Warning: Fuzzy Concept in Regulation- “Ecological Integrity”- I

OK, well it's not exactly a warning about "faulty concepts" but it was the best I could find in the time available..
OK, well it’s not exactly a warning about “faulty concepts” but it was the best I could find in the time available..

It’s interesting that in procrastinating on working on reviewing the Planning Directives, I found and posted MUSYA. Let me quote it again here:

‘‘Multiple use’’ means: The management of all the various renewable surface resources of the national forests so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people; making the most judicious use of the land for some or all of these resources or related services over areas large enough to provide sufficient latitude for periodic adjustments in use to conform to changing needs and conditions; that some land will be used for less than all of the resources; and harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources, each with the other, without impairment of the productivity of the land, with consideration being given to the relative values of the various resources, and not necessarily the combination of uses that will give the greatest dollar return or the greatest unit output.
(b) ‘‘Sustained yield of the several products and services’’means the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairment of the productivity of the land.

This seems to be what Congress intended the purpose of the national forests to be. So far, they seem to have added other environmental laws (which as Andy says, are not in conflict) so we would think that the primary purpose still stands.

Well, in the 2012 planning regulations, section 219.1 b states that it is consistent with MUSYA, and then 219.1 c says that “the purpose of this part is to “guide the …land management plans that promote the ecological integrity of national forests and grasslands.” It goes on to say that lands will be managed to be “ecologically sustainable” and “contribute to” social and economic sustainability.

So it seems like we have made a regulation for implementing NFMA, that at first, seems contrary to MUSYA.

Here’s MUSYA “harmonious and coordinated management of the various resources, each with the
other, without impairment of the productivity of the land”

whereas in the new NFMA regulation the goal is to “promote the ecological integrity” and “ecological sustainability” is first and no “harmonious coordination” seems to be required.

So, for those of you who didn’t follow the Committee of Scientist dynamics.. remember Roger Sedjo, of Resources for the Future said this..in his dissent from the COS report in 1998 (15 years ago and the discussion seems to be .. rather .. stuck). Here’s the link.. worth taking a look at.

I believe that the Report recommends measures, specifically the preeminence of an ecological sustainability focus together with the stringent viability regulations, that would have the effect of having the National Forest System operating primarily as a biological reserve. These recommendations go well beyond the Secretary’s charge to the Committee, which “is to provide scientific and technical advice to the Secretary of Agriculture and to the Chief of the Forest Service on improvements that can be made in the National Forest System Land and Resource Management planning process” and that this be done “within the established framework of environmental laws and within the statutory mission of the Forest Service.” The Report, however, recommends what is clearly a new mission for the FS that is in conflict with much of the statutory mission of the FS.

In selecting the new mission the Report uses definitions of sustainability that are considerably more narrow than those commonly used, and indeed more narrow than those used by the US Government in its international negotiations on sustainable forestry in the Montreal Process and Santiago Declaration. Furthermore, the Report justifies the new sustainability mission for the FS with assertions to the effect that the NFS is in jeopardy, but these assertions are not supported by evidence. In fact, evidence available strongly supports the view that forest sustainability is not in jeopardy, generally, although area specific problems do exist.

Additionally, most fundamental defects in the forest planning process cannot be corrected by the changes recommended in this Report. The Report recognizes the difficulties of meaningful implementation of planning without a basic reform to allow the budget and planning processes to operate in concert. Additionally, under the current planning system problems are exacerbated by frequent disruptions of planning via administrative orders from above, which often render the process meaningless. Also, the Report acknowledges, but does little to address, the problem of endless appeals that has plagued the forest plans and the planning process. Without these and other fundamental reforms, the changes recommended in the planning process are unlikely to alleviate most of the more serious problems experienced with forest planning.

Well, I’ve run out of room. Tomorrow we’ll discuss the “ecological integrity” definition in the rule and how it’s carried forward into the directives.

4 thoughts on “Warning: Fuzzy Concept in Regulation- “Ecological Integrity”- I”

  1. ” Plans without corresponding budgets cannot be implemented.

    Without a basic reform in the budget process to allow the budget and the plan to be in concert, the proposed changes in the planning process will do little to change the ultimate outcome. Additionally, frequent disruptions of existing plans occur via administrative fiat, court decisions, and endless appeals process, and so forth, will often render the planning process meaningless. Very basic changes are needed in the entire process if forest planning is to be creditable.”

    The above is the most meaningful portion of this critique. Without funds and people no amount of of rules or regs are going to move the forests forward. I’ve said enough about the damning role of partisan politics… There is no ONE fix; thinning, or prescribed burns, or WUIs.

  2. My old friend Mark Rutzick is now testing Sharon’s thesis in court. Mark represents the timber industry in its challenge to the NFMA rules. His complaint and Sharon’s post above both assert that an “ecological sustainability” policy violates on its face the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act.

    I doubt Mark’s court case can possibly succeed; the judge may not even get to the merits as there are significant standing issues plaintiffs face. Basically, how can a rule harm their interests before a single forest plan is adopted under the rule? Whether couched as a problem of “ripeness” or “standing,” the complaint appears premature; especially insofar as the planning rule regulates only the government’s behavior and not plaintiffs’.

    Assuming the case survives the government’s motion to dismiss, the next question will be “Can any Forest Service planning process violate a law that ‘breathes discretion at every pore?'” As Mac would say, this case could end up counting fairies on the head of the pin.

    • Andy, but didn’t the 2005 and 8 rule run into legal trouble before they were actually used? I remember stopping (twice) and we were going to be the first plan out of the gate?

      Just so everyone knows, I arrived at this conclusion independently of Mr. Rutnick as I was reviewing the directives. I had pointed out concerns with using a plethora of fuzzy concepts (ecological integrity, etc.) during the development of the Rule, but at the time those were internal concerns since I was still working.

      In the interests of full post-retirement disclosure, my preference would have been for Andy’s KISS Rule. You can take a look at the tab at the top of this blog, but I have to say I think the horse is way out of the barn this time..


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