The McClatchy Take on the Planning Rule

I saw this earlier this week in a Louisville paper. It’s hard for me to criticize newspapers when the whole news business is in such poor shape. I know from experience it’s easier to criticize others, than to produce carefully checked documents on a short time-frame. But it’s still of interest to compare the different kinds of coverage, because this is the journalism situation this country is in, and could have repercussions on public understanding of issues. As usual, my comments are in italics.

New forest-management plan weakens wildlife protection

McClatchy Newspapers
Published Thursday, Feb. 02, 2012

WASHINGTON — Back in the 1980s, when conservation advocates were trying to stop logging in old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest, they relied on a 1982 regulation that required the National Forest Service to protect wildlife such as the spotted owl throughout its range. They won, and a new Northwest forest plan in 1990 greatly reduced logging in the region’s old-growth forests on federal land.

Now the national planning rule that governs individual national forest plans is about to change, for the first time since the Reagan era. Scientists and environmentalists say many of the changes are improvements, but they object to a key change in the way the plan would protect wildlife.

Technically speaking, the 05 and 08 rules got this far (to publication). How about “some” scientists and “some” environmentalists object. Wouldn’t that be more accurate?

That part of the plan always has been controversial. The timber industry opposes it. Conservationists say it was vital to winning protection for old-growth forests. Now some ecologists and advocates say the Forest Service plan’s change on this point would punch a hole through key protections.

The plan, which covers all uses of forest — including timber harvests, grazing, recreation and wilderness — is expected to become final in early March. Until then, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack could still make changes. But when Vilsack announced the plan last week, he called it “a strong framework to restore and manage our forests and watersheds and help deliver countless benefits to the American people.” The plan is being published Friday in the Federal Register.

It’s interesting that the concept of “environmentalists vs. the timber industry” is in this newspaper, while some of us want to develop a restoration economy that would involve a timber industry. It’s also interesting that of the many groups quoted in many articles, they selected NRDC. Is this because more interesting articles have more controversy? Less interesting than “many groups applaud new rule?” Also if this story was published Thursday in the Bee, and it says the “plan” is in the federal register Friday.. One thing I always think about news articles is “if they don’t check easily checked facts, why should we believe them about complex concepts?

Conservationists say the wildlife provision is a crucial weak point.

“This plan is much less protective than the 1982 Reagan-era one on wildlife protection,” said Niel Lawrence, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This provision is the single strongest protection for the national forests, and the agency is not retaining it.”

Technically, they are quoting one “conservation” group. And a group that really doesn’t specialize in this issue as I pointed out in my previous post here. So far we have the MSNBC and McClatchy stories heavily dependent on NRDC. My usual take is “why didn’t you ask your local environmental groups if you are writing a story?” But McClatchy is national, so I guess has to ask “national” people, who have their own framings of the issue. As the industry consolidates, will we be seeing more of this? Here’s their mission:

The McClatchy Company is the third-largest newspaper company in the United States, a leading newspaper and digital publisher dedicated to the values of quality journalism, free expression and community service. Building on a 154-year legacy of independence, the company’s newspapers and websites are steadfast defenders of First Amendment values and advocates for the communities they serve.

The 1982 rule required the Forest Service to manage fish and wildlife habitat so that healthy populations of animals are “well-distributed” throughout each forest.

The new plan drops that language. Instead, it requires forest managers to maintain habitats. It leaves it up to the official in charge of a region’s forests to decide whether any individual species needs extra protection to ensure that it will continue to exist over the long term with “sufficient distribution.”

The nation’s largest national forest, the Tongass in southeast Alaska, has some land set aside for timber harvests and other areas for recreation and wildlife, as do other national forests. The Tongass’ 2008 plan requires the Forest Service to “maintain contiguous blocks of old-growth forest habitat in a forest-wide system of old-growth reserves” where “viable and well-distributed” populations of animals that depend on this habitat can live.

Under the new national plan, without the “well-distributed” range requirement, managers of the Tongass wouldn’t need wilderness areas spread over the forests’ hundreds of islands, but could limit wildlife protection to smaller areas, Lawrence said.

Brenda Halter-Glenn, who led the team that created the new national plan, said in an interview that the new measure was more realistic about wildlife protection.

“The focus of this rule is on ecological conditions or habitat,” she said. “Those are the things we think through our management actions we can affect. We can create or maintain or restore habitat, but we can’t necessarily ensure that we have viable populations of all species.”

One reason for that, she said, is that some animals, such as migratory birds, also depend on lands that are beyond the Forest Service’s control.

Halter-Glenn said the plan addressed the question of how much discretion to give forest managers by requiring them to show how they used science to inform decisions. “There’s a lot of accountability built in,” she said.

This is where they start to quote “scientists”, which I find interesting from a science policy perspective.

Many scientists, however, are still concerned about the discretionary nature of the plan, said Barry Noon, a professor of wildlife ecology at Colorado State University.

“The requirements aren’t really requirements, because they’re largely discretionary,” Noon said.

In addition, it’s not possible to judge the health of animal populations only by measuring how much vegetation they have, Noon said. The plan also should require monitoring populations of certain animals that are selected to get a sense of overall wildlife health, he said.

This is a planning regulation.. so why would you talk to a wildlife ecologist rather than an expert in planning, say Martin Nie of University of Montana? Scientists are supposed to be experts based on their knowledge of empirical facts. “Shoulds” by definition are normative and are generally not considered to be an appropriate role for scientists.

John McLaughlin, an expert in wildlife ecology and conservation who teaches at the Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University in Bellingham, said the plan should protect all native species. The new plan could be more or less protective than the old one, he said. “It depends on who’s making the decisions.”

More “shoulds” from scientists.

In the Northwest, officials attempted during the George W. Bush administration to dismantle the forest plan and open areas to the kind of clear-cutting that was common in the region in the 1970s and earlier. The Obama administration scrapped that effort.

I’m not sure if the is the Northwest Forest Plan, and I’m not sure that the “kind of clearcutting” was the issue, maybe some Northwesterners can chime in here.

But the Bush administration’s attempt to increase logging, McLaughlin argued, is an example of how leaving too much discretion to officials could “make conservation very vulnerable to political whims.”

But one person’s “political whim” is another person’s “will of the people” as manifested through the process of “elections”. But why are we legitimizing the viewpoint of a biologist on a planning and political science question? Here are the backgrounds of Barry Noone and John McLaughlin. I understand Barry because he was on the Committee of Scientists (the 1999 one), but of all the people with experience and study in forest plans, why did they pick McLaughlin to interview? Unless this was a local article for Olympia or Bellingham that then went national.

Conservation groups and the timber industry have fought over the wildlife protection in the forest plan for years.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and 58 other members of the Health

really, “Health”?

of Representatives wrote to the Forest Service last May, arguing that the provision in the rule that provides for plant and animal protection in the forests should be eliminated.

They argued that reliance on “best available scientific information” and the expansion of protection to all species — the 1982 rule covered only vertebrates — would cost too much and harm the forests. It also would “reduce the number of jobs in our already distressed rural communities and further limit the amount of the American wood and fiber available to aid our economic recovery,” the wrote.

The timber industry makes the same points.

Ann Forest Burns, a spokeswoman for the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, said the 1982 requirement for healthy animal populations was a mistake in the first place, and that the Forest Service had made it “much worse.”

I don’t know that the FS, or the case law, made it “much worse”.

The timber group also argues that the rule’s wildlife protection terms should mention that the forest plan governs multiple uses of the forest, including logging. “They’ve moved beyond the objectives Congress had for them,” she said.

Conservation groups used the 1982 forest plan to argue for protecting the Northwest’s remaining old-growth forest on federal lands, a habitat that the spotted owl requires.

“If you take that away, there’s no other real legal protection,” said Mike Anderson, an attorney in Seattle for The Wilderness Society. The case for protecting old-growth forests from logging, he said, “has always been based upon it being an important habitat for imperiled species.”

This statement seems a bit dismissive of ESA.

The rule has some strong elements, such as the requirement to maintain and restore the health of ecosystems and watersheds, Anderson said.

“Protection for species as well as the ecosystem are important complementary protections,” he said. “Both need our attention. . . . We’d just like to see the species part strengthened before it becomes final.”

Dominick DellaSala, the president and chief scientist of the Geos Institute in Ashland, Ore., a consulting firm that focuses on addressing climate change, said there was another reason to keep the old forests: They store large amounts of carbon.

Cool-weather rain forests such as the ones in the Northwest and Alaska store more carbon per acre than any other forests do, DellaSala reported in 2010. A Forest Service study last year reported that worldwide, all forests soak up one-third of the carbon dioxide that’s produced by burning fossil fuels, keeping it out of the atmosphere, where it would trap energy and make the planet warmer.

The climate stuff seems like a bit of an unrelated thought, and the whole focus on “old growth” seems a bit Pacific Northwest-centric to me. The spotted owl is so.. one piece of the country and so.. 20th century. Note the quotes are all from PNW folks:

Niel Lawrence Olympia (?)
John McLaughlin Bellingham
Ann Forest Burns Seattle
DellaSala Ashland
Mike Anderson Seattle
Barry Noon Fort Collins Colorado
(which makes me wonder why they didn’t select Norm Johnson in Oregon?)

Which maybe is not so odd in Olympia or Bellingham, but look at the other McClatchy newspapers.

Anchorage Daily News (AK)
Beaufort Gazette (SC)
Belleville News-Democrat (IL)
Bellingham Herald (WA)
(Biloxi) Sun Herald (MS)
Bradenton Herald (FL)
Centre Daily Times (PA)
Charlotte Observer (NC)
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
El Nuevo Herald (FL – Spanish)
Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TX)

Fresno Bee (CA)
The (Rock Hill) Herald (SC)
Idaho Statesman (ID)
The Island Packet (SC)
Kansas City Star (MO)
Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Merced Sun-Star (CA)
Miami Herald (FL)
Modesto Bee (CA)
(Raleigh) News & Observer (NC)
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
The Olympian (WA)
Sacramento Bee (CA)
The State (SC)
he Sun News (SC)
The Telegraph (GA)
The Tribune (CA)
Tri-City Herald (WA)
Wichita Eagle (KS)

22 thoughts on “The McClatchy Take on the Planning Rule”

  1. So, instead of relying on newspapers to explain the new rule to the public, perhaps the Forest Service should schedule forest by forest, or even district by district, open house meetings to explain the essential elements of the new rule to local folks who are interested.

    Break it down into digestible chunks:

    How will the next plan revision work under the new rule?

    How will the new rule protect wildlife, water quality?

    How will it affect ski area projects and plans?

    You could even use webcasts, covering different parts of the rule on different dates. It would be helpful to have representation on the panels from environmental groups who say the new rule weakens wildlife protection. Let them explain their standpoint and then have an FS expert answer.

    You could also get outside voices, like Mark Squillace, head of the natural resources law program at CU, to chime in …

    This would be helpful in ADVANCE of the next time the White River NF starts to update its plan under the new rule.

    As for the headline, which apparently caught your eye, there is fairly widespread consensus in my circles that the new planning rule does exactly that, no matter how much the FS dances around the issue. I don’t doubt the agency’s good intentions in trying to create something that will be protective of wildlife, but I’m not sure this new rule does the job.

    To me, it feels like this part of the rule was crafted to be able to avoid and win lawsuits, not because it’s the best way to protect wildlife on NF lands, and the agency may face yet another legal challenge to the new rule based on those concerns.

    The agency wasn’t able to uphold the protective standards and guidelines for wildlife under the old planning rule, so it got rid of them and replaced them with a very complex system that may, or may not, work.

    There is legitimate concern in the conservation community about that, because if we don’t protect wildlife habitat and biodiversity on NF lands, then we can’t protect them anywhere.

    That said, I realize that national forests aren’t wildlife preserves and I recognize the need to balance multiple uses. But given the state of the global environment, the huge tracts of public land represent a reservoir of hope for conserving some of our natural resources through the impending changes. That should be high on the list of priorities.

    • Bob, you raise an excellent point about how to communicate about the rule.

      First, remember that good plans are a function of a) the rule in place, b) the directives in place, c) the case law ( I forgot this the last time), d) the management of the process by the agency, and e) the collaborative spirit of the public and government agencies.

      Right now, we are talking about a) without knowledge of b) or c). By the time we get to the next plan revision on the White River , we will know a lot more than we do now, based on what the early adopters do and what the FACA committee tweaks, and what case law develops.

      So I think that the story will probably be very different by then and could be handled by the Forest Service.

      Second, the whole “weakening” debate,I think, is best handled by on-line discussion or some other form of public debate over time. These concepts (the FS might do bad things were it not for viability) I think suit themselves more to lengthy kinds of debate rather than panels or meetings. But people on both sides would have to commit to spending a certain amount of time in discussion. We just need some kind of not for profit educational business model to make that happen. Other than we volunteers, who may not be the right people, and there are only so many other folks I can sweet-talk into participating. Ideas welcome!

      So far, people whose common tactic is litigation are claiming the weakening (NRDC, CBD), perhaps hoping that they won’t have to develop a new set of case law, which could go either way- more or less protective. There is a certain self-interest at work there, as there is with the agency and others. That’s why I think we need new institutions for developing mutual public understanding.

      You said “The agency wasn’t able to uphold the protective standards and guidelines for wildlife under the old planning rule, so it got rid of them and replaced them with a very complex system that may, or may not, work.” I’m not sure what you meant by “unable to uphold”- do you have specific examples?

      • Sharon, I think now would be a good time to start explaining the new rule. The FS did a great job of keeping people up to speed during the process of developing the planning rule; it would be a pity to just stop now. I know of several streams locally that have never met the standards in the 2002 WRNF plan. Won’t name them because I don’t want to call out specific ski areas in this context. Will also give some examples of unmet wildlife standards.

        • Thanks, Bob, i think that there is a plan for more explanation of the rule following the publication of the final rule.

          However, to point out again, how the rule works will be a function of it and the directives and the case law. It’s kind of like this analogy:

          The fences are falling down on the ranch and the cows are getting out. Our horse is old and we sent some folks to the auction in town to get us a new horse.

          They came back with a youngster (say a 2 year old) that does not satisfy everyone.
          I would prefer longer fetlocks because in my experience they make for a smoother ride. Another cowpoke on the ranch would prefer dark hooves, because in her experience they are stronger.
          But despite everyone’s predilections, none of us know how this horse will prove out in day to day work on the ranch over the next decade or so.

          And it is highly unlikely that if someone new were sent to the auction, they would find a horse that would suit us all better. The one thing we do know is that more fences will have fallen down and our backlog will be greater for fence repair.

          When/if folks aren’t meeting standards in the plan under the 1982 rule, it could be differences in interpretation (you never know how many ways words can be interpreted until after they’re written), lack of carrying forward from the NEPA document to on-the-ground (a problem associated with non-plan requirements), or ?. Also, site specific decisions can amend the plans for that specific site or project.

          • And what if that horse was acquired through the practice of collusion where, “bidders at an auction are aware of the identity of the other bidders there is a risk that they will form a “ring” and thus manipulate the auction result, a practice known as collusion” ? ( )

            Or worse, failure was assured because all that was being auctioned at the time were horses infected with EHV-1?

  2. Of course, a headline like “Wildfire Policies Weaken Wildlife Protections” would also be quite true. Or, “Preservationist Policy Desires Put Viable Wildlife Populations At-Risk” would also be a true statement. I’d say that 25 million acres of dead forests have severely-impacted critical habitats for wildlife. You cannot selectively apply the ESA to activities you don’t like, and ignore the ESA when habitats go up in smoke.

  3. Sharon stated: ” And a group (NRDC) that really doesn’t specialize in this issue as I pointed out in my previous post here.”

    Are you serious Sharon, especially in the middle of a pedantic rant on (journalistic) accuracy?

    You might want to check case law on these matters, with NRDC as a search term — and the next time you see a scientist litigating his own case, please let us all know right away.

    Secondly, only when you start complaining about the serial litigation of the timber industry on these same issues which ought to matter just as much to you, you’ll then begin to restore your objectivity as a scientist commentator and Forest Service Line Officer(am I right?)

    I know this really irritates you to no end, but there’s no escaping the fact that many millions of the American public totally agree (including scientists) with McClatchy’s title, that the “New forest-management plan weakens wildlife protection,” and they heartily disagree with America’s Congressional, (and your) neoliberal proclivities to deregulate and privatize the BUSINESS of “restoring” what has been so thoroughly and pervasively mismanaged by the agency you work for.

    McClatchy, overall, gets pretty high marks in journalism, with a solid history of not being afraid to buck the mainstream puppy dog press consensus, (such as all their synchronized yapping which took us all over the cliff into the immoral morass of Iraq under UTTERLY FALSE claims of “intelligence”– otherwise known as “Newspeak” — gotta love Orwell’s ghost creeping into these discussions.)

    • “Passive restoration” is an oxymoron worthy of being compared to the “Newspeak” of Orwell. Pretending that all we have to do to “restore” the heavily-impacted forest environment, is to do nothing, is the epitome of “Newspeak”.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with David regarding Sharon’s statement about NRDC. Some of the statements on this blog are just laughable. Fact is, NRDC has an excellent forest policy team and the Neil Lawrence is top notch. In fact, I’d enjoy watching Mr. Lawrence debate anyone else on this site about forest policy and see what happens.

      • My point wasn’t to criticize employees of NRDC, my point was rather to say that given their experience, why should their determination count 1)enough to be the only ones quoted in articles, compared to many other environmental groups who have been in the trenches on forest plans and planning rules and 2) through litigation, playing the trump card over everyone else in settlement discussions? It’s fundamentally a question of (dare I say..) justice.

        I don’t know about others on this blog, but I would be willing to discuss any of these topics with anyone, any time that’s mutually agreeable. I prefer a public forum like this blog so I have time to look up things, learn from others, and develop a basis for mutual understanding through time.

        • I support Sharon’s point of view.

          However, those in power won’t willingly give up that power. That is the case with the “serial litigators”. That is why the Planning Rule will ultimately fail. Neither side wants to lose what they already have.

          So, I haven’t seen a prediction of how the Rule will be implemented, and Forest Plans start development. Will the Forest Service push forward, even with the promise of litigation? Will they make the mistake of pouring more millions into a Rule that will be thrown out in court? The SNF Amendment is a clear example of the hurdles to be overcome, in the courts. The Rule could be targeted for the next 10 years, if that is what it takes, to “restore” the old Rule.

        • I’ll grant you that there are plenty more voices to be heard on this which might’ve been interviewed, but NRDC has occupied these trenches far longer than the collaborateurs you’re likely invoking. (Something tells me, we’re likely thinking of very different interviewees.)

          Regardless though, anyone can play the “trump card” Sharon– you know that. WHO steps forward matters, for they define their loyalties in that manner.

          The problem is, in the present era of paid-off collaborationists, fewer and fewer staffers are willing to jeopardize their salaries to play the trump card.

          And you’re seeking “Justice” for this bunch of collaborateurs?

          (Dare I say..) exquisite irony?

  4. David, what I am talking about is the legitimacy of dealing with issues from an on-the-ground “working on plans” perspective. I don’t think you can completely understand an issue until you’ve dealt with it directly. For example, we used to have Silvicultural Institute at Oregon State. The professors would say that they learned as much as the students from the interaction with practitioners.

    How can you know what should be in a planning rule unless you have worked on forest plans?
    Let’s take a health example.
    Would you want your hospital policies to be determined by a malpractice litigator? Would you be willing to have health policy set by them, or would you say that they, like all of us, have both a valuable point of view and also a certain conflict of interest?

    If you were writing a news story about a new health policy, would they be the first people you would interview?

    In my experience, we have had one piece of litigation by the timber industry (the “you shoulda known the CE would go belly up in the courts” tort claim.).

    Many millions of people might agree, but partially because they’ve been presented by only one side of the story. And while McClatchy may get overall high marks, (just like FS NEPA documents ;)) that’s no reason not to point out when a document or story has problems.

    I don’t claim to be objective, I claim to want facts and to be willing to hear both sides and engage in dialogue, and I am not a line officer. Scientists are humans and aren’t objective- we try to get at the facts through rigorous study and analysis.

    As to the health of the news industry, check out this blog post from Sara Foss on “newspaper hospice.”

    Here’s an interesting op-ed on the topic of news from the Denver Post today. Italics mine.

    We are feasting on junk info
    Consumers’ habits can shape what’s on the Internet. It’s time to stop making bad choices.

    There is a way to fix this. It starts with each of us building a healthy information diet for ourselves. We eat a lot of junk food because it is cheap and tastes good and we haven’t trained our taste buds differently. Well, your information diet is as important to your general well-being as your food diet. Building a healthy information diet can give you more time, strengthen your social relationships and reduce your stress levels.

    When you are on the computer, remember that clicks have consequences — for yourself and for the rest of us. Each time you click on a salacious headline on the Huffington Post, you are not only consuming junk information you don’t need (how much more do you really need to read about J-Lo?); you’re also all but ensuring that the Huffington Post will continue to push that kind of story. Every search you make on Google is analyzed by news editors looking to see which topics are “trending” as they choose what stories to assign and put on their websites.

    Your habits have immense power. A movement led by a few dozen activists and a few high-end consumers led Wal-Mart to significantly reduce the salt, fat and sugar content in the foods it sells. You can do the same thing for the media. Let’s make the market chase us. Consume deliberately, consume locally, consume close to the original source, consume less and produce more. Seek facts, not comfort. And not all the time. We’ll all be better off.

    Clay Johnson is author of “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption.” He wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

  5. You’ve clarified, you’re talking about “the legitimacy of dealing with issues from an on-the-ground working on plans perspective.” Are you suggesting by NRDC litigating to maintain the standards of viable and well distributed populations of wildlife “on the ground” in the planning rule is somehow illegitimate? Many millions of Americans would likely think otherwise because they have supported this as a requirement on national forests. It follows that NRDC’s litigation objects to turning this into a discretionary option for forest supervisors.

    You’ve asked, “Would you want your hospital policies to be determined by a malpractice litigator?”

    Yes, I do — besides, they already have to a large extent. Ever since the Hippocratic Oath was sidelined for profit taking, hospital policies have been determined and informed to a large extent, by the threat of being sued for malpractice. This has resulted in improved hospital policies benefiting the patient — such as requiring sponge and instrument counts in surgery.

    The main problem with your metaphor is that when medical malpractice is proven in court, there is personal accountability exacted upon the perpetrators and reparations afforded to the victim. That is NOT the case with national forest mismanagement– there is no personal accountability exacted from the perpetrators of mismanagement. Instead, serial perpetrators of mismanagement with reckless disregard for NEPA and NFMA are rewarded. I find this troubling, and diagnostic of a captured agency.

    More appropriate questions might be, “Are national forest management policy failures the result of NEPA and NFMA, or has agency mismanagement been the result of agency capture?

    The case for agency capture is voluminous, yet to my knowledge, you have yet to acknowledge the facts. These include Reagan and Bush’s appointments of extremist undersecretaries in charge of the Forest Service. Reagan’s choice for taking charge of the USFS was John Crowell, Louisiana Pacific’s corporate defense attorney in which LP was convicted of anti-trust violations, price fixing and collusion on the Tongass National Forest. Bush chose Mark Rey, a timber industry lobbyist of 20 years who made no secret for his contempt for environmental law.

    You’ve asked, “How can you know what should be in a planning rule unless you have worked on forest plans?”

    We know what should be in a planning rule because millions of Americans over decades have said they want viable and well-distributed populations of wildlife within their national forest system. This should matter to you.

    • David- I think people want to do good work, but factors work against it.. lack of time, lack of money, lack of understanding of the fundamental relationships and the best way to meet the objective.

      For example, hospital- borne infections. I really believe that medical professionals do not want their patients to get sick and die, and are only prevented from it by malpractice attorneys.
      On the contrary, any money spent by hospitals is better spent figuring out how to reduce the infections, and buying the stuff they need to do a better job, whether monitoring or whatever, or reducing the stress on health care providers so they have time to do a better job. Litigation brings attention to a problem, but cannot solve the problem. Only the workers involved (and in our case, with the stakeholders involved) can solve the problem.

      I believe that millions of Americans want their forests well-managed – and the ins and outs of the viability regulations are probably not their area of expertise, any more than most of us know whether incentives for handwashing are the best way to reduce hospital infections (a goal we all agree on).

      • Of course, “professionals do not want their patients to get sick and die.” Of course, there are countless well-meaning health professionals doing all they can. AND, healthcare is run in America as a for-profit industry — which has been found guilty on far too many occasions to have caused countless deaths in the pursuit of profits. Deregulation of this industry has created these socio-economic predicaments.

        The key concept here is accountability. Corporations are held accountable by malpractice suits. It gets factored in their bottom line. Since human lives have no numerical home on corporate balance sheets but malpractice damages and compensation costs do, It has lead to many good changes.
        I witnessed this dynamic working for 6 years as a surgical technician in the Navy, before sponge and instrument counts were instituted, and another 6 years in civilian hospitals where it has a permanent place in policy.

        Likewise, of course, there are countless well-meaning forest service employees, AND… yours is a captured agency Sharon, with political pressures to get the cut out and no accountability for forest mismanagement. The agency is forcing the transition to corporate “partners” playing a larger and larger role in forest management under the guise of “stewardship and restoration”. Citizens are reconfigured as “stakeholders” (not unlike shareholders.) Plenty of whistleblowers have lost their jobs in defense of national forest policy guided by NFMA, and NEPA. Why? Because these are literally the foundations of America’s environmental protections.

        Agency antipathy for those same protections is long established. This is also illustrated in the Planning Rule’s intent to make key precepts of NFMA optional, with the decision being devolved to the forest supervisor level. This is called deregulation and devolution Sharon, and given the mess we’re in because of deregulation undermining all aspects of our lives, it comes as no surprise your agency would get called on it.

        Yet again.

        • I honestly don’t see these “corporate partners”. We have fairly tiny sawmills and many, many other citizens from various walks of life involved in decisions. Also, ski areas and the oil and gas industry (and sawmills) are providing goods and services that benefit citizens. The fact is that providing those services and goods requires businesses (otherwise the government would be doing it- scary? and conflict of interest?).

          Also viability was not a key precept of NFMA, it was a feature of the 1982 regulations.
          “provide for diversity of plant and animal communities based on the suitability and capability of the specific land area.”

          As we said in our earlier discussions of viability on this blog (just search on viability), for example, here.

          The livestock folks and mining folks have been saying that the 2012 has MORE requirements. I don’t see “deregulation”, I see a balance based on the input of the public. I can see you thinking the FS has “sold out” more easily than I can see how you think DOW, TWS and the Sierra Club have “sold out.”

          I’m not a political scientist, but I would see that giving local people authority is more the principle of “subsidiarity” rather than “devolution”. This definition is from Wikipedia.

          Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. The Oxford English Dictionary defines subsidiarity as the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level. The concept is applicable in the fields of government, political science, cybernetics, management, military (Mission Command) and, metaphorically, in the distribution of software module responsibilities in object-oriented programming. Subsidiarity is, ideally or in principle, one of the features of federalism, where it asserts the rights of the parts over the whole.

          • Sharon, You “honestly don’t see these “corporate partners”?”
            This helps explain why you’ve only seen one case of the timber industry taking your agency to court.

            Let me help with just two organizations which are centrally featured in national forest management, the corporate outsourcing of governmental functions, their role in collaboration roundtables, the corporate funding of the environmental groups who collaborate to sell-out the public which has no idea this is even occurring, etc.

            The National Forest Foundation

            and The Nature Conservancy.

            Here’s what today’s Independent Science News has to say on the subject of this little matter of something funny about TNC:

            Way Beyond Greenwashing: Have Corporations Captured Big Conservation?
            “At the Nature Conservancy its board of directors has only two members (out of 22) who list an active affiliation to a conservation organization in their board CV (Prof Gretchen Daly and Cristian Samper, head of the US Museum of Natural History). Only one other member even mentions among their qualifications an interest in the subject of conservation. The remaining members are, like Shona Brown, an employee of Google and a board member of Pepsico, or Margaret Whitman who is the current President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, or Muneer A Satter, a managing director of Goldman Sachs.”


            So if you honestly don’t see these corporate partners, you can honestly pretend there’s no financial gain involved at the expense of the public trust, nor any problem with privatizing the very air we breath which is what NFF and TNC are pushing and turning it into derivatives for speculative trading in forest offsets?

            And devolving decisions on national forest matters to conflicted stakeholders with a direct financial interest in the outcomes of their collaboration? What could possibly go wrong there? After all, these collaborateurs have EVERYBODY’s best interests at the tippy-top of their altruist agendas!

            Devolution is such a remarkable word, I can see why you’d want to avoid it here. Every single context of devolution applies to the direction of forest management your captured agency has been and continues to take us:

            devolution |ˌdevəˈlo͞oSHən|
            the transfer or delegation of power to a lower level, esp. by central government to local or regional administration.

            (such as self-selecting collaborateurs end-running FACA, cutting deals with industry, claiming quid pro quo Wilderness designations and undermining NEPA, Wilderness Act, etc. on national forests will be acceptable for and to, all present and future generations of Americans)

            • formal descent or degeneration to a lower or worse state
            (such as eliminating full public process at the center of democratic principles our system of government is based

            • Law the legal transfer of property from one owner to another.
            (such as the corporate funded collaborateurs signing-off on privatization of public lands in QPQ Wilderness bills)

            • Biology evolutionary degeneration.
            (such as undermining the laws which were designed to balance
            competing interests on national forests, but have been sidelined with severe biological consequences)

            You said, “viability was not a key precept of NFMA.”
            Really Sharon?

            NFMA requires the Forest Service to “provide for the diversity of plant and animal communities.”
            National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1604(g)(3)(B)

            Please let us know how that diversity is maintained without managing to maintain viability of species.

        • Indeed, the patients (forest ecosystems) are on life support, and brownouts have been promised. Since the hospitals cannot make their own special, uninterruptible power system, which would forever supply adequate power at an adequate cost, they will be forced to endure the unintended consequences of unprepared-for “incidents” of unfortunate disaster. Of course, those who trust in their faith (“Gaia-ism”) to save them from death and disaster die alongside the athiests, who would rather do something to prevent disaster, rather than embracing it..

  6. As the gridlock thickens, we’ll see Congress pushed to break it, with more place-based proposals that are less balanced and nuanced in scientific quality. This will be all that is left for rural communities to break the shackles of preservationist extremism. These will be the consequences of political and legal failures of this Democracy. You KNOW this to be true and we’re all stuck with this crappy future that was decided FOR US.


Leave a Comment