Progress on forests comes through cooperation: Brian Sybert in the Missoulian

Hoping that this is the same Brian Sybert who wrote the op-ed. SF

Progress on forests comes through cooperation

36 minutes ago • Guest column by BRIAN SYBERT

In the Missoulian, on May 30, Michael Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies compared several local timber companies to Nazis and compared Montanans who partner with them to Nazi collaborators. As extreme as his views may be, he’s done a public service by clarifying how he truly feels about Montanans who are working together to better manage our forests.
Some of his scorn was heaped on the Montana Wilderness Association, the Wilderness Society and other mainstream conservation organizations. And no wonder: We take an entirely different approach.
We don’t see Montana as a place where good and evil fight each other for dominance. We don’t regard people with whom we disagree as enemies to be vanquished. Rather, our Montana is a state blessed with expansive forests, abundant wildlife and diverse resources. We see ample opportunity for most Montanans if we manage our resources well. Montanans have differing, sometimes conflicting interests, but many of our interests overlap.
For example, many people are legitimately interested in increasing timber harvest and forest restoration activities to create jobs in our timber mills and restore fish and wildlife habitat. Most people also think there’s plenty of room for all forms of recreation on our public lands.
In our experience, when conservationists, loggers, business owners, hunters, anglers and other interest groups got together in groups small and large – from Lincoln to Choteau and points between – they discover plenty of common ground. Here are just a few examples of common ground that the Montana Wilderness Association has found with diverse interests.
In May 2005, following 14 months of dialogue and collaboration, members of the Montana Wilderness Association, Montana Snowmobile Association and Lincoln Ponderosa Snow Warriors gathered at the Lincoln Community Hall to sign an agreement on winter recreation covering the Lincoln Ranger District and parts of the Rocky Mountain Ranger District. This landmark agreement gained the support of state and forest biologists by protecting key winter ranges for mountain goats, elk and bighorn sheep as well as grizzly and wolverine denning areas along the Continental Divide and bordering the Scapegoat Wilderness, while protecting popular snowmobiling areas such as Copper Bowls and 250 miles of snowmobile trails maintained by the local club. Helena Forest Supervisor Kevin Riordan is expected to sign a final winter recreation plan based on this agreement later this month, and local skiers and snowmobilers have pledged to work together to help the U.S. Forest Service make this plan a success.
That’s just one example of progress through cooperation. Another is the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, introduced last fall by Sen. Max Baucus. That popular bill is the product of collaborative efforts involving a broad coalition of conservationists, ranchers, hunters, outfitters, businesses and others that began almost 10 years ago. These folks have united to protect some of Montana’s best big-game habitat, combat invasive weeds, protect grazing and all existing land uses, and make modest but important additions to the Bob Marshall and Scapegoat wildernesses.
Another noteworthy example of former adversaries working together is the Colt Summit Restoration and Fuel Reduction Project near Seeley Lake. Conservationists, loggers, wildlife advocates and others sat down with the Forest Service to design a project that will help reduce wildfire risks while improving forest health, water quality and wildlife habitat – putting people to work to boot. Colt Summit involves a spirit of partnership that extends beyond the forest. Conservation and timber interests have joined the Forest Service in federal court, defending Colt Summit from a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, among others.
Montanans fought for decades over all-or-nothing forest management. We fought to stalemate. We can do better. We can do better by recognizing the direct connection between strong, sustainable local economies and conservation. We gain ground when we reject the false paradox of jobs vs. a healthy environment. The fact is, here in Montana, we have both.
And we can have more of both – more jobs and an even healthier landscape with greater benefit for everyone. But we can’t do that with name-calling and obstruction. We stand to gain more by working together, constructively and collaboratively.

Brian Sybert is executive director of the Montana Wilderness Association.

Note from Sharon:
Couldn’t have said it better myself…

We don’t see Montana as a place where good and evil fight each other for dominance. We don’t regard people with whom we disagree as enemies to be vanquished. Rather, our Montana is a state blessed with expansive forests, abundant wildlife and diverse resources. We see ample opportunity for most Montanans if we manage our resources well. Montanans have differing, sometimes conflicting interests, but many of our interests overlap.

It’s too bad we couldn’t hear from Mr. Garrity himself as to why he thinks that Montanans with whom he disagrees are like Nazis, (and if he really does) and if the over-the-top rhetoric is just some kind of habit, or writing convenience to make his writing more punchy. Also, I find any Holocaust analogies in this context offensive, as I’ve said before.

Here’s more background info on Sybert.

27 thoughts on “Progress on forests comes through cooperation: Brian Sybert in the Missoulian”

  1. “Using the Nazi Card” represents the most cliched of desperate attacks. It doesn’t help their cause. The public backlash will hopefully lead to better collaborative projects.

  2. Ugh…the daily communique???

    Perhaps success in “collaboration” will be when we stop having any Nazi inferences with regard to “responsible forest management”.

    Although I disagree with Mr. Garrity, his organization unfortunately (and however misguided), is correct as we have seen in recent litigation victories. The myriad environmental regulations still must be followed no matter how much public support a project garners.

    Maybe collaborators are better off schooling themselves up on NEPA and the tangled web of environmental regulations that must be satisfied when analyzing a project. It is obvious that Mr. Garrity’s organization and staff of lawyers know how to do just that….pick apart a document and project file to find every and any inconsistency they can. Public support, no matter how broad, is not enough. The laws are the laws…which is where the battle will continue to be fought.

    I would also like to hear from Mr. Garrity in thoughtful discourse. Not likely going to happen though. Until then it’s “good vs. evil”.

    • Have you read any of Molloy’s rulings? You see, I could get Molloy to enjoin hiking in Wilderness Areas NOT because hiking harms grizzlys or lynx, but because the forest service HASN’T analized whether hiking harms the grizzly or lynx.That summs up every one of garritys cases.And then next month, I could point out the forest service hasn’t analized the effects of drunken hikers on Bull trout.And then I could demand the USFWS get serious about extirpirating the only real threat to native trout, which is non-native trout.But that won’t happen, cause the aging rock star likes to fly fish. Good luck JZ. I gots afeeling in a few years I’m gonna be writing about your disillusionment.

      • I think Derek makes a good point. When it’s not about whether something is harmed, but how much you analyzed whether something is harmed, and there is not a clear standard for that (many, many cases go either way), it can feel like the rat who reached for the pellet and doesn’t know if she will be shocked or get food. Crazy making. And good on all the public servants who work in this crazy-making environment every day..

      • Which disillusionment? I’ve lost track. I have many.

        Good news is I have a bright future working for an environmental orgaization….with my insider knowledge I can jump ship anytime to “throw stones” as many other Agency employees have Way easier than trying to create something. I’m sure I can make a fortune……

  3. JZ- Hmm… “the laws are the laws”? It would be easier to think that if I didn’t look at the differences among circuits in their rulings.
    Even within circuits, we have won ones we “should have” lost and vice versa. One of my my more experienced associates calls going to court a “crapshoot” and I’m not sure that she is wrong.

    To say that because a judge says something it is correct..well.. we probably all have cases where we think/know they got it wrong.

    Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, anyone?

  4. Good point Sharon….courts ARE a crapshoot, but also a game that “we” (collaborators) choose not to play but are unfortunately drawn into by those who have nothing to loose, financially or otherwise.

    Obviously the most well funded of the lot are willing to call us Na2i’s and challenge us to spite broad concensus.

    My only point is that the reality of litigation will always be there. Maybe another strategy is to “flood the market” so to speak with decisions (unlikely given current budget constraints) in an effort to overwhelm the lawyer staffs of these environmental organizations.

    I think we (collaborators) need to invest more up-front time in rigorously (and legally) investigating all the “angles” and not leaving it to the Agency, who is ultimately left holding the bag and given the black eye. I’m not sure how to get there.

    • JZ- ah.. your idea of “flooding the market” is the same idea we used to talk about with the 05 planning rule. Is a plan a lead ship with a flotilla of small boats following or are we trying to put everything into the forest plan (sort of the Queen Mary or Titanic) But we know that for their own good reasons and beliefs, a large ship with big guns is stationed at the mouth of the harbor. What kind of target do we want to be?

      I totally agree that it would be good for collaborators to be involved in discussions of bullet proofing documents and if it were up to me, any discussions, including settlements, that plaintiffs are involved in.

      I am not enough of a lawyer to know if the collaborators would have to file as “friends of the court” for this to work. I wonder if there are any roadblocks to what we are envisioning. the idea of “leveling the playing field” and “giving everyone a chance” seems like it fits in with the concept of justice, if not as law is practiced.

    • JZ-you’d be better off pushing for these “mega EIS’s” as they did with the 4FRI. Then the radicals can only litigate once, and not have thirty chances to litigate. I do believe the average “acreage treated” in one of Montana’s, or Idaho’s EIS’s is around, oh, maybe 3000 acres of “commercial haravest”. How bout a Mega EIS that treated 100,000 acres instead of 30 conventional EIS’s? Somebody was thinkin who came up with that idea.

  5. I’ll leave the same comment here that I left on the Missoulian site yesterday with this one addition: Derek went onto the Missoulian site and under his anonymous pseudonym “logger” submitted this comment: “you’re finished Koehler.” How sweet of your Derek!


    Apparently it’s best for the Montana Wilderness Association to focus on the poor choice of reference by AWR and build an oped around that, rather than actually focusing on the fact that AWR’s oped was in response to a $30,000 statewide attack Ad campaign by MWA’s “timber partners.” See the Ad for yourself here:

    In the “timber partners” attack Ad campaign, they stated, “We believe the Forest Service is being held hostage by a small group of professional obstructionists.” The “timber partners” $30,000 Ad campaign also called for an end to the public appeals process and exempting many Montana national forest timber sales from judicial review.

    Apparently, while bemoaning “name-calling,” Montana Wilderness Association didn’t feel a need to address the fact that their “timber partners” openly referred to AWR, Friends of the Wild Swan and Native Ecosystem Center as hostage takers. Nor did they feel a need to speak out against their “timber partners” call for an end to the public appeals process and closing the court house doors for many logging projects.

    This should speak volumes about just what sort of “collaboration” Montana Wilderness Association has going on with a handful of Montana timber mills. Thanks.

    More info at:

    • Matthew

      In my mind there is a big difference between calling a group “hostage takers” and calling someone a Nazi. Yes it is unnecessary rhetoric (we could call these URs for short) like when Andy calls aerial firefighting “immoral.”

      But Nazis? Really? Who killed millions of people?

      And I believe that there are flaws with the current process- and thoughts about changing it are a legitimate point of view. You can’t say that ESA (that Congress passed) is THE LAW and that going to objections (that Congress passed) is NOT LEGITIMATE.

      Well, you could say that but it wouldn’t be consistent.

      And of course, both HFRA and the objections are tweaking the appeals process.

      I think when they say “obstructionists” they are talking about the same thing I am talking about with certain groups in the environmental community. That there are groups whose philosophy seems to be “no” but it’s not clear as to under what conditions they might say “yes.”

      To move forward we need to be clear on our and each others goals and concerns, and placing the litigation “cone of silence” on that discussion does not help to build trust, in my opinion.

      That is the simple question I asked them as I wrote here a while back on this blog about Colt Summit and they said they couldn’t say ’cause I worked for the FS. That is a great legalistic answer, but not a community building answer.

      • Once again Sharon I think you’re being selective with your frustration. The simple fact of the matter is that lots of information has been presented on this blog about the Colt Summit timber sale. All of the plaintiff’s legal briefs and comments have been provided here, for example.

        You can be sort of upset that the Alliance for the Wild Rockies didn’t want to drop everything and write something specific for this blog about the Colt Summit project, but you should also acknowledge that neither have the “collaborators” at MWA, TWS, NFW, etc. In fact, in my experience the people at these organizations will never enter into discussions or debates in open forums such as these for the simple fact that they cannot control the message and dialogue here. In fact, the notes contained in the Forest Service’s project file for Colt Summit clearly show that the “collaborators” have been instructed not to respond to any criticism. They would rather host one-sided dog-n-pony shows, censor and remove comments from their blogs or write opeds about poor WWII analogies. Perhaps it’s different with other collaborative groups around the country; however, that’s the sad fact of what’s happening with “collaboration” in Montana, especially as it relates to the FJRA, the Tester-Rehberg battle and Colt Summit.

        • I think you are pointing out what I perceive as “mechanical problems” with a specific effort. Maybe we should take one, look at the project file, and even though we are not the people involved, try to get into their heads as to why they might have done what they did and do it differently.

          I know that I have been asked not to respond to written criticisms made by a group , in my formal FS role, (by a facilitator of a FACA committee) and the rationale was that “it would just get into a back and forth.” As you can tell, I am not afraid of getting into a back and forth. I think underneath perhaps she was thinking it might leave bad feelings with the (powerful) environmental group who wrote the original (inaccurate) criticism. Who knows?

          What’s a good back and forth (illuminating) vs. bad (name-calling)? How do we get from here to there?
          We can only give it a go. That was my point.

          Anyway I think we need to understand the motivations of (let’s call them) non-discussers, and provide an environment where pro-discussers feel safe.

          I think this blog shows that that’s not easy, even without the passions involved in a site-specific proposal.

        • Matt,

          I would not expect any of the groups mentioned above to drop everything and respond to criticism here since most/all have filed amicus briefs in support of/against the Colt Summit project. Public debate at this point is moot since it’s in the court’s “capable” (snicker) hands….

          Quite frankly I’m surprised you are willing to continue the public dialogue in light of the amicus briefs. Although I would acknowlege that you have remained, for the most part, factual and impartial (for better or worse).

          It’s a fools game to stack so many influential parties against each other over a project of this magnitude. Something will eventually give and I doubt it’s what either side is hoping for.

      • If they can call us Nazi’s or WW2-style collaborators, then we should be able to call them “Stalinista’s” or “Pol Potters” *big smirk*

        NO, I don’t like being slandered!

  6. I would also like to point out that the official Forest Service project file for the Colt Summit timber sale clearly and without a doubt shows that the Colt Summit project was a Forest Service generated and planned project that the Forest Service then provided to the Lolo Restoration Committee, which basically just accepted what the Forest Service planned to do already.

    Therefore, the claim by Mr. Sybert that “Conservationists, loggers, wildlife advocates and others sat down with the Forest Service to design a project” is not true and is not supported by the facts contained in the official Forest Service project file, which the federal courts will be certainly looking into.

    I’d also like to point out that if Mr. Sybert is going to make such a claim, he should also fully acknowledge that Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Friends of the Wild Swan fully participated in the entire public process for the Colt Summit project, even meeting directly with the Forest Service on at least two occasions and even attending the entire field trip to the Colt Summit Project Area.

    These points have been raised repeatedly but it hasn’t stopped MWA and some of the other collaborators from essentially lying to the public about these very simple facts. Again, what does this say about the type of “collaboration” some of these folks are engaged in if they go to such great lengths to be dishonest about the public involvement in the Colt Summit Project? Thanks.

      • Sharon, seems like a strange question for a FS employee to ask, but yes, the “official FS project file” is available to the public. In the case of the Colt Summit timber sale, Friends of the Wild Swan and Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Lolo National Forest to obtain the entire Forest Service project file. I should mention that I think it’s pretty much standard operating procedure for conservation groups to pour over the entire project file before filing a lawsuit, or even in some cases, prior to filing an appeal. The project file contains lots of internal information which the Forest Service may not put into the actual EIS or EA, so it’s always quite interesting to see what’s really happening.

        All members of the public should be able to simply walk into the Lolo National Forest Supervisor’s Office or Seeley Lake Ranger Station, make a request to review the entire project file for the Colt Summit timber sale and start reading. Of course, to ensure you actually get everything from the Forest Service a FOIA request is recommended, as unfortunate but true as that may be.

        Finally, in the case of Colt Summit, the entire project file obtained by FOIA was also filed with the Court as part of the official Administrative Record.

        • I was trying to distinguish whether maybe if some group had FOIA’d the project file, they had then posted it online somewhere. I know the public has the right to access the public record. But I am not wandering into the Lolo anytime soon, also I think you meant pore not pour (sorry, I can’t help editing).

          I don’t think that courts file administrative records somewhere that the public can see them, although I think that that might be a good idea.

  7. I’m sorry to make this my first comment to this site, which I’ve been following since its creation, but I see this happening repeatedly and felt I should give a heads up.

    It is bad form and often illegal to copy entire news articles, blog posts, and other media and repost them on your site without the permission of the copyright owner. The best practice is to use excerpts, link to the original source, and credit the authors. If you have permission to repost an entire article, indicate that somehow e.g. “reposted with permission” .

    Here’s a good intro to copyright and the web

      • Yes, this op-ed. Furthermore, you can’t actually click on the link to get to the source in the Missoulian. A number of other posts you’ve made also contain entire articles copied from elsewhere.

        • That’s odd, I did click on the link and was successful in getting to the Missoulian (actually you can see the Missoulian in the link), I left clicked to highlight the address and then right clicked and chose “open link in new tab.”

          I was sensitized to this a few months ago and have been careful. I guess I thought that 1) the author of an op- ed wants their opinions promulgated and 2) papers don’t pay for them so how could there be intellectual property issues?

          So I am now curious, if it were OK by Sybert to print and link, would it also have to be OK by the Missoulian?

          Please continue to point out specific situations in which you think that copyright has been violated.

          • I am not a lawyer, but I am a profession web developer. I’ll repeat what I said before and leave it up to you to dig deeper and seek legal advice since there is more complexity here than can be dealt with in comments.

            If you did not create the content (article, image, media, code, etc), the content is not in the public domain, and you don’t have permission from the copyright owner, then it is a copyright violation to copy and repost it in its entirety. Whether the newspaper pays for opinion articles or not is totally irrelevant when it comes to copyright. If you are copying content from someone’s site, you need their permission. Keep in mind that many newspapers (including the Missoulian) charge for access to the articles you are reposting for free.

            Fair use as I understand it does not allow one to simply copy and repost an entire work. It does allow the use of excerpts, properly credited, preferably with a hyperlink (rather than an address in plain text) back to the source.

            Again, please don’t take my word for it. Seek legal advice. Also look around at how other blogs and websites handle these situations. Reputable publishers do not copy and repost entire articles on their site without permission.

            • It’s OK, Josh, I heard about this from the horse’s mouth (a representative of a publication, who should know ) and I understood it.

              He said basically what you said

              Fair use as I understand it does not allow one to simply copy and repost an entire work. It does allow the use of excerpts, properly credited, preferably with a hyperlink (rather than an address in plain text) back to the source.

              That is what I thought I had been doing since I was told, and what Andy and Matthew had always done.

              In this case, I was in a hurry and did not excerpt the op-ed, (mea culpa). I also did not hyperlink because I was on my IPad and I don’t have hyperlinking down on it (mea maxima culpa).

              In terms of seeking legal advice, perhaps someone would volunteer to provide services pro bono, as the entire budget of this blog, including legal services, is $0.00.

    • Josh,

      “Bad taste” and “illegal” are worlds apart. Where is the line drawn? Also, please also instruct us on what constitues “fair use”.

      I know an unfortunate individual who was recently the victim of copyright infringement when his (distasteful) photos were lifted and republished under “fair use”.

      It seems that most folks are willing to push “bad taste” and “fair use” as far as they can to satisfy their own needs.

      Input welcome.


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