Nie’s Blog Reflections and Sign Off

Martin's photo was the most popular ever on NCFP

Some readers might recall that when Sharon and I began this blog, we somehow managed to get the USFS and UM logos on our Masthead—proof of a true and perhaps significant collaboration focused on the new USFS planning rule. I really liked the idea of a blog specifically focused on an important and forthcoming rule—a very neat opportunity. The USFS made sure the logo didn’t last long, and I eventually requested the UM/Bolle Center logos be removed because of the decreasing amount of time that I was contributing to the blog. While that was happening, NCFP started to slowly morph into something different, with a more general focus on all issues pertaining to forest law, policy, and management.
There were highs and lows on the blog for me. There were some posts and comment threads that were so fun and enlightening that I printed and filed them away for future reference. Sharon, John Rupe, Andy Stahl, and other contributors forced me to think about several issues in new ways. So many gems—those always made the time devoted to the blog well worth it. The discussions also generated new ideas and questions for me, ones that I have used in the classroom and plan on pursuing in the future.

I also enjoyed writing some of my own blog posts. Some of them forced me to clarify my thinking about certain matters, such as the role of standards in forest planning. Others eventually led me down more serious paths of research and writing. I was so intrigued by the idea of triggers in planning and adaptive management, for example, that I ended up writing about the topic in pretty serious fashion last year. It was also rewarding to see, on occasion, 300 or so people reading some wonky post about forest policy and planning. And it was always so nice to be stopped at some meeting and be told about how someone always reads or appreciates the blog. And it was really, really nice when that appreciation was demonstrated through free beer.

Of course, not all were smiles and sunshine. I often got frustrated by some of the comments on the blog, from their substance to tone. And so many times I just didn’t feel like reading the same old recycled arguments and positions that I’ve heard a thousand times before. On those days, instead of reading about forest planning at lunch, I would instead watch Hockey Night in Canada or Stephen Colbert highlights.

The boring truth of the matter is that I simply couldn’t find the time to participate enough on the blog. Sharon was always so gracious about the matter and everyone always knew that she was the heart and soul of this thing. My teaching, research, and administrative duties increased significantly since we started the endeavor (enter the violins). Something had to go, so the blog took the initial hit. I still read it all the time, but choose to do so quietly and without any contribution on my part. The classic free rider—that’s me. I’m sorry to Sharon and National Public Radio.

I’m not sure if my work situation will change in the near future so that I can again participate more seriously. I am now Chair of my Department, teach two classes, and try to maintain an active research agenda. So it is time to sign off and become a reader and perhaps occasional contributor. I hope the blog continues to flourish, as I feel strongly that it provides a very valuable service.

Sharon, a very special thank you—for your vision, leadership, patience, and all the hard work you’ve given to this blog. You have done so much to foster an engaging and respectful dialogue about National Forest management. I wish we could find a real way to compensate you for this important but time-consuming service—the investment would be worth it. Interacting with you over the past couple of years has been a lot of fun. I really appreciate all that you’ve done.

5 thoughts on “Nie’s Blog Reflections and Sign Off”

  1. Martin- I like the idea of getting paid also. Something to brainstorm while I discern my future post-retirement. Our different phases of life are probably highly relevant to our time availability. Unfortunately no one has taken me to beer yet (more violins..). I will miss your clear thinking and your wonderful sense of humor. Thank you so much for bravely taking the leap into the unknown and sharing the adventure!

  2. Gotta grin at the notion of expecting to get paid for committing oneself to the issues which get addressed (and pointedly not addressed) here. Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with getting paid to pontificate, just a novel concept for me and millions of other Americans who voluntarily commit their spare time to these same issues only looking for a better way than what has prevailed on their national forest system.

    But an income to supplement one’s federal retirement plan to boot? Bombastic! Especially in contrast to the millions of Americans whose jobs have been outsourced, their retirement plans looted, their homes foreclosed-upon, and with the lucky ones still paying on their underwater mortgages. These predicaments of the haves and the have-nots, the direct result of a corporatized Congress, corporatized Constitution, and a corporatized culture now under the thumb of “austerity measures” in the end game of the neoliberal project. (Why, Bernie Sanders had a column just today titled, “We Must Stop This Corporate Takeover of American Democracy”.)

    I mean for goodness sake, even the Montana Supreme Court has some issues with this.

    That is what strikes me the most about this magical blog-world where such externalities get sidelined as if the neoliberal objectives of place-based legislation, privatization, deregulation, corporate outsourcing and devolution routinely featured in “collaboration” roundtables (for instance) don’t matter BUT get Martin’s green light of approval.

    (This, perhaps finally finding relevance now with the “most popular ever” photo (of Martin’s son/grandson?) posing with a copy of the Tongass Land Management Plan).

    Not sure if this point of view I pose qualifies as “the same old recycled arguments and positions that (some have) heard a thousand times before”, but all this happens to matter because it is at the heart of causality at the center of the issues being raised on this blog.

    And it matters because there’s people like Martin who get paid for pontificating on the “pathological” aspects of the hundreds of people who actually LIVE on the Tongass who have dedicated tens of thousands of their (unpaid) hours and hard earned money to fighting the rampant mismanagement on the Tongass stemming from a government-imposed pulp mill duopoly, and much, MUCH, more. Those corporate raiders (one owned by a Japanese venture capital group) were later convicted of antitrust violations having destroyed hundreds of independent family-owned logging operator’s jobs. Once the Japanese owned pulp mill closed down (leaving the American taxpayer with a Superfund site, leaving pulp mill workers with pink slips, and leaving the CEO with a 20 million dollar bonus) things got a little better.

    But not much.

    The unpaid efforts of those hundreds of residents of the Tongass fighting the corporate takeover of the Tongass and the rest of America resonated with millions of other Americans and resulted in the passage of the Tongass Timber Reform Act.

    But there’s still an agency culture to reform.

    Aye, there’s the rub. By the looks of things we can expect the same agency to be in bed with the same corporate players colluding on the same objectives: to impose a remarkably similar predicament — aided by Martin’s advocacy of collaboration and place-based legislation.

    The bygone pulp mill era on the Tongass is quietly being transformed into the Pellet Mill era with the help of generously funded collaborators at the Tongass Futures Roundtable. Maybe its just a coincidence that the arch neoliberals of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation funding the Tongass Futures Roundtable bumped their funding for U of M (by several millions of dollars) in the wake of Martin’s cheerleading piece on place based legislation and collaboration on the Tongass.

    Or maybe not.

    That’s one of the problems with handing the wrong book to that unsuspecting child in the photo. He should have been handed the epilogue of that disastrous era on the Tongass, journalist/author, Kathy Durbin’s masterpiece of jaw-dropping corruption, malfeasance, and mismanagement, titled,

    “Tongass, Second Edition: Pulp Politics and the Fight for the Alaska Rain Forest.”

    • David,

      I think that you and I agree on many things. We would like people to make living wages, for no one to be hungry and for people to have health care. We would people in our communities to use our natural resources in a sustainable way. I would like not to see boarded up buildings on Main Street and billboards against meth in rural America (nor anywhere else, for that matter).

      While a retirement income is a great blessing, for which I am grateful, our Congress and the great uncertainty of life (including medical bills) makes it wise for all of us to develop economic resilience if we can.

      “Aye, there’s the rub. By the looks of things we can expect the same agency to be in bed with the same corporate players colluding on the same objectives: to impose a remarkably similar predicament — aided by Martin’s advocacy of collaboration and place-based legislation.”

      Why is place-based legislation by definition “corporate”? Why do you think that collaboration would always be bad?

      Colorado too has waste sites, in our case, from mining. I used to live in Oregon near uranium tailings. We can only hope, and work for fixing those things which are broken and moving forward in a more knowledgeable way.

      Sometimes I think our differences result from a metaphysical predisposition.

      Which reminds me of a quote my friend (and Forest Service retiree) Pam Gardiner’s Wellbuddies blog from today:.

      “I spend most of my time in the present, embracing what-is. I do not dwell unduly on either the successes or mistakes of the past. I do not invest disproportionate effort in planning for the future with an effort to control the uncontrollable. I learn from experience and set a hopeful vision, then place my trust in today…..

      “My mind is clear and flexible. I move smoothly between expanding my view to see the big picture and narrowing my thoughts to deal effectively with details. I choose thoughts that enhance happiness, hope, and inner peace; I shed those that take me in the direction of judgment, dissatisfaction, and despair.

      The favorite photo is of a child because our children are our hope for the future, and call on us to make the best world for them that we can.

  3. Sharon asked: “Why is place-based legislation by definition “corporate”?

    A more appropriate question would be ” What part of place-based legislation by definition ISN’T corporate?”

    My two word answer: Very little.

    Corporations are not only “stakeholders” and regular beneficiaries of place based legislation, but corporations are widely recognized for their overwhelming influence of legislative outcomes through unlimited corporate campaign contributions which eclipse the voices of individual citizens. The ironically-titled, “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling only underscores and greatly increases this threat.

    For-profit corporations and their corresponding foundations have major funding roles independently, and as “partners” in the National Forest Foundation which oversees the various collaborationist fora held across the country and these devolved self-selecting memberships attending such fora using the manufactured consensus of financially conflicted “stakeholders” are the launching pads for place-based legislation.

    Those same foundations (like the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), also routinely fund well-known environmental “stakeholder” corporate frontgroups such as The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and Trout Unlimited which are paid to attend these collaborationist fora. (As a matter of fact, the GBMF relationship with TNC is demonstrably cozy. The former ED of TNC is now President of the Board of Trustees of GBMF.)

    The terms by which these groups “collaborate” with corporate interests are Quid pro Quo– just like the legalized corporate bribery of publicly-elected representatives through campaign finance donations. These supposedly environmental groups are being paid by corporate foundations to “collaborate” with corporations (though those enviros have never been authorized to represent all present and future American’s best interests), by bargaining away all manner of American’s best interests such as undermining the integrity of environmental laws and approving the privatization of public lands in exchange for Wilderness designations in the name of “place-based legislation.” As an example of rigged outcomes, the Nature Conservancy routinely functions as outsourced agents for USFS regulatory (“stewardship” and “restoration”) and other agency functions in place-based legislation.

    Sharon asked: “Why do you think that collaboration would always be bad?”

    A more appropriate question would be,” Why do you think collaboration in the context of agency capture and regulatory capture would always be bad?”

    I never said collaboration “would always be bad.” However, place-based legislation is produced by collaboration models which inevitably feature outcomes which further replace the role of governmental responsibilities to We the People, with corporate board responsibilities to their shareholders. The interests of shareholders and the interests of the citizenry are not the same, Sharon, and this is not rocket science (nor genetic science.)

    But speaking of genetic science and captured agencies, how ’bout our USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack? There are no shortage of warning signs of regulatory and agency capture upon which to draw from. Is that the sort of regulatory environment in which to expect “collaboration” to produce good things?

    Not if the recent warning from Food and Water Watch, that USDA Secretary Vilsack (who has well-known ties to multinational AgriBiz corporations,) wants to “privatize” meat inspection in poultry slaughter houses, even though “there has been no analysis done to show whether the plants in this program are producing food that is as safe as product from traditionally inspected plants.”

    You know, Tom Vilsack, (of ConAgra?) the same guy who gave the green light to Monsanto’s genetically engineered alfalfa and sugar beets? Even to the extent of defying a court order?

    This predicament of captured agencies functions as a litmus test for ANYONE (including you Sharon) who cares about the present negative trends in the corporatization of regulatory agencies. This is not limited to the USDA.

    As Public Employees for Environmental Ethics reports:
    CREEPING CORPORATIZATION OF NATIONAL PARKS — Summit Promoting a Billion Dollar Private Endowment for Parks

    (excerpt) “A core strategy announced by National Park Service (NPS) leaders in August 2011 is creating a billion dollar corporate-financed endowment outside the federal appropriation process.” (Now, what could be wrong with privatizing our National Park System?)

    There are too many more examples to draw from to list here, and plenty to reference in my previous posts.

    Prior to, and for most of my thirty years following mismanagement on our national forests, “collaboration” had a distinctly negative association and for a very good reason — “collaboration” was widely understood to be about the consequences of clandestine cooperation with an occupying force (often fascist).

    Mussolini was quoted as saying, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” As my brief examples point out, the dominant occupying force in America has been in the form of for-profit corporate enterprises controlling Congress, the corporate “nonprofit” spinoff foundations controlling the agendas of sold-out environmental groups, and the mainstream corporate-owned media.

    It comes as no surprise there will be those who seem to look after their self-interests first, in such political environments, and ask, ” “Why would anyone think that collaboration would always be bad?”

  4. Sharon: Thank you very much for all you have done to generate the posts and discussions on this blog. I’m glad you plan on continuing into your post-active duty years. The arguments of many of the posters have been provocative and enlightening — and certainly drawn key differences in perspectives, apparently based largely on experience and affiliations, to light.

    I’ve been preoccupied with personal deadlines and project completions the past few weeks, but still keep up on most of the postings — and planning on participating more as time allows in the months ahead. You’ve developed a nice core of reader/posters here, and hopefully that will allow this blog to develop into something equally useful and entertaining in the future.

    Best wishes on any new directions!

    Bob Z.


Leave a Comment