty” but don’t call us “stingy”.I have assumed that when Southern California national forests studied facility users and learned that many Hispanic families often came to day use areas in large groups, this was the sort of demographic information that forest planning should take into consideration.

  4. I have often wondered why the Forest Service bothers to note the ethnicity/color of the large groups visiting its national forests. Isn’t it enough to record that there are more large groups, thus more need for appropriate facilities?

    • One reason I can think of is so signs directing users to the areas can be written in languages that the users can understand.

      • Bi-lingual signs are a fine idea, but it hardly takes a demographic survey or 15-year forest planning process to determine that need. Shopkeepers seem to figure it out just fine.

        So how’s the Forest Service doing with its bi-lingual signs? This 2003 article LA Times article suggests room for improvement:

        Susan Argent, a resident at a trailer park within the forest, thinks she understands at least part of the problem: “You’re dealing with a lot of people that do not speak English,” she says. And, she adds, many of them are immigrants who don’t have the same attitudes about picking up trash as most people who grow up in the United States.

        Such comments would be offensive if they weren’t accurate. And pointless if they didn’t contain the crux of a possible solution. “Most of the signs are in English,” Argent continues. “We need something bilingual — a campaign that says whatever you bring in you take out with you.”

        The FS handbook directs that bi-lingual signs be used: “In an area heavily used by a non-English speaking population(s), such as immigrants or tourists, post bilingual or multilingual signs and posters.”

  5. Andy- I think this ties to the fact that demographics are changing so that federal management needs to be relevant to the needs of today and tomorrow. It’s a tough row to hoe sometimes to be sensitive to differences (good) without stereotyping (bad).


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