Who Is Robert Kahn and Why is He Saying Those Things?

Thanks to Matt Koehler for originally posting here. What I thought was interesting was the concept “Why should we care what Robert Kahn thinks?” What is his background, and what experience does he have in our world?

I did my usual internet search, found that there were a lot of Robert Kahns around, and that this one is the webpage editor for Courthouse News Service. Here’s their masthead.

One thing I’ve noticed about CNS is that many of the articles have what I call “snarky lawyer tone”. Now I don’t mean this to be offensive to lawyers, but in some cases in their culture, it is OK to have a tone that “other people are stupid and malevolent and we are smart and good.” It’s a style that you often see in appeals and litigation.

I remember one late night, a person was working on an appeal and wrote the response in the same tone “if the appellants had read the case they cited, they would understand that in fact…”. There wasn’t much I could do to help her, so I volunteered to “desnarkify” the response. Hype, snark, nastiness, snark, hype.

Having been brought up in the more genial groves of forest science, I find the tone.. well, nasty and offputting. And when I see hype, I tend to think “either that person has a casual acquaintance with the truth or they aren’t choosing to tell me the truth for some reason”. Either way, they are off my list of “people to whom I listen.”

So let’s deconstruct a bit of Kahn’s column.

Scientists are better than politicians because scientists want to know if they’re wrong.

Wow! I have worked in the science biz and it’s really, really not that simple. Scientists are human, and probably don’t want to know they’re wrong, if for example, they can’t get more funding or particularly if their archenemy turns out to be correct. Of course, it’s just silly to make these global statements anyway. I have met good scientist and good politicians and bad scientists and bad politicians (in the moral sense). I have noticed that a great deal of the “let science determine” the outcomes doesn’t actually come from scientists. In some cases, it comes from NGOs with many lawyers on their staffs and not too many scientists who know the “sausage-making”- like qualities of making science (usually we think of laws that way, but the scientific process is not always pretty, either).

Politicians – and their friends in the timber and cattle industries – don’t give a damn. So long as the money rolls in: to them.

That’s also pretty global. I worked on Capitol Hill (not sure that Robert ever did) and politicians get donations from timber folks and cattle folks and environmental folks (perhaps different politicians from different folks), but the point is.. oh, perhaps getting money from environmental groups is Good and Holy and getting money from timber and cattle folks is Evil and Venal.

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.

I have to admit my stomach turned when someone says that an obtuse lawsuit against an obtuse planning rule is more obnoxious than rape and murder. Of course, “seeking ecological sustainability above industry profits” is an oversimplification.

The people litigating, in my view, are worried that some of the complicated language in the new rule could be interpreted by courts in silly ways to the detriment of the land and the people. Because, if things are fuzzy, then certain circuits and NGOs are going to make the determination-not based on the best policy but based on their interpretation of the fuzzy regulation-with a hefty dose of their own predilections in interpreting the fuzz. The litigants probably want the language to be clearer in the first place. I wonder if we could save lots of money by taking the phrases in question and having an open discussion about what we hope to achieve and what are our fears. That is what a FACA committee could have done for the rule-writing effort; people who differ speaking to each other directly and not each independently making their case to the FS.

Anyway, I just don’t see why folks can’t disagree without being nasty. And I really hate comparing rape or murder to interpreting the intersection of social, economic and “ecological” sustainability- a legalistic and paperworky exercise.

26 thoughts on “Who Is Robert Kahn and Why is He Saying Those Things?”

  1. “And I really hate comparing rape or murder to interpreting the intersection of social, economic and “ecological” sustainability- a legalistic and paperworky exercise.”

    I urge you to rethink the intersection of which you speak.

    Again, you’ve provided important insights as to what happens when compartmentalization of what you were doing in the Forest Service is so thoroughly successful at disconnecting the realities of policies of captured agencies (cause) and the environmental and socio-economic tragedies (effects).

    In this case of cause and effect, the architects and proponents of tried and failed resource-based economic policy (such as the corporate litigants Robert Kahn was referring to) are rightfully linked and compared with the environmental and socio-economic consequences of such utterly failed economic policies.

    Those resource extraction at-all-costs economic policies by captured agencies are well-studied and intimately linked with unquestionably increasing the frequency of double digit unemployment, domestic abuse, rape, murder, and suicide.

    I encourage you to visit the rural Native villages of Southeast Alaska which had flourished for thousands of years. But after being “sold” by the Russians to America and forced to adopt a Native corporate culture by ANCSA, reversed in large part, their relationship to each other and the land. The result of corporatization of their culture was unending, continuous clearcutting throughout ancestral tribal lands which sociologists documented led to an increase in suicide, rape and murder. Corporatization (as “assimilation”) was little more than the coup de grace of systematic genocide.

    Lacking time for a visit, please consider Dr. Kirk Dombrowski’s, “Against Culture: Politics Development and Religion in Indian Alaska”. There are countless scholarly works by others on this matter as well, which link resource-extraction-at all-costs economic policies with increasing the social tragedies of increased frequency of rape and murder.

    • Once again, David, what happens in your little corner of the world isn’t going on in my corner of the world. Where I live, forest management is more like a pube trim, rather than a rape. (smirks) Once again, you brand all the Forest Service as greedy destroyer-servants of corporate America. Once again, David, your broad-brush approach is why people tune you out.

      • Hi Larry, Let’s face it, if you agreed with me you’d be a whistleblower. We know too well what your agency does to whistleblowers– and it aint pretty –nor does it lend itself to job security.

        Try to keep in mind I’m not commenting to win your approval, or the approval of others. We have different perspectives, which yield different takes on reality. My perspective on reality does not become less true by your disapproval. The more perspectives we hear from on NCFP, the more likely we are to better understand the big picture.

        Mouse clicking without comment is not the way such work gets done.

        What’s your secret for knowing whether or not people are “tuning in” or “tuning out”?
        Are you tracking reader eye movements with hidden cameras? Polling reader’s hurrahs! for Larry Harrell’s fabulously popular “broad brush” comeback and “(smirks)” about rape?

        Just curious.

        • Obviously , the smirk was directed at “pube trim”. It is those anti-management people who call the Forest Service “tree murderers” and “forest rapers”. Your local Alaskan reports shed light on stuff we need to know but, you’d reach more people if you didn’t insult them, and make accusations that just aren’t true, where I live and work.

  2. Wow, Sharon. You’ve sort of out done yourself here…again.

    I mean, what’s really your point? You sort of are attempting to discredit Robert Kahn, but you have given us nothing about Mr. Kahn that I didn’t already offer in the original post. Although I guess you did provide a fun picture of the Courthouse News Service employees during what appears to be an office Halloween/Holiday party.

    And seriously…you really think Mr. Kahn compared rape and murder to the NFMA planning rule? Seriously, Sharon?

    Mr. Kahn clearly stated that he found rape, murder and official corruption to be “revolting stuff.” Mr. Kahn just apparently felt that the timber industry/cattle industry/ATV, etc NFMA lawsuit was “the most obnoxious lawsuit” he saw that week. Jeez…..

    • Mathew- I was simply trying to convey, as I will for a while through various posts, some of the reasons that litigation feels like more, to people who have to deal with it, than the number of cases per year. As in “why do we need to change? only x percent of projects are litigated, and the FS wins y percent, so you guys should be happy.”
      Most of the people I’m trying to communicate already don’t believe the corollary:
      “Besides if you simply followed the law there wouldn’t be any litigation,” so I don’t need to talk about that.

      Various of my non-FS colleagues don’t really understand the multidimensional impacts and I will be trying to express how it felt to me, anyway, to deal with that world.

      Being required to read snarky and hyperbolic negative (and often simply untrue) statements day after day is just one of those negative impacts. Plus the readers are not allowed to respond in kind, they must always be professional. It is just a cultural difference between the law and the natural resource community, but still these are words..words have meaning..and all those, in my view are unnecessary negative energies.

      One of my staff folks retired (at least a major part) because a certain attorney was so snarky to her.. and life should be more than being resilient to attacks.

      Anyway, here is the quote unaltered:

      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.

      I must disagree with your interpretation.. let’s diagram this out.

      A. Robert sees 5000 lawsuits per week including rape and murder.
      B. The most obnoxious one this week was the planning rule lawsuit.

      There are only two explanations…

      1) Robert saw 5000 this week and found the most obnoxious to be the planning rule lawsuit.(reading this, in plain English, it seems to be what he is saying).

      2) For some reason, he saw less than 5000 (it was not a typical week, or there were no murders or rapes or..?) and of these the most obnoxious was the planning rule lawsuit.

      Now as written, I don’t know why he would have made claim A in his article, if this week were more along the lines of the situation described in 2.

      Matthew, you invited this guy into our circle by posting his article. For some reason, you must think he has something useful to contribute, I didn’t find anything useful in what he said, just an opinion. And either some highly questionable values (rape to planning rule comparisons) or just lack of clarity in writing. Plus snark and hyperbole out the wazoo. So, why?

  3. Sharon’s comments on Kahn’s article are squarely on target. The article is loaded with snark – “blood sucking” & “vampires”, (lobbyists) “limp, spineless (administration), “stupid, petty, grasping (timber industry), “insane” (claims), “sneer” quotes, “poofy-headed” (congressmen). Why would anyone listen to such rantings (I choose the word carefully) and what are his credentials to comment on this subject? That question remains unanswered.

    • “Credentials to comment” on this subject? “Highly questionable values”? (Mac and Sharon)


      That sounds a lot like the rationale of the power elite — an intellectual Stop and Frisk: (“Your papers, please?”) It contains a great deal more offensiveness than mere “snark”.

      Unless you are surmising Mr. Kahn lacks proof of citizenship papers, any American has the right to express an opinion on national forest policy. Even an opinion critical of industry lawsuits, which are notably absent by Sharon and others who post and comment here.

      There is definitely a case for balancing Sharon’s anti-environmental-litigant snark with anti-industry-litigant snark — the whole point of the post as I see it and as Matthew has clearly described.

      That Mr. Kahn tracks litigation and speaks critically when confronted with a legal argument based upon naked greed trumping science on national forests and grasslands should not be surprising at all.

      That an indignant response to this include a demand for “credentials” and a condemnation of “values” invokes a particularly chilling tone indeed.

      • David, I do try not to be snarky, so if you could point out a time when I have been snarky specifically, I would appreciate it.

        Also I would like to discuss why you think the lawsuit has “naked greed trumping science”. I did not “condemn” the values, I thought they were highly questionable. I did not “demand” credentials. I asked Matthew why he thought this guy’s opinions were worthy of being invited into our circle.

        Everyone has a right to an opinion as you say…but discourse is helped by people being able to state why they have that opinion, and the basis for their knowledge claims.

        • Sharon, For the record, I did not “invite Mr. Kahn into our circle”….whatever that even means.

          Mr. Kahn is an editor of the Courthouse News Service, a respected source of information concerning litigation. In that capacity Mr. Kahn wrote an article about the timber industry/cattle industry/ATV user group lawsuit against the new NFMA planning regs.

          Since we had previously discussed the timber industry/cattle industry/ATV user group lawsuit against the new NFMA planning regs it seemed as if Mr. Kahn’s article and views about this lawsuit were relevant to our discussions here, so I posted a link to Mr. Kahn’s entire article and highlighted excerpts. Jeez….

          • Matthew, you’re right I kind of upped the ante..because what he wrote struck me as uniquely both content-free and pejorative- but maybe I had just been away from this world for a couple of weeks so I had grown more sensitive.

            I don’t think he really understands forest planning or planning rules, what “best available science” means, nor even that lawsuit. It takes years of experience and working with planning regulations to do that.

            By “inviting him into our circle” I meant that you thought his opinions worth sharing. And I suppose there are so many uncivil people in the world that we must post their rantings here (I know I give our own folks some slack). But I still wish we didn’t have to. Sigh.

  4. Whoa David. Why do we ask for credentials? So we can evaluate the worth of the opinion. Are you saying that we should give all opinions equal weight? Kind of like saying Rush’s opinions on climate change should be treated with the same respect as that of the National Academy of Sciences. Tracking lawsuits does not produce expertise in ecosystem management, environmental impacts, or in anything other than in tracking lawsuits.

    I’ve read the lawsuit in its entirety and, having been there and done that (30 years with FS plus 39 years of observing the FS in action and now chair of the NFs in Florida Resource Advisory Committee), I found myself nodding in agreement as the litigants developed their case. If that makes me one of the power elite acting out of naked greed, so be it.

  5. “Why do we ask for credentials?”
    (W.V. [Mac] McConnell, retired, USFS 30yrs., Chairman of the National Forests in Florida Resource Advisory Committee)

    Mr. McConnell, (and Sharon)
    My questions are:

    “Why do YOU ask for credentials?”, and,

    “What credentials are necessary to express the same rage as millions of Americans have expressed at the role of corporate power elite in destroying our environmental quality?”

    Your credentialed history with the Forest Service, and your importance as a Committee Chairman are very impressive. They reveal a great deal about why, where, and how you have weighed-in on this issue.

    However, this is — NOT –, “Kind of like saying Rush’s opinions on climate change should be treated with the same respect as that of the National Academy of Sciences.”

    The insinuation is inescapable: Your “credentials” are “like” the NAS, and Mr. Kahn’s credentials are “like” Rush Limbaugh’s. (Nice try sir, but I disagree.)

    Mr. Kahn’s — editorial — is based upon his personal values (which mirrors the rage of millions of Americans, at the corporate power elite and their role in the long history of environmental “managed” disasters on our national forest system and elsewhere.) Mr. Kahn’s values have been predictably attacked by Sharon, who has selectively diagrammed his — editorial — into twisted obfuscations of the obvious intent of Mr. Kahn — expressing his personal rage at a legal argument based upon naked greed trumping science. 

    Sharon has asked me to “point out a time when I have been snarky”. Here’s one of several:
    Sharon’s snarky machinations have reproduced for us, an opposite interpretation of Mr. Kahn’s expressed values — “an obtuse planning rule is more obnoxious than rape and murder”.

    That, of course, is a patently absurd, snarky (i.e.,”sharply critical; cutting; snide”) sophistry, and an excellent demonstration of the lengths to which credentials can be used in the service of defending one’s personal values, and self-identity.

    Yes, the core issue here is about Mr. Kahn’s expression of personal values in an editorial, and your (offended) responses principally defending personal values and self-identity.

    It is not surprising Mr. Kahn’s snark has offended you, Sharon, USFS careerists, and other readers of NCFP sympathetic to the agency. (By the way, I am not defending Mr. Kahn’s choices or strategy for employing snark here. Justifiable anger, however, is difficult to fully express without snark.)

    If there is any theme to be derived in Sharon’s choices of posts, it is to defend the agency’s managed disasters on our NFS and vilify those members of the public who respond by defending environmental laws in the midst of, (and an inevitable corollary to), those disasters.

    It comes as no surprise Sharon, yourself, and other agency careerists get more than a little touchy when your identities are inextricably woven into the reigning matrix of applied corporate ethics and power at the center of virtually all our national disasters (social, economic, environmental, and governmental).

    In regards to “credentials” however, it does not take a PhD in Applied Ethics to grok the sociopathic nature of applied corporate ethics hinted at in this litigation.

    These national disasters perpetrated by the corporate power elite will get predictably worse in this New Century of Forest Planning. It is proving to be a century in which the United States Forest Service is now openly marketing itself as an agency inextricably allied with their “corporate partners” (to which agency functions are increasingly being outsourced). This is occurring as corporate-funded attacks on “big government” disable the agency’s capacity to fulfill its obligation to serve in the public’s best interest. This is the end game in the long history of Agency Capture which Sharon, (most remarkably), denies even exists!

    You have stated, “I found myself nodding in agreement as the litigants developed their case. If that makes me one of the power elite acting out of naked greed, so be it.”

    No sir, that does not make you one of the corporate power elite. You haven’t produced the credentials.

    You are simply expressing your values and self-identity in alignment with the naked greed of the corporate power elite.

    For that sir, I offer to you my sincerest condolences.

  6. Personally, I (almost) get to mark trees in the forest as if it were my own lands. The only thing I would change is the ability to cut a heavily regulated amount of trees larger than 30″ dbh. When a previous legal opponent is cheering our newest work, we think we are on the right path. I also think our “clumps” and “gaps” strategy will foster future owl and goshawk nesting opportunities. Every cutting unit has multiple clumps of untouched old growth. Goshawks in South Dakota nest in similar clumps, and there is no reason that birds wouldn’t use a 200×140 foot clump of giant trees. Since goshawks rotate through their nest systems (an active nest doesn’t become usable for several years, as they are quite “messy”), the more nests in their system allows for yearly breeding success. The remaining forest around these clumps still contain all the largest trees, with better spacing and still-adequate canopy cover.

    Oh, and MY credentials say “Forest Sculptor”.

  7. “Forest Sculptor”,
    Were you intending to post your comment to the goshawk post ? (it’s several doors down the hall on the right). Or were you deliberately injecting this comment apropos of nothing previously discussed here, except, perhaps, an afterthought injecting your misunderstanding of “credentials” defined as:

    “A credential is an attestation of qualification, competence, or authority issued to an individual —- by a third party —- with a relevant or de facto authority or assumed competence to do so.” (emphasis added)

    In other words, even with your deep appreciation for self-attributed command of the science of “managing” for goshawks — while cyclicly deconstructing their habitat and then “restoring” it — you can’t issue yourself credentials — for anything. (I couldn’t help overhearing your remarkably high opinion of yourself in the room down the hall a ways.)

    Sorry, that’s to keep people from making themselves (officially) something more than just a biased braggart.

    Also, I wouldn’t make too much of the change of heart in the “previous legal opponent” “cheering your newest work” until you follow the money of “collaboration”. I suspect, if there were a goshawk following this remarkable display of managerial certitude, the poor creature would have every reason to conclude extinction of his species is of a far greater certitude than the latest promises being pitched by the USFS and their corporate partners.

    I’m quite struck, also, by the similarity in tone, and the identical display of managerial confidence which preceded the perilous predicament of several other bird, fish, reptile, amphibian and mammal species as a result of “forest management”. The spotted owl comes to mind.

    This managerial certitude and remarkable willingness of “previous legal opponents” to collaborate with the perpetrators of mismanagement and compromise on what is actually necessary to address impending peril is of deep concern to me. This is because we face a convergence of several unnatural disasters of anthropogenic origin, such as:

    1) global warming which is already demonstrating feedbacks and forcings indicating we have exceeded safe limits of atmospheric emissions of GHGs and are playing Russian Roulette with triggering tipping points which will result in “irreversible, catastrophic, climate change”,

    2) ocean acidification which threatens the entire foundation of the oceanic food chain that several billion people are depending upon as a sustainable source of food.

    3) the present (anthropogenic) mass extinction event unprecedented in the last several million years.

    I could go on, but you get my drift. Such a panoply of threats cannot in any way, make many of your “previous legal opponents” anything more than paid-off and sold-out collaboratuers with “corporate partners” on comprising environmental integrity, be justified.

    They are merely corporate funded handmaidens to propagating the fiction that, with relatively minor marketing PR spin and small resource managerial tweaks we’ll all be just fine. Applying tweaks, which essentially maintain the status quo and business as usual, are all we need to address the threats, is the implied and applied rationale.

    Such compromising strategies are not commensurate with the threats we face.

    “Irreversible, catastrophic climate change” is not something to take lightly, and certainly not something to pretend does not exist. We now know it does. This includes an international scientific consensus and the United States Dept. of Defense.

    • I was merely describing just how “uncaptured” I, myself, am. This is significant, since I, myself, am determining what particular tiny pieces of ground will look like, hopefully, for decades. It takes a special vision to “sculpt” our impacted forests into better-functioning, resilient, desirable forest. The picture of the finished project I posted shows a more comprehensive treatment of fuels, including whole tree yarding. Our landing piles will hopefully be going down the road as wood chips. Fires definitely wouldn’t travel through those stands well, and the fuels treatments, being on the ridgetop, are very strategic.

      • Larry: I just hope that as soon as fire CAN “travel well” through your marked stands, there are plans in place to set them on fire under controlled conditions and/or reduce the fuel load by other means.

        Conditions that prove conducive to wildfire include closed canopies, bug-kill, windthrow, snowbreak, understory canopy development and overstory canopy closures. If increased volume and continuity of fuels is principally a matter of understory grass, shrub, and forb growth, then prescribed fire or grazing are probably all that is needed; if the result is due to bugs, winds, disease, or some other event-related circumstance, then some form of short-term salvage plan should be in place. Overstory closure calls for more logging to maintain wildfire-resistant qualities of the stand.

        As you know, it can take five or ten years for a newly-thinned stand to attain wind-firmness, and during that time there are rarely contingency plans in place to deal with these types of problems. Dead, pitchy trees and downed wood are far more likely to end up as high-grade fuels in these times than as “habitat.”

  8. (Published by the Ecological Society of America)

    Interactive effects of historical logging and fire exclusion on ponderosa pine forest structure in the northern Rockies


    Increased forest density resulting from decades of fire exclusion is often perceived as the leading cause of historically aberrant, severe, contemporary wildfires and insect outbreaks documented in some fire-prone forests of the western United States. Based on this notion, current U.S. forest policy directs managers to reduce stand density and restore historical conditions in fire-excluded forests to help minimize high-severity disturbances.

    Historical logging, however, has also caused widespread change in forest vegetation conditions, but its long-term effects on vegetation structure and composition have never been adequately quantified.

    We document that fire-excluded ponderosa pine forests of the northern Rocky Mountains logged prior to 1960 have much higher average stand density, greater homogeneity of stand structure, more standing dead trees and increased abundance of fire-intolerant trees than paired fire-excluded, unlogged counterparts. Notably, the magnitude of the interactive effect of fire exclusion and historical logging substantially exceeds the effects of fire exclusion alone.

    These differences suggest that historically logged sites are more prone to severe wildfires and insect outbreaks than unlogged, fire-excluded forests and should be considered a high priority for fuels reduction treatments.

    Furthermore, we propose that ponderosa pine forests with these distinct management histories likely require distinct restoration approaches. We also highlight potential long-term risks of mechanical stand manipulation in unlogged forests and emphasize the need for a long-term view of fuels management.

    • Well then, I guess it’s a good thing we don’t “historically log” anymore. Sure, it is easy to compare 70’s and 80’s era logging to preservationism. I guess those days of “jammer” clearcuts are truly gone (sniff, sniff, smirk)

  9. Larry, (and Doctor Zybach),

    Prior demonstrations of hubris, license, and a multitude of false assertions aside, this perhaps allows for an opportunity to (smirkingly) concede the USFS has painted itself into a temporally, and biologically-constrained corner — in that it has allowed undue corporate influence to determine ASQs. The ASQs were then used to justify NFS sales of public resources claimed to have been managed in the best interests of present and future generations of American citizens . But in reality, the ASQs were far too high than than was biologically sustainable (under MUSYA, and the Organic Act), far too high than what is allowed for maintaining viable, and well-distributed populations of old growth dependent species (under NFMA).

    This of course, also led to exposing the rural populace to utterly failed economic policies which imposed well-known consequences of socio-economically destabilizing and debilitating boom-bust cycles tied to unsustainable rates of extraction of renewable and non-renewable resources. This led (and continues to lead) to horrific scales of socio-economic tragedies such as a predictable increase in domestic violence, rape, murder, suicide, home foreclosures, family break-ups and community discord.

    ” Notably, the magnitude of the interactive effect of fire exclusion and historical logging substantially exceeds the effects of fire exclusion alone.”

    This conclusion is in complete contradiction of prior assertions made by some commenters that:
    a) present and recent past “management” (read: fly-by-night justifiers of unsustainable, diversity-destroying clear cutting (aka defenders of the indefensible norm: “even aged management”), is somehow equivalent to prior aboriginal fire management practices which NEVER practiced industrial scale clear cutting and associated road building.

    b) the assumption that insect infestation occurs evenly across managed and unmanaged stands, and… (I’ll quit there for it is getting late and i’ve had a long day…)

    • Your “slippery slope” worries, in most parts of the country, are unfounded, David. You’ve really pushed the envelope, this time, blaming forest management for all sorts of social problems. Blaming the past to block the future is a common thread among preservationist groups, these days.

  10. Larry,
    While you are ignoring the peer reviewed paper which refutes many of your previous assertions, claims of managerial prowess, etc., I’ll be glad to respond to your assertions I “pushed the envelope” “blaming NFS timber management for all sorts of problems”.

    The following is a casebook example of NFS mismanagement disasters, in this case resulting in the crash of red cockaded woodpeckers. Once again demonstrating agency false claims of managerial prowess leading to socio-economic disasters.

    The following is a series of excerpts from testimony (on the Congressional Record) given by HON. ALLEN BOYD of Florida, who introduced H.R. 2389, the “County
    Schools Funding Revitalization Act of 1999″. His testimony regarded the effects of timber-dependent rural community economies there and the resulting increase of the incidence of domestic violence, community disruption, and other socio-economic consequences:

    “In 1908, the federal government recognized that counties with federal
    lands were at an economic disadvantage since the federal government was
    the dominant landowner in many of these communities and therefore these
    counties were powerless to tax these lands. Recognizing this, Congress
    entered into a compact with rural forest communities in which 25% of
    the revenues from National Forests would be paid to the states for
    impacted counties in compensation for their diminished local property
    tax base. By law, these revenues finance rural public schools and local
    road infrastructure. As one can imagine, these counties relied heavily
    on this revenue for education and infrastructure.
    However, in recent years, the principal source of these revenues,
    federal timber sales, has been sharply curtailed due to changes in
    federal forest management policy, and those revenues shared with states
    and counties have declined precipitously. Payments to many counties
    have dropped to less than 10% of their historic levels under this
    compact. This impact on rural communities and schools has been
    staggering. The decline in shared revenues has severely impacted or
    crippled educational funding, and the quality of education provided, in
    the affected counties. Many schools have been forced to lay off
    teachers, bus drivers, nurses, and other employees; postpone badly
    needed building repairs and other capital expenditures; eliminate lunch
    programs; and curtail extracurricular activities.

    Rural communities have also suffered from severe economic downturns
    causing high unemployment, domestic violence, substance abuse, and
    family dislocation. They are finding it difficult to recruit new
    business and to meet the demands of health and social issues associated
    with the displacement and unemployment.

    Finally, local county budgets
    have also been badly strained that communities have been forced to cut
    funding for social programs and local infrastructure to offset lost 25%
    payment revenues.

    This issue has had a significant impact on a large portion of the
    congressional district that I have the honor of representing in the
    House, which is the Second Congressional District of Florida. It is a
    largely rural district in Florida’s panhandle that encompasses 19
    counties and two national forests, the Apalachicola and the Osceola. On
    May 18, 1999, Hal Summers, Superintendent of Schools in Liberty County,
    Florida, testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on
    Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry about the
    various effects that the loss of timber revenue from the Apalachicola
    National Forest has had on the children of Liberty County.
    Liberty County is a rural county with a population of about 7,000
    including 1,300 schoolchildren. That is the smallest county population
    of schoolchildren in the entire state of Florida. It has a total land
    area of 525,000 acres, 97% of which is forested, with half of that
    owned by the U.S. Forest Service within the Apalachicola. Until
    recently, the forest was the mainstay of a strong local forest product-
    based economy, and through sharing 25% of the revenue from timber
    sales, provided substantial support for the local schools and
    In 1989, the Forest Service began to manage its land in a different
    way, mostly to protect the habitat for the endangered red-cockaded
    woodpecker. It is interesting to note that Liberty County has the only
    recovered population of this bird in the world. Perhaps the most
    significant thing about these changes is not the decline in harvest,
    but rather the fact that in 1998 the net annual growth of timber on the
    Apalachicola National Forest was about 800% greater than the volume
    harvested. The sawtimber growth is approximately 50 times greater than
    the volume harvested.
    The effects of timber harvest reduction on forest revenues to the 4
    counties and schools districts within the Apalachicola is that the 25%
    payments have declined in value from a 1987-93, 5 year average (in 1998
    dollars) of $1,905,000 to $220,000 in 1998; a loss of 89%. Due to this
    reduction, the Liberty County School District was forced to take
    several painful steps. These steps included reducing school staffing by
    11 positions out of a total of 151; increasing the average class size
    from 23 to 28 students; discontinuing the enrichment programs in
    health, computer education, and humanities; discontinuing vocational
    programs in industrial arts, small engine repair, and electronics (80%
    of the graduates do not attend college); curtailing the school media
    center; eliminating certified art and music teachers from the
    elementary school staffs; reducing the Pre-K program, formerly the only
    program in the state to serve all four-year olds; and terminating a new
    program in technology acquisition, which would have placed the county
    on par with other Florida school districts.
    The impacts on county government have also been very significant. The
    County road crew was reduced from 23 to 18 positions. This staff
    reduction, plus equipment obsolescence and the inability to purchase
    needed supplied and materials, has resulted in the deterioration of the
    rural road system. In 1994, the County was forced to float a $1,780,000
    bond issue in order to meet current road needs. It is unclear how the
    county will meet its future road responsibilities in the absence of a
    substantial increase in the 25% payments from timber sale receipts.
    County employees suffered a 10% salary cut, which was partially
    restored following the imposition of a 1% local option sales tax and 7
    cents per gallon gas tax. Finally, the Sheriff’s Office and Emergency
    Medical Service have been forced to curtail hours and reduce services.
    As a result of this action, Liberty County remains the only county in
    Florida without an advanced life support system as part of the county
    emergency response organization.”


    • David, I’m not sure in the south that crashes of anything can be solely attributed to the FS. Management of industrial and nonindustrial private timberlands must have been equally or more culpable.

      Also what peer- reviewed paper are you referring to?

      • Sharon,
        Absolutely! “Management of industrial and nonindustrial private timberlands must have been equally or more culpable.” (than the NFS? -well, that depends on the locale in this case: 50%, in Southeast Alaska NFS dominates 80%)

        As the testimony states,”It has a total land
        area of 525,000 acres, 97% of which is forested, with half of that owned by the U.S. Forest Service within the Apalachicola.” (I’m intimately familiar with the NFS mismanagement issues in Florida because I graduated from high school in central FL, and returned for a large part of my 6 years of military service there. It provided an excellent before/after perspective of NFS managed disasters.)

        It is my understanding that under NEPA, all federal timber management actions need to take into account cumulative effects — including the effects incurred from private and state activities adjacent to the federal lands being managed.

        Regardless, this failure is clearly the result of repeated violations of NFMA, NEPA, etc., which is precisely why NFMA’s clauses are targeted in the New Planning Rule. This of course, is consistent with a captured agency intent on deregulation.

        “Also what peer- reviewed paper are you referring to?”

        I was referring to the paper I cited in comment #18. (a completely different topic introduced by Larry Harrell and in which he contributed his forest management expertise in the usual fact-free, sardonic manner — (“I guess those days of “jammer” clearcuts are truly gone (sniff, sniff, smirk)” — a disappointing, but common response when there’s no interest in supporting his position.

        • If David cannot understand a simple concept like sarcasm, how can he ever understand good forestry?!?!? Also, I started totaling up all the off-topic mentions of David in just THIS thread but, stopped at 10. (smirk)

  11. Larry,
    I understand sarcasm perfectly — “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt” — The actual irony being though, you’ve been confronted with research which refutes your prior statements, and all you can respond with is an irritatingly smug, and conceited statement of contempt.

    Sometimes you have such a way with perfectly chosen words.

    smirk |smərk| verb
    smile in an irritatingly smug, conceited, or silly way:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.


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