Election Day Visualization

This was a while back, Secretary Ezra Taft Benson eating in his office, but I couldn’t find any more recent that were public.

This is the first Presidential election since this blog began in 2009, so it’s a good time to stop and reflect. At the end of the next couple of months, either way, we are likely to have some different people in various positions of interest. So to engage our right brains in visioning a better future, I ask you to do this visualization and write a post about it for the blog.

Imagine yourself with a private meeting with the Secretary of Agriculture. Imagine the Cage in the Whitten Building. This individual (current or new one)welcomes you, asks if you’d like some refreshment, and then has you sit down.

She/he starts out the conversation with

” (Insert your name here), I’ve heard from my staff that you have passion, knowledge about and great personal experience with our National Forests. I’ve brought you in for this discussion because I, too, care, about them deeply, and I’m interested in your perspective. I’m looking for advice. I understand that the Forest Service is only one piece of what the USDA does, but it’s a very important piece. I believe that our public lands, in one way or another, touch the soul of each American. If you were sitting in my chair, what would you do differently?

Your visioning might include these questions or others that occur to you.

What would you ask the Forest Service to do differently?

It seems like there is so much contention with Forest Service programs compared to our other programs. Do you think that there’s anything I can do about that?

If you had my job, and had to articulate a vision for the National Forests, what would it be?

I can speak for the President when I say he is ready to start mending fences and promoting new assertively bipartisan efforts. In the world of the Forest Service, what topic(s) do you think is(are) ripe for bipartisan action?

I’m confident that we can imagine and dream a better world.. and there’s lots of horsepower among our readers. I’m looking forward to seeing what we come up with.

15 thoughts on “Election Day Visualization”

    • First, you need to tell us why we should care about what your biased eco-group thinks. Why should your plan be blindly applied over the entire public lands system, without regard to special site-specific issues?

      • Larry, with all due respect, we’re all biased and there are a variety of eco-groups. We must care what they think because the Administration certainly does! We can, and will, on the other hand, question the specifics of this letter and the next one, if someone is kind enough to supply it.

  1. Thanks for sharing this.. I think it’s worth a series of posts where we can disagree about these ideas and how far we have come (I predict that we will disagree), and check in with what this term’s letter says (and maybe write some of our own letters).

    What I was looking for in terms of visioning is something inspiring and non-partisan.

    I did think it was interesting following our discussion of “if you thin stands of trees that are big, some of the trees you thin will be big.”

    And this.the very first bullet point.

    Through Executive Order or directive, prohibit logging of mature and old-growth forests and large and old trees recognizing the significant role they play in maintaining and increasing forest resiliency against natural disturbances, providing critical habitat and core refugia, regulating water quality and flows, providing crucial genetic diversity, and significantly contributing to carbon sequestration and storage.

    Now many of you know that I am a forest geneticist and the genetic argument doesn’t really make any sense if you are thinning old trees.. conceivably you are thinning them at random with regard to their genetic makeup (taking out 30 of 250, say old trees). We have no reason to believe the ones we would take out have any different genetics than the ones we would leave. I don’t think any of those organizations actually employ a forest geneticist. If anyone wants to discuss the literature around phenotypic selection in stands of forest trees, we could do that..

    That was just the first paragraph! Looks like the whole letter may provide much fodder for discussion.

  2. Well, Sharon, in any list something needs to be first on the list and something needs to be last on the list. And look, OMG, those crazy enviros actually think that we should stop logging mature and old-growth forests on America’s public lands! Oh…..the Humanity! What’s next? Will these enviros try and keep roadless wildlands on public lands from being developed? One has to wonder just how future generations and history will judge us, especially considering that we’re not exactly handing off the Earth’s ecosystems and life support system in better shape than we found it.

    • But Matthew, it didn’t say “old-growth”. It said “mature” and “old-growth.” Now what is “mature”? Like reproductively mature? What is “logging”? Removing hazard trees? Thinning and not going to a mill?

      My point is that it’s not clear what’s in and what’s out.

      I don’t think people go around looking for “old growth” to “log” because they know that it is socially less or unacceptable. So what stands is the FS actually going into.. are they really “old growth” and why has the FS taken on that challenge? Maybe some folks can find some projects like this and we can have a more concrete discussion.

      I didn’t say enviros were crazy, I said I disagreed with that specific point. We should be able to do that, shouldn’t we, as long as we are respectful?

      I don’t believe that “generations” will “judge” “us” anymore than we “judge” the Incas or Puebloans or the Greeks or Egyptians. Now that you brought it up, I believe that each of us is judged by. say, Gaia, based on how we treat other people and other earth beings, Including whether our behavior reflects respect, compassion, justice and honesty.

      • I find it frustrating that, while many groups want to consider 80 years old to be “old growth”, they also claim that only 4% of old growth still exists. Here in California, there is bona fide (150 years old) old growth everywhere you look. Both claims CANNOT be true at the same time. Anyone want to explain or offer citations that both claims are, indeed, true?!?

        • that’s a good point, Larry… it’s not clear if they mean “mature and old growth” which is what they said, which is lots and lots of acres, which therefore, can’t be “rare”, or something more specific, say, “really old growth” which might be rare if it were clear exactly what it was.

          • Again, it really isn’t age they are concerned with. It is size. If a 60 year old tree is 32″ dbh, they want it saved as old growth. (Of course, such superior trees SHOULD be saved.but, not as old growth)

    • All too often, groups want to preserve unnatural human-impacted forests. Forests which are way overstocked, have poor species compositions, have ample ladder fuels and are at-risk to losing all fire resistant trees. They want you to think stand replacement fires are “natural and beneficial”. They want you to think there are no bad outcomes from letting whatever happens, happen. They want to exclude humans from our forests in the most “unnatural” of ways.

      Once again, restoration must include adjusting stocking levels to match the new normal precipitation. Pretending that “nature” will do that is ludicrous. Restoration must also include adjusting species compositions that will result in increased resilience and approach pre-European levels. Restoration must also include a maintenance program that continues to keep stands healthy. Preservationism doesn’t do any of that.

      History will judge us very harshly if we let forest ecosystems, including endangered species, be destroyed by doing nothing in the face of diminishing moisture and more intense wildfires. Preservationism embraces those bad outcomes.

  3. How responsive was the first Obama administration to the Forest Service-related priorities recommended by the environmental groups’ 2008 letter?

    1. Executive Order protecting old-growth? Nope.

    2. Comprehensive climate policy for federal forests? Yep, but I doubt these groups think very highly of it.

    3. 2009 science summit on climate policy? Didn’t happen.

    4. Affirm and defend the 2001 roadless rule? Big thumbs up.

    5. Ecosystem-based NFMA planning rule? The groups asked Obama to reinstate the 1982 rule, but would probably count the new rule they got instead as acceptable.

    6. Eliminate Bush-era categorical exclusions. Nope.

    7. Create a fire suppression reserve fund. Yep — FLAME.

    8. Increase spending on ecosystem restoration. Yep, e.g., the stimulus bill.

    A mixed-bag of results, all-in-all, but with some wins on big ticket items. If I were the Forest Service, I’d pick up the phone and start talking with these groups.

    • Matt: I followed your link to Suckling’s Plan for Everyone Else. Here is paragraph #2: “The climate crisis is deepening, rare plants and animals are vanishing at an accelerating clip, and politicians — well supported by the polluter class — are freshly emboldened to chip away at laws that protect our water, air, environment and wildlife.”

      Well, to be polite, his sweeping statements of apocalypse are certainly open to interpretation. I skimmed the rest, picking up the basic fear tactics and self agrandizements that typify most of his written proclamations.

      I just wish that damn polluter class would stop supporting our freshly emboldened politicians in their efforts to make species vanish and deepen the crisis that our climate is currently experiencing. That’s what I wish.

      It’s amazing how much money Suckling has made through the years — and how much damage he has done to rural environments and economies in the process — by peddling this kind of Snake Oil.

      What a waste. Something needs to be done to put a stop to this nonsense. I just (really) wish I knew how to do it.

      • A reminder that a part of the “polluter class” are those who favor letting forests die, rot and burn, adding VAST tonnages of GHG’s to our upper atmosphere, where plants cannot re-sequester carbon and other GHG’s. When brush grows back where trees once were, this represents significant drops in the land’s ability to re-sequester GHG’s.

        What is worse? A thinned forest that supports endangered species? Or a severely-burned forest left to recover on its own?

  4. I notice he talks about wind, solar and geothermal. Here is a recent article (January) which includes concerns about geothermal environmental and cost issues, related to Newberry Crater.

    Here is an article about environmental opposition to wind in the Steens Mountains.

    It would be nice if Mr Suckling and others would state exactly what kinds of technologies they would support, at what size, where in the country so that folks could see if what they want is practical or not. That would be a strong support for reducing other energy sources and possibly be an energy source transition strategy that everyone could get behind. Otherwise it is like “bring me a rock”, no not that source of energy, no not that project…

    And if it’s only rooftop solar in cities that’s going to be OK, tell people that upfront also. Then we can calculate how much and talk about programs that incentivize it. Right now we seem to be stuck in a policy morass, which is definitely not good for the environment, as in the interim we can only throw up our hands and use coal.

    To readers: maybe energy seems off-topic but there are many oil and gas and coal leases on federal land, not to speak of BLM’s solar effort, wind turbine applications as this one on which the FS is being litigated in Vermont.

    I think it’s interesting that one of the claims is about black bear habitat. Just sayin’ black bears seem to be doing quite well in most places. Here’s what the state of Vermont has to say about it in their “Black Bear Fact Sheet.”

    By examining the sex and age from harvested bears each year, wildlife biologists are able
    to estimate the bear population in Vermont. Bear numbers are now believed to be higher than at any time since before European settlement. Regulated hunting is used to align population estimates with biological data, habitat limitations, and public satisfaction data to sustain a bear population between 4,500 and 6,000 animals.


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