Grijalva’s 2008 Report on Bush Administration Public Land “Assault”


I think everyone should take a look at this report submitted by Congressman Grijalva. Especially those of us who were involved in different things decried therein.

Running through it briefly, I noticed this..

NPS Employee Morale Near All-Time Low
A poll of NPS employees conducted by the Campaign to Protect America’s Lands and the Coalition of Concerned National Park Service Retirees found that, of 1,361 respondents surveyed, 84% expressed a “great deal of concern” about the effect of current policies on national parks; 59% said the situation had worsened over the last few years; and 79% said morale had declined over the same period.

Perhaps there is a need for a Coalition of Concerned National Forest Service Retirees perhaps to fund more in-depth studies of FS morale issues? Or existing organizations might take on some of this work. Here’s a link to the Coalition of Park Service Retirees.

Here’s a link to some testimony..

which includes this quote:

This deficiency is pointed out in the Partnership for Public Service 2007 Rankings of “The Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.” In this survey, NPS ranked 203 out of 222. Several of the other items with low rankings also may result from an inadequate employee development program.
One of the most significant deficiencies is “effective leadership” (ranked 191 of 222 in the aforementioned survey). The general belief in the NPS is that there are two parts to this perceived deficiency:
• Inadequate training and development of lower-level (first- and second-line) supervisors; and
• Ineffective and unprincipled leadership practices and decisions by high-level agency leaders, particularly political appointees.

This does sound kind of familiar to the FS, although “unprincipled” doesn’t sound like FS language.
Well, that was interesting, but a bit off track…

So I know some of the readers of this blog were involved in the 2005 Rule, so I picked this out.

On January 5, 2005, the Forest Service published the 2005 planning rule (70 CFR 1023) establishing procedures for National Forest System compliance with the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Bush administration set out to gut protections and promulgated final rules intended to completely overhaul the forest management planning process by abolishing mandatory protections for wildlife and habitat and eliminating public input from the planning process. The rule also would exempt the plans from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This was all part of an intensive effort by the administration to ramp up logging and mining, significantly, on public land.

OK, well maybe “abolishing protections” is viability..but public input was not “eliminated”. It was actually required.. So that is er… untrue.

There are many fun quotes in there.

NEPA Rollbacks by the Forest Service
According to the Congressional Research Service, the bulk of the efforts to amend NEPA have been directed at the six federal agencies that tend to produce the most environmental impact statements (EIS); the Forest Service, Federal Highways Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, agencies within the Department of the Interior, and the Army Corps of Engineers. To date, twenty-eight administrative efforts related to NEPA ―reform have been finalized. The Forest Service has made 8 changes to NEPA procedures, the most of any federal agency researched

As you all know, I used to work in NEPA in DC and I don’t even know what this means in terms of the eight changes… it sounds bad, though 😉 . Maybe I could argue that it wasn’t true if I had the vaguest idea what they are talking about. Gee, the people/agencies who do most of the work care most about improving processes. Now why would that be?

or this one:

As of 2003, the Forest Service had only one categorical exclusion for vegetation management activities involving timber stand or wildlife habitat improvement. However, in 2003 and 2004 under the Bush Administration, the Forest Service added four new vegetation management categorical exclusions: (1) salvage of dead or dying trees up to 250 acres, (2) timber harvest of live trees up to 70 acres, (3) hazardous fuels reduction up to 5,500 acres, and (4) removal of insect or disease infested trees up to 250 acres.

A more experienced person might see a different pattern.. from the 2003 Federal Register Notice here. Note: I also worked on the Limited Timber Harvest CE so that’s why it’s easy for me to know that the categories weren’t really “new.”

On September 18, 1998, a lawsuit was filed against the Forest Service arguing that the 1992 categorical exclusions were improperly promulgated. On September 28, 1999, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois found that the categorical exclusions were properly promulgated.
However, the court found insufficient evidence in the record to support the agency’s decision to set the volume limits in Categorical Exclusion 4 at 250,000 board feet of merchantable wood products for timber harvest and 1 million board feet of merchantable wood products for salvage. Accordingly,
the court declared Categorical Exclusion 4 in section 31.2 of Chapter 30 FSH 1909.15 null and void and enjoined the agency from its further use.

It’s hard for me to believe that anyone knowledgeable could write this..

The Bush Administration claimed environmentalists used the appeals process to delay thinning projects to reduce fire risk, however a 2001 study by the Government Accountability Office found that only 1 percent of hazardous fuels reduction projects were appealed.

I think we see much evidence, even on this blog, that thinning projects have been delayed or stopped, and the Bush Administration is long gone.


During the past nearly 8 years of the Bush Administration, the growing costs of wildland fire suppression have consumed major parts of the Forest Service budget, and other critical programs have been cut.

Spending related to fires continues to account for an ever-larger percentage of the Forest Service budget. In 1991, wildland fire management was 13% of the overall Forest Service budget; and today it is nearly 48%. The skyrocketing cost of fighting fires has forced drastic reductions in other Forest Service accounts, a trend continued yearly in Forest Service budget requests under the Bush Administration. Ironically, many of these budget requests have included cuts to critical fire prevention programs in the face of ever-worsening fire seasons. Even more troublesome, the Forest Service has had to ―Rob Peter to Pay Paul by borrowing funds from other critical Forest Service programs to cover the escalating costs of fire suppression.

Well, I’m glad that’s been fixed ;)!

Note: I am not saying or implying that this administration’s performance is sub-par. All I’m pointing out is that partisanizing difficult problems, that require all of us to work together to solve, does not really help and actually, in some cases, makes the environment worse while people are litigating or fighting to get elected, rather than finding a policy that works across the aisle. I know that the Congress’s work tends to be about theatrical party-bashing instead of thoughtful policy-making, but still..

4 thoughts on “Grijalva’s 2008 Report on Bush Administration Public Land “Assault””

  1. Sharon, I’d like to suggest that changes to NEPA processes should always have to goal of improving the final product, not the process. It should be about having the best possible EIS or EA, and the best possible project, when all is said and and done. You could make the argument that ‘improving” the process results in a better project, but that’s not always the case.

    In the case of the Bush administration, many of the changes were NOT aimed at improving the quality of decisions and projects, but at speeding up the process — not that the Bush administration is alone in trying to cut red tape.

    As you know, I like to use specific examples, so here’s a recent one. The Dillon District recently issued an EA for a motorized trail system on Tenderfoot Mountain, above Highway 6 between Dillon and Keystone. The proposal has been extremely contentious and conflicts with the county’s zoning for the area. Most residents of neighborhoods in the area oppose the project.

    The Summit County Commissioners asked for an extension of the 30-day comment period, but under “improved” NEPA rules finalized under Bush/( aimed at shortening the process), the WRNF was not able to give that extension.

    That means the county, the public and other stakeholders have less time to study a lengthy EA for a project that probably should have been analyzed with an EIS to begin with.

    Potentially, that means there will be less public involvement and lower quality comments, which could mean some things will be overlooked. That means that, ultimately, the people who oppose it may feel like they have to go to court. which means that the “improved” process didn’t work.

    How does any of that result in a better decision?

    Tenderfoot stories stories here:

    But overall, your points about partisanship are well-taken. Especially against the backdrop of global warming, we do need to figure out a way to develop long-term resource management strategies that don’t change every time there’s an election.

  2. Bob, you have raised a couple of good points here.

    First, the simplest “Forest Service officials say new planning regulations adopted under the Bush administration prevent them from extending comment periods on environmental assessments.” Of course, I am an Aging Person so my memory is not what it used to be, but I do remember working in the DC NEPA shop during the Bush Administration and I don’t remember that specifically. Could you ask them to be more specific?

    Second, what’s really the point of NEPA, and how important to the statute’s goals are the documents and the processes. What is really the point? How can we tell “good” NEPA from “bad” NEPA? These are questions that practitioners and academic NEPA wonks ask themselves and each other all the time. Most especially when people try to derive metrics of success. But what you bring up is that it would be useful to have that conversation more publicly and you echo what some of the collaborators ask. So I will try to round up some information and a variety of contributors and take that up after the holidays…really really important to talk about. Thank you.

    Third, there is a history behind “Gridlock Busting” within the agency that predates the Bush Administration. I would characterize the administration as providing support to move things in a direction that many in the agency also supported. The same way that if you want a road decommissioning CE, you try it in a Democratic administration.

    There are two ways to look at all this. One is that there is a “right way” to do things and that is clear. The other way is to look at groups who oppose projects using appeals and litigation to delay or stop them (as they have asserted they do, I’m not making this up) and the Congress and administrations (and citizens, through direct action) looking at ways to adapt (the co-evolutionary view).

    Anyway, thank you Bob, you have opened up a couple of avenues for future fruitful discussion.

  3. Wow, a congressman was political!? Maybe the congressman was trying to counterbalance the Bush administrations (political) efforts to modify the environmental rules and public participation rules applicable to the Forest Service so he could deliver favors to the timber industry that “invested” in his campaign. Over a million timber dollars were delivered to republican campaigns after Bush met with timber capitalists in Portland in May of 2000.

  4. Tree… That may be the case about contributions. However I am just telling you what life was like to the person (me) and people in the Forest Service working on the rules and NEPA procedures.

    The fact is that what is in the Grijalva report is not correct. If some other public participation was reduced, through some other means, I would be curious to know what you think it is. Because it might still be relevant, because of the co-evolution I spoke of.

    So what I know about Congress I know from working there in 95. And these are my own values. For each issue, a Member has a choice to make about whether they are going to do what’s best, in their view, for the country and for their constituents (which may be different), and whether the issue provides an opportunity to bash the other side rather than listen and try to resolve the issue.

    We see that today vis a vis the budget on both sides as far as I can tell.
    What we need is leaders who will tone down the bashing and tone up the working.

    I think Salazar has a better experience with working, because he was a senator and the Director of DNR in Colorado. You can’t bash as a policy solution when you represent both sides.

    What concerns me would is that a report with easily provable inaccuracies (untruths?), was issued under his name. So, to some extent, he must have been responsible for creating a climate in which staff overlooked facts in pursuit of ideological goals. That is not a good argument for giving the person a more responsible position, in my view. Certainly if I were the President I would prefer someone to advise me who cared deeply about getting facts straight and more about working with, and not so much bashing, other citizens of the US.


Leave a Comment

Discover more from The Smokey Wire : National Forest News and Views

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading