Courthouse News Service on Timber Industry’s “obnoxious” NFMA lawsuit

Last week we highlighted the fact that an assortment of timber industry, off-road/ATV and grazing interests had filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service’s new National Forest Management Act planning rules.  Well, on Friday, Robert Kahn, editor of the Courthouse News Service, wrote a very interest column taking the timber and cattle industries, as well as politicians, to task for what he characterized as “the most obnoxious lawsuit I saw this week.”  You can read the entire column here, or check out the excerpts below.

Scientists are better than politicians because scientists want to know if they’re wrong.   Politicians – and their friends in the timber and cattle industries – don’t give a damn. So long as the money rolls in: to them.

I see 5,000 lawsuits a week editing the Courthouse News page – stories of rape, murder, drugs, perversion, official corruption – revolting stuff.  But the most obnoxious lawsuit I saw this week was from the timber and cattle industries, which claimed that scientists exert “improper influence” on the U.S. Forest Service, by seeking ecological sustainability above industry profits in National Forests.

Really. I’m not kidding.

Citing an 1897 law, a bunch of blood-sucking lobbyists with noble-sounding names such as the American Forest Resource Council, the Public Lands Council, [Montana Wood Products Association, BlueRibbon Coalition] and the California Forestry Association claimed that National Forests should be “‘controlled and administered’ for only two purposes – to conserve water flows, and to furnish a continuous supply of timber for the American people – and not for aesthetic, environmental, recreational, or wildlife-preservation purposes.”

These public-land-dependent vampires claimed that this pathetically limp, spineless administration “is causing current and threatened injury” to industry by demanding ecological sustainability in forest management.

Isn’t that great?

Can you imagine anything more stupid, petty and grasping for the timber industry than suing the Forest Service for trying to preserve National Forests?

Their insane federal lawsuit claims – I’m not kidding – that the Forest Service “effectively trivializes public participation by forbidding decisions based on non-scientific information, which is what the great majority of public comments will contain. … The rule gives ‘scientists’ improper influence on natural resource management decisions, and skews multiple-use management by improperly elevating scientific information as the centerpiece of forest management.”

Notice how they put “scientists” in sneer quotes?

These industries have powerful friends in Congress, willing to howl this nonsense into our ears for as long as it takes until we stop paying attention, and they can grease it through.

Republicans in Congress live today, in great part, by attacking science: Darwin, genetics, climate change, medical research, even basic arithmetic are all nefarious plots against God and America.

But let’s remind you, and Congress too, if it can read: Science works because it’s based on facts. Scientists publish their research in journals because they want to see if someone can prove them wrong.

U.S. politicians today, more than at any time in our history except perhaps before the Civil War, not only do not care if they are wrong, they want to punch you in the mouth if you suggest it, and are willing to wreak untold damage upon anyone at all in the name of their myths.

13 thoughts on “Courthouse News Service on Timber Industry’s “obnoxious” NFMA lawsuit”

  1. Ahhh….our polictical system is so out of wack. There is way to much money involved in every aspect of our lives these days and it’s sad to know has trickled down into our management of public lands.

    Thanks for the post Matt.

  2. Thanks Matthew.
    This pretty much expresses everything that’s needed to say about the current state of the science-bashing, profit seeking, corporate power holders using lawsuits to achieve their desired ends at enormous public and ecological expense.

    After several decades of the twisted policy outcomes of gross mismanagement of national forests — through the corporate capture of agencies — the tactics and rationale of the captors has become exceptionally naked. This is to be expected over time as their sense of license and privilege gets elevated as the norm in the halls and revolving doors of Congress.

    There’s an opportunity here to examine the corollary to this.

    For all the charges of “frivolous lawsuits” leveled at citizen defenders of public law and public lands, I’m surprised that’s the worst adjective they can come up with. The definition of frivolous (“not having any serious purpose or value”) hints at the core of the conflict.

    Those who use the phrase are actually expressing their objections and outrage against anyone who would be motivated to go to court on principles — instead of the headlong pursuit of personal profit as this corporate lawsuit attests.

  3. I see it as two extremes looking to counter-balance each other. Both sides want unconditional surrender, because of the other side. Both sides also dislike the uncertainty of allowing more (or less) discretion on controversial points. Couple this with politics, as both sides are quite willing to stoop to political dirty tricks.

    YES, money is a very BIG issue and, ignoring it means failure, for both sides. Embracing catastrophic wildfires, or corporate profits, spells doom for our forests. Surely we can marginalize the extremists but, some merely want to preserve the controversy.

    • There is certainly an action/reaction dynamic here but it hardly constitutes a supposed “counter-balance”(defined as “a factor having the opposite effect to that of another and so preventing it from exercising a disproportionate influence”). There is no balance — that’s been the problem for decades.

      This lack of balance has created the conditions we now face. Corporate profiteering off public resources has resulted in creating the conditions of catastrophic wildfires. This will inevitably create a well-founded public reaction.

      But when citizens of a constitutional republic who actually shoulder their responsibilities of citizenship by engaging in the defense of basic democratic principles (such as demanding their government actually abide by environmental laws) — get labelled as “extreme” — we can then better understand the labeler’s motivation to, “marginalize the extremists”.

      No one (except a pyromaniac bent on self immolation) is “Embracing catastrophic wildfires”.

      No one needs to “preserve the controversy” either. As long as there exists the predicaments of agency capture, regulatory failure, market failure, and the fictions of “collaboration” in the predicament — it is guaranteed as a self-perpetuating condition.

      • Chad Hanson SURELY IS “embracing” catastrophic wildfires! He has gone on record wanting more (and) higher severity wildfires. It is shortsighted, inflexible people who blame the past, to block the future. Like others have asked, can we not drop the historical stuff and make site-specific scientific judgements on CURRENT conditions?!? Can we not alter outdated rules, laws and policies to be meaningful in this new reality?!? Can we not pretend that “doing nothing” will restore anything?!?!?? Indeed, this current reality DOES mandate that some areas will get the “doing nothing” treatment. Maybe we need a full “triage” of Forest Service lands, detailing maps with predicted outcomes, for specific parcels?

        For example, the Eldorado National Forest has US Highway 50 running between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The south fork of the American River parallels the highway in a deep river canyon. Auto accidents and other human ignitions dominate this corridor. Little active management has gone on, in the canyon, except for insect and fire salvage. Such lands have little in the way of options. Such lands should be considered sacrificed to whatever happens, man-caused, or not.

        In other areas, I call for “restoration” in the form of adjusting species compositions and reducing stocking levels, to meet the new climate’s annual precipitation. Here in the Sierra Nevada, we have too much incense cedar and white fir, providing a flammable understory/fuel ladder to our substantial old growth canopies we have remaining. In these dry forests, there is plenty of the three legs of the “fire triangle”.

        Collaboration is working here but, not in the way I would like to see it. They like to talk about jobs but, only about private sector jobs. None of us who are actually putting the paint on the trees is a permanent employee, with benefits and security. Those in charge keep telling us we are doing really great but, we’re treated like “disposable” employees. Many in the Forest Service feel like they can teach everybody how to mark the right trees. Isn’t it odd that they require testing and certification to measure trees but, no training at all on marking the “right” trees?

    • So are we gonna give the author of Matts story, Robert Kahn, seven thumbs down for referring to the Montana Wood Products Association and the California Forestry Association as “blood sucking lobbyists?” Hey, just havin fun mocking your process from the sidelines.(gee, wasnt’ the CFA the target of Ted Kazinski?)

  4. I wonder how this lawsuit manages to ignore the umpteen squillion bills passed since 1897 that have long since superseded the original Organic Act. Are these lawyers unable to read the Multiple Use-Sustained Yield Act of 1960, the Wilderness Act of 1964 or the National Forest Management Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976?

    Or do they not remember how the Organic Act actually *prohibits* any clear-cutting in the national forests, as established in Izaak Walton League v. Butz?

    Someone seriously needs to snail-mail these folks a copy of Principal Laws Relating To National Forests.

  5. Travis: I see by your profile that you are a graduate student and an interpretive specialist with USDA. I’m sure someone among your associates must have told you that “umpteen squillion” isn’t really a number and it is a credibility risk to suddenly break into Valley Girl-speak while trying to make a serious point. Also, laws that follow others do not necessarily replace (“supersede”) them; they typically build from precedence. If you actually read your 35+ year old Moningahela case you will see the argument involved marking and harvesting old, large, and dead trees — although the suit was initiated regarding a specific clearcut in West Virginia that represented a truly tiny portion of the entire Forest.

    Finally, to mock the other readers of this blog (I’m sure none of their lawyers are really “unable to read,” as you suggest) by stating that “someone seriously needs” to send copies of a Forest Service publication (FS-758, by mail to principals in this litigation is both arrogant and ignorant. These people know those laws far better than you, and your suggestion is only specific to State and Private lands.

    Hey! Why don’t you do you own mailing, “someone”? And, in the interim, you could actually read the material first and perhaps discuss your readings with others that are more knowledgeable and experienced regarding this topic. Then express your “opinion.”

    • That SPF handbook is not what I refer to, Bob. There is/was an FS publication entitled “The Principal Laws Relating to Forest Service Activities.” It apparently has been out of print since 1993, but it is a brick-sized book containing the contents of all significant laws (at that time) which related to the management and administration of the Forest Service. A copy sat at my desk when I worked as an intern at the R10 RO.

      I have read the “35+ year old Monongahela case.” I have written multiple papers about that case. You can scoot around the issue all you like, but the upshot was that the judge ruled that the Organic Act effectively prohibited clearcutting on national forests, period. Obviously, that forced Congress to go back and pass a law which authorized clearcutting – hence, the National Forest Management Act of 1976.

    • “’umpteen squillion’ isn’t really a number and it is a credibility risk to suddenly break into Valley Girl-speak ” (Doctor Zybach),

      Doctor Zybach ,

      Travis never said it was a definite number — the number of bills passed since 1897 that have long since superseded the original Organic Act is likely a very difficult number to ascertain — that’s his point.

      My dictionary defines,
      umpteen |ˈəm(p)ˌtēn | cardinal number
      indefinitely many; a lot of


      squillion |ˈskwɪljən| cardinal number
      an indefinite very large number:

      and as far as your, “valley girl” personal attack, I’ll grant you the unchallenged distinction of NCFP’s PhD expert on how valley girls speak.

      (Kudos on your response) you may or may have not noticed, but Doctor Zybach has an extensive history on NCFP — of relying upon personal attacks to support his arguments.


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