A Couple of Bipartisan Place-Based Bills

From Oregon here:

Oregon’s rural communities cannot afford another 20 years of gridlock in our federal forests. Without a new path forward, mills will continue to disappear, forest jobs will be outsourced and counties will be pushed off the budgetary cliff. During a time when it’s particularly hard to find common ground in public policy, we think we have achieved a balanced forest health and jobs plan — and in a uniquely Oregon way.
As a bipartisan coalition, we have worked through our differences to forge a plan that would create thousands of new jobs, ensure the health of federal forests for future generations and provide long-term funding certainty for Oregon’s rural schools, roads and law enforcement agencies.
Federal support payments to rural and forested communities, commonly known as “county payments,” helped support rural Oregon counties for more than a decade. They expired Oct. 1.
Absent a long-term solution, diminishing county payments will have serious consequences for Oregon families and businesses.
A recent Oregon State University study found that without county payments, Oregon’s rural counties will shed between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs. Oregon business sales will drop by an estimated $385 million to $400 million. Counties will lose $250 million to $300 million in revenues.
Counties already near the financial cliff and facing depression­like unemployment soon may call for a public safety emergency and will be forced to eliminate most state-mandated services — including services that help the neediest citizens in our communities.
Failing counties will have consequences for the entire state. Those counties will continue to release offenders and close jail beds. Potholed roads and structurally deficient bridges will be neglected. And already-underfunded rural schools will be devastated.
Given the serious fiscal crisis our forested communities face, we believe a new approach is necessary to create jobs, help stabilize Oregon’s rural communities and better manage our forests.
We hope to release the full details of our plan early next year. But, given the importance and enormous amount of public interest in this issue, we wanted to update Oregonians on the broad outlines of our work:
Our plan would create an estimated 12,000 new jobs throughout Oregon. To preserve and expand Oregon’s manufacturing base, our plan would continue the ban on exporting unprocessed logs from federal lands and impose penalties on businesses that violate the law and send family-wage jobs overseas.
Our plan would allow sustainable timber harvest primarily on lands that have been logged previously. It sets aside sensitive areas and mature and old growth forests. The timber harvest lands would remain under the ownership of the federal government but would be managed in trust for the counties by a diverse, public board under strict guidelines to ensure sustained yield and to protect and improve clean water and terrestrial and aquatic values. The mature and old growth forests would be transferred from the federal Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service.
Our plan would provide counties in Western Oregon with a predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support essential county services such as law enforcement, health care, education and transportation. It would reduce counties’ dependence on uncertain federal support payments in favor of a long-term solution that allows them to return to the tradition of self-reliance that embodies our state’s heritage.
Our plan is expected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by reducing the annual federal management costs associated with the management of Western Oregon timber­lands and making Oregon counties self-sufficient and not dependent upon federal county payments.
Our plan proposes major new wilderness and wild and scenic designations to protect some of Oregon’s most incredible natural treasures, such as the iconic Rogue River.
Our plan is a moderate approach.
It will not appease those who insist on returning to the days of unsustainable logging and clear-cutting old growth on public lands. It will not win the support of those who are content with the status quo — administrative gridlock and endless legal appeals that have led to unhealthy forests, failing rural counties and a deteriorating timber industry.
And like all legislation in Congress, our plan still is subject to the legislative process. While we believe the plan we have crafted is a reasonable compromise that serves the best interests of Oregon, we must work with the House Committee on Natural Resources and our colleagues in the greater House of Representatives, the Senate and the Obama administration.
Fortunately, the most persuasive arguments are on our side. Our balanced, bipartisan plan would create thousands of jobs in our forests, mills and communities, stabilize rural communities, save taxpayers money, protect old growth and ensure the health of federal forests for future generations.
It’s a solution that Oregonians deserve. We look forward to working with those who want to make this long-term vision a reality.

U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader represent Oregon’s 4th, 1st and 5th congressional districts.

From Montana:

Battle for Preservation In Montana Is Nothing New
By Gabriel Furshong / Writers on the Range on Wed, Dec 28, 2011

More so than any other landscape in Big Sky Country, Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front derives its wonder from a violent juxtaposition of geological forms. The Front is the convergence of two mega-ecosystems that together cover roughly a quarter of our country – the Northern Plains and the Northern Rockies.
This is where each seemingly limitless region reaches its limit. Within this thin strip roams the second-largest elk herd in the Lower 48, as well as 13 species of raptor and a third of all plant species known in Montana. It’s the only place south of the Canadian border where grizzlies still den between the peaks and the prairie.
For 100 years, this landscape has been the subject of debate over the limits of acceptable change. Montanans along the Front have fought oil and gas exploration. It is a measure of their success that the battle cry of each generation has gradually shifted from our grandparents and great-grandparents, who wanted to “return it to the way it was,” to our parents and ourselves, who now want to “keep it the way it is.”
This last phrase – keep it the way it is – has for 10 years been the unofficial motto of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, a loose affiliation of outfitters, ranchers, farmers, community organizers, business owners and outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to this coalition, the debate over change on the Front is now closer to resolution than ever before.
Last October, Montana Sen. Max Baucus introduced the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which would designate 67,000 acres of wilderness and prohibit road building or any expansion of motorized use on an additional 210,000 acres. That’s big news. Yet, the relative calm with which the news was received has been surprising. When I asked a veteran writer and former journalist for the Missoulian newspaper what he thought about the media coverage of Baucus’ announcement, all he could say was, “I just don’t understand why it hasn’t gotten more attention.”
His words followed me to the Front where I retreated for a hunting trip just a week after the announcement. While waiting on white-tailed deer, I found myself reflecting on the twists and turns of our local debate over change. I wondered why this pending resolution has been received so quietly after so much time and such a lot of fuss.
The coalition’s many predecessors fought seemingly endless battles for the better part of a century, from the near-extinction of the buffalo and other species to agency road building and aggressive oil and gas exploration. Our first victory finally came in 2006, when Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus banned all leasing of federal minerals along the Front. Forest Service travel plan decisions that followed in 2007 and 2009 emphasized traditional use over motorized recreation, and suddenly, a once-complicated landscape was largely cleared of competing interests.
It was then that farmers and ranchers affiliated with the coalition raised an important question: Would we have the restraint to avoid becoming agents of change ourselves? Over the next four years, we interviewed grazing permittees, argued with county commissioners, developed alliances, held meetings of 100 people and meetings of 10 people, and sought out hundreds of kitchen-table conversations, one person at a time.
We drew boundaries. We nearly fell out with each other several times, but we hung onto the ideal of restraint. In the end, it was not just the landscape that we chose to the keep the way it was. We chose to maintain all existing uses as well, including motorized and bicycle use alongside traditional horse and hiker travel.
So after going through so much, it’s understandable that this final stage in the fight is underwhelming. Indeed, the only evident opposition to the Heritage Act so far came in the form of an indignant email from a small western Montana environmental group decrying the legislation as containing far too few wilderness acres. I mentioned this to a Vietnam veteran and local lawyer from Choteau, Mont., when I ran into him on my hunting trip. As he trailed his horse around me, he just shook his head and said, “Well, we’ve had that debate a million times before.”
Yes, we have, and with any luck it won’t change a thing.

At this time of the year, I am working on my end-of-year donations. I received a “Top 10 Reasons to Give” list from an international environmental law NGO that I support. One of the bullets on the list was “because forest peoples deserve a say in how their land is used…. we will continue to work to safeguard the rights of indigenous people and other local communities in the implementation of projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation (REDD).” It’s a good question for consideration, I think, in the New Year. We should be considering property rights, local history, and political legitimacy in terms of the legitimate role of local people in our own country.

What kind of “rights” should local communities have in terms of decision making on federal lands? It reminds me of a dinner I had once with a Senior Executive of another federal agency. His point of view was that the people of Delta don’t deserve any more of a voice in the management of public lands around Delta than people in the Bronx. On the other hand, we have the county “coordination” movement and increasing local/federal tensions. What can we learn from the two examples above, who seem to have managed to find a middle ground?

5 thoughts on “A Couple of Bipartisan Place-Based Bills”

  1. Gabe Furshong, the pro-mandated logging lobbyist for the Montana Wilderness Association said, “Indeed, the only evident opposition to the Heritage Act so far came in the form of an indignant email from a small western Montana environmental group decrying the legislation as containing far too few wilderness acres.”

    This is yet just another example (in a long, tiring line of examples) of where “collaborators” such as Mr. Furshong don’t tell the complete truth in order to somehow support their own agenda. This is about pure partisan politics to these folks, pure and simple. After all, Gabe’s girlfriend was Senator Baucus’ environmental legislative aid for years and now works for the Montana Democratic Party. Funny, but that isn’t disclosed in the oped, eh?

    The 100% truth of the matter is that Mr. Furshong is well aware of the many substantive concerns regarding the Rocky Mountain Heritage Act expressed by a number of organizations and many experienced, dedicated wilderness and forest protection activists. Yet he chooses to ignore these substantive concerns in favor of telling the public what he thinks they want to hear, instead of the whole truth. Pure, partisan, politics.

    The 100% truth of the matter is that many Montana wilderness supporters remain disappointed that the Act would only designate a small fraction of Wilderness-deserving lands on the Rocky Mountain Front as Wilderness, while leaving too much of the Front open to logging and other forms of development. We’ve tried to get the Coalition to listen to our concerns and add more protections to the unparalleled wildlife habitat and wildlands on the Rocky Mountain Front, but, unfortunately, they seem more concerned with politics and the appeasing the opinions of the anti-wilderness crowd. For example, just this fall the Coalition dropped almost 30,000 acres of Wilderness from their proposal at the request of snowmobilers and those who oppose Wilderness. Our experience has been that the Coalition only listens to the people they think they need to listen to, which is unfortunate, as these lands belong equally to all Americans and, last time I checked, we aren’t making any more wildlands like Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front.

    The substantive comments below come from a Montana individual who has spent the past 25 years working day-in-day out on Wilderness and national forest management issues. In fact, the person who wrote these comments/concerns regarding Baucus’ Heritage Act is easily one of the most knowledge people in the entire country on the Wilderness Act and national forest management.

    Subject: Re: Fw: RE: Heritage Act
    Date: Tuesday, November 1, 2011, 5:57 PM

    I don’t see where the bill prohibits any road building. That might be the intent, but it is very poorly written and doesn’t seem to accomplish such a goal. Any limits on road building in the area would be the result of other laws, regs, policies, etc., not because this bill prohibits it.

    Section 3(c)(2)(b)(i) (page 6) limits the use of motor vehicles to “roads, trails, and areas designated for use by such vehicles as of the date of enactment of the Act.” Subsection 3(c)(2)(b) (ii)(II) makes an exception to this clause allowing for construction of temporary roads 1/4-mile from several existing roads.

    Taken together, what this says is that the section allowing the use of motor vehicles on existing roads, trails, etc., doesn’t prohibit the FS from building temporary roads in some areas. Huh??? These two issues–where vehicles can go, and where the FS can build temporary roads for veg management–are unrelated, which makes the bill’s language confusing at best.

    Perhaps what in intended with the “exceptions” clause is allow motor vehicles on these 1/4-mile temporary roads (since the “date of enactment” limitation in the first clause would prevent motor vehicle use on these new roads). Or maybe what is intended with the exception clause is to preclude all road building except for roads within 1/4 mile of the named existing roads. It doesn’t appear the language achieves either goal, so who knows? In any event, I see nothing in the bill that prevents new roads. Whether it would lead to new roads or encourage new roads I don’t know.

    I did see several other problems apart from the paltry wilderness recommendations. First, the bill locks-in grazing across the entire area–“The secretary shall permit grazing” where it currently exists. Under existing law, grazing may be allowed to continue, but it is not mandated that it must be allowed to continue. Worse than a bail-out, it mandates the government keep a private, commercial enterprise operating on public land. If only welfare mothers had such guarantees. Oh well, I guess you have to have a reason to justify all the weed control!

    Second, there are some concerns with the special provisions for wilderness management. The language for maintaining existing facilities for livestock grazing is more liberal than previous wilderness bills, though I’m not sure the outcomes would be worse. Will take more assessment. The language incorporating State or local agencies for controlling fire, insects and disease promotes the trend toward devolution of federal public lands and is objectionable on that basis (though again, it might not lead to worse implementation on the ground). Finally, the language for overflights, as it relates to commercial and general aviation, is unprecedented and needs to go. The military overflights language, while bad, is pretty standard fare nowadays. But this language seems to preclude efforts to control or limit flightseeing or other overflights which are incredibly disruptive to visitors and wildlife alike.

    Third, the noxious weed stuff is pretty noxious. It’s all about taxpayer funding for dropping tons of poisons on the ground. If this was an effective strategy there wouldn’t be weeds in Montana. Given the complexities and unknowns of controlling weeds, especially with a rapidly changing climate and an escalating number of encroaching weed species, the called-for management strategy needs to focus on an assessment of existing weed infestations, the causes, potential controls, costs, likelihood of success, and clearly stated, measurable objectives to determine whether the controls are effective, and what will be done if they aren’t or if the funding doesn’t come through. Some of this might be liberally interpreted to be in the current bill, but the bill mostly seems to focus on finding “resources” to poison the ground. At a minimum, this section should call for the plan to be written by an independent team of scientists. As it is, it will be written by the same people (local FS and special interests) who are responsible for the current situation.


    See also: http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/half-a-loaf/Content?oid=1507685


    Alliance for the Wild Rockies Executive Director Michael Garrity chastised Baucus’s proposal for setting aside only a small portion of the land currently protected under federal roadless rules. And Paul Edwards, a rancher on the Sun River west of Augusta who used to write for Gunsmoke, called the bill “so bland that it’s virtually meaningless.”

    Edwards, who is also a founding member of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, says the area is “priceless,” while proponents of the RMFHA are “talking about [protecting] 67,000 measly acres…

    “This is what the coalition calls advocacy for the Front? Please. This is bullshit.”

    The bill represents the defeatism of a weary environmental movement, Edwards says. “It was like you had to have consensus on everything. Well, when you have consensus on everything, you’ve got watered-down gruel. You’ve got mush. And that’s what they got.”

    Edwards adds that he can understand the impulse to get whatever deal could be had, but the Front is one place where environmentalists should have made a last stand. The land has already weathered generations of grazing, motorized use and oil and gas interest nearby, he says. Now, every last acre deserves wilderness protections.


    P.S. I too hunt and fish on the Rocky Mountain Front and know the area quite well. In fact, we’re in the middle of doing restoration work on historic cabins on the Rocky Mountain Front on an old ranch that has a super conservation easement placed on it by the owners. Folks should know that the picture being used by the Coalition is very misleading when used to support the Rocky Mountain Heritage Act. The picture used in this blog post (and on the Coalition’s website) is actually of the east side of Sawtooth Ridge and is part of the Sun River Wildlife Management Area, managed not by the USFS, but by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. I don’t believe any part of that picture actually shows any national forest lands at all that are part of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. Why am I not really surprised?

  2. I find it odd that “mature” and “old growth” forests are separated. Of course, eco-groups blather on that X% of the old growth is left, while litigating so very many projects, claiming the cutting of “old growth”. Also, some like to split out “native forest”, as well, as needing “protection”.

    Regarding popular opinion, I think most of America would not flinch when deciding to do “something” about our unhealthy forests, rather than doing nothing. If we insisted that cities virtually eliminate pollution, as per the appropriate Acts, they would also go bankrupt in trying to make their cities “follow the law”. It’s our air and water, too! AND, do something about the traffic and crime, which we rural folks ALSO have a say in, due to paying taxes. I could go on with more silly and ridiculous examples of why cities and “the rest of America” should temper their demands of rural and scenic areas, just as we do of cities. Hey, it’s not like we’re going to clearcut, slash and burn everything, like in the last millennium. *smirks*

  3. Gabe, I’m not sure how you got to be “the pro-mandated logging lobbyist for the Montana Wilderness Association” or even what that means, but congratulations. It sounds awesome.

    Hopefully you were not taken by surprise or offended by Matt’s style of rhetoric. See, it’s ok on this blog for Matthew to assign derogatory titles to people before attacking their integrity and making comments about their significant others. By discrediting, “outing”, or otherwise tattling on you up front, he is then free to make poorly substantiated arguments because your evil intentions and affiliations are revealed to the uninformed readers.

    There are at least two sets of rules on this blog. Just so you know what rules apply to Matthew’s posts versus mine–not sure which rule set you will be required to follow.
    1. Matt is allowed to call people names. Todd is censored.
    2. Matt is allowed to critique other people’s work. Todd can’t ask what education, experience, or credentials Matt has that qualify him to give that critique.
    3. Matt is occasionally allowed to say things that aren’t true, aren’t helpful, and aren’t kind. Todd is required to be 100% accurate (note all exceptions to generalizations), provide only information that is requested, and has to use his nice words–always.
    4. Matt is allowed to go off-topic to openly provoke other contributors. Todd is not allowed to retaliate.

    Anyway, good luck on the legislative front. If there is anyone that can screw up legal fixes to environmental issues, it’s Congress.

    • Todd, I must apologize if I have given you any offense in terms of inconsistent editing of comments. Most of the editing must be done by commenters themselves in reality, because I just don’t have the time at the right moment to read everything carefully (and others approve comments as well in addition to me). I do get used to different peoples’ styles and Gaia bless them, Matthew, David, Foto and Derek do go over my line sometimes.

      Maybe I am overly sensitive and the rough and tumble is a (possibly gender- related?) cultural difference and not anything really to be managed.. what do others think?

  4. Thanks, Todd, for sharing with us your thoughts, ideas, concerns, suggestions, etc about the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act. Really good stuff there Todd.

    Let’s get something straight Todd. Pointing out that Gabe Furshong has, in fact, been lobbying Congress to start mandating logging on national forests in Montana is not a personal attack Todd. It’s the truth and it might help provide some context to the opinion piece. If it was considered a personal attack, Todd, it would be removed by Sharon, just like your comment direct towards me was. Got it?

    Also, funny how you want to base your entire comment on one sentence I wrote, while you ignore anything of substance about the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act or management of the Rocky Mtn Front, in general.

    Ironic also, how you have no problem with Mr. Furshong’s untruthful dig at those who have publicly expressed concerns about the RMFHA when he wrote, “Indeed, the only evident opposition to the Heritage Act so far came in the form of an indignant email from a small western Montana environmental group decrying the legislation as containing far too few wilderness acres.”

    Gabe knows full well that’s not a truthful statement or an assessment of those with substantive concerns regarding the RMFHA. Gabe knows that when the Coalition met with dedicated forest and Wilderness activists over the past few years they heard dozens and dozens of concerns, questions, ideas – most all of which were generally ignored and dismissed by the leaders of the Coalition.

    So, if Mr. Furshong wants to mis-characterize all of these substantive concerns by boiling them down to one “indignant email,” I suppose that’s his right. Just like it’s my right to set the record straight.

    P.S. It was nice of Sharon to also include the link to George Weurthner’s piece, “Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act Misses on Weeds and Wilderness” on the home page; however, I think the link also belongs in the comment section here to help counter Mr. Furshong’s one “indignant email” myth.



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