Who’d Have Known? 47% of CFLR Projects Nationally Appealed

It seems like I’ve written this same sentence numerous times over the past few years, so I might as well just paste it here again:

“The Colt Summit timber sale – and subsequent appeal and lawsuit – on the Lolo National Forest in Montana has been the source of much previous debate on this site, even though this was the first timber sale lawsuit on the Lolo National Forest in over 6 years.”

In 2009 the Colt Summit timber sale was included as a Forest Service-generated project in the grant proposal the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative (SWCC) in Montana submitted to the Forest Service for funding under the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) Program.

As I’ve pointed out previously, back in 2009 to 2010 the Lolo National Forest Supervisor was the co-chair of the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative, meaning that essentially the Lolo National Forest Supervisor was writing a grant proposal to the Forest Service as a Forest Service employee to fund the Forest Service.  And yet this is called “collaboration?”

Even today, 33% of the voting members of the SWCC are current, paid Forest Service employees.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative group requires new members to sign a “Duty of Loyalty Oath” prior to full participation, which reads: “Each member of the collaborative has a duty of loyalty to the collaborative.”

(There might be a few awkward transitions in this post, and here comes the first one.)

The reason I’m bringing up all this background information about the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative and the Colt Summit timber sale is because of the extraordinary lengths some members of that group – mainly the Montanan Wilderness Association and the Bozeman office of The Wilderness Society – went to when Friends of the Wild Swan and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed an appeal, and subsequent lawsuit, against the logging portions of the Colt Summit timber sale because they believed the Forest Service’s cumulative effects analysis for Canada lynx was inadequate.

Readers may recall that the Montana Wilderness Association was essentially lying to the public telling them that the lawsuit was threatening important watershed restoration work that was part of the project. Turns out, the plaintiffs never challenged any of that work and the Forest Service admitted that the restoration work was already under contract and moving forward.  When we attempted to point out this fact on the social media sites of the Montana Wilderness Association, those fact-based, professional comments were simply censored and removed by Montana Wilderness Association employees and we were banned from ever commenting on the site again.  Great example of open, inclusive, transparent “collaboration,” eh?

My belief is that much of the PR work from Montana Wilderness Association and a few of the other collaborators about the Colt Summit timber sale and the SWCC was essentially an extension of the million dollar plus PR campaign we’ve seen in Montana for the past 6 years to support Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.

The expensive TV ads, full page newspaper ads, the radio spots, the dog-n-pony, one-sided “public” meetings, the canned talking-points inspired letters to the editor (which I suspect are generated by MWA employees who then call their members or simply get an unsuspecting 19 year old college students to sign and submit the LTE) and so forth.   Make no mistake, and I’ve said this before, some of what we are witnessing in Montana under the guise of “collaboration” is nothing more than a political take-over of some of our national forests that has the potential to forever change America’s public lands legacy for the worse.

Which brings me back to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. We’ve debated the merits of this program before on the blog and some of us have questioned the “accomplishments” that those supporting the CFLRP program seem to tout every year.

For example, when the CFLRP participants released the supposed list of program accomplishments just prior to Christmas last year, Sharon wrote, “A little birdie told me that some of the figures in the report below are not accurate” in regards to the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program report.

I made a comment that, “Obviously some people put a lot of effort into this fancy-looking report to pat themselves on the back for the supposed achievements of the CFLRP, but I’m calling BS on many of the achievement claims made by these CFLRP collaborators in this report.  There is simply no way possible that all of the work listed in the report was achieved with a little CFLRP funding.  Many of these CFLRP collaboratives are dramatically over-inflating accomplishments directly attributed to the CFLRP and are taking credit for work that the Forest Service would have done anyway, regardless of if CFLRP passed or if $10 million was allocated to these 10 projects around the country.”

In other words, I firmly believe that some members of some CFLRP’s around the country are double- and triple-counting to make their program seem more successful than it actually is.  It’s almost as if they give the public the impression that the Forest Service has zero budget outside of what the CFLR program provides.

For example, if CFLRP funding accounts for 25% of the funding needed to complete X amount of logging on a certain forest should the CFLRP collaborators claim credit for the entire X amount of logging? Or would it be more honest for the CFLRP collaborators to claim credit for 25% of the logging? I certainly believe that the later is entirely more accurate, while the former is a complete exaggeration bordering on outright lying.

(Another awkward transition….)

So, this morning I was sent a copy of the latest meeting notes for the Southwestern Crown of the Continent Collaborative group from Friends of the Wild Swan, a group that’s keeping close tabs on some of the goings-on with the SWCC in their backyard.

What really caught my eye was this statement of fact in the notes:

“Nationally over the 20 CFLR projects there have been 49 decisions. Of those, 47% have been appealed or objected to and one litigated. Several of the appellants were part of local collaborative group.”

What’s that? You mean that while some of these CFLR collaborators are using some questionable accounting procedures to make it seem like their program is much more successful than it really is, these same CFLR collaborators aren’t letting the public know in their glossy, end-of-the-year accomplish report that 47% of all CFLR project decisions have been appealed? Including appeals by some of the same people/groups/interests that are part of these collaborative groups?

Since this figure was presented by the Forest Service and placed into official notes of the SWCC, one has to assume that somewhere, somebody has an actual spreadsheet or report about the fact that 47% of all CFLR project decisions have been appealed/objected to.  For certain, I’ll be in contact with the SWCC to see if they will provide more information about this, and I’d encourage other people around the country to write their CFLR collaborative and see what additional information can be uncovered.

The public deserves nothing but full openness and transparency when it comes to the management of America’s public lands, so hopefully some members of these CFLR collaboratives will cease the shell-game PR campaign and be more honest about the CFLR program.

UPDATE:  Sandy Mack, the Forest Service’s Liaison Officer for the Southwestern Crown of the Continent CFLRP just sent me the following spreadsheet based on my information request. I haven’t had time to look it over, but wanted to make sure it was up here so anyone interested could take a look at it.

As an aside, does anyone else know of another CFLRP collaborative in the country that has it’s own Forest Service-appointed (and paid) Liaison Officer? Is that a common practice? Or could it just be further proof that what’s happening in Montana with the SWCC is way outside the norms of Forest Service “collaboration?”

12 thoughts on “Who’d Have Known? 47% of CFLR Projects Nationally Appealed”

  1. While I am not defending what Matt doesn’t like in his part of the country, here are some Collaborative links presented by my own local Collaborative group.


    I have no doubt that some groups will continue to use litigation as their Plan A. Some seem to feel that their participation legitimizes the process of Collaboration, Consensus and Compromise so, litigation remains their preferred, time-tested way of imposing their beliefs.

  2. Matthew, I agree with you that…

    The public deserves nothing but full openness and transparency when it comes to the management of America’s public lands, so hopefully some members of these CFLR collaboratives will cease the shell-game PR campaign and be more honest about the CFLR program.

    Except that I really believe that providing that basic information is the Forest Service’s responsibility not the collaborative groups’. For one thing, I would like to see it summarized across all the projects and that is hard to do without a consistent template. Isn’t there a national FACA committee for these projects who could design such a template?

    So can we find out from your contacts who came up with the 47% figure and how?

    • Sharon: I agree with both you and Matthew on the need for full transparency in the management of our public lands, but when he says “some members” I thought he was referring to “those” members paid by the USFS to participate in these exercises.

      I mostly stopped going to USFS “stewardship” and Oregon Watershed Council meetings about 25 years ago after noting they were almost entirely populated and dominated by paid public employees and paid “environmental” group reps — with hardly any local landowners, loggers, farmers, ranchers, or even sportsmen involved. Very much along the lines described by Matthew in Montana at this time.

      I am curious. Is this how things are in other areas of the US, too? Larry describes some successes with this approach, and others seem to agree with that. Matt describes a situation that seems to border on the unethical, perhaps even illegal. Are these just two anomalies, or are they representative of other such groups?

  3. Thanks Matthew, for bringing to the light of day, the larger pattern of national Gang Green collaborationism which mirrors collaboration on the Tongass National Forest — right down to the censorship of public comments in opposition to roundtable collaborator’s (Southeast Alaska Conservation Council) patently false claims.

    Matter of fact, go to the blog section of seacc.org, and you’ll find an opportunity to comment on every single blog entry except one — the one which had the most public commenters ever — virtually all aghast at SEACC’s sudden reversal of position approving large scale privatization of the Tongass National Forest. A plan which was incubated at the Tongass Futures Roundtable but which was emphatically denied:

    “First, we were under no pressure from anyone to make this decision. It was made free of influence or pressure from any congressional office, foundation, or other entity. There was no deal, no secret negotiations or agreements, and no connection to any previous actions taken by SEACC or other groups.”


    Saying so, doesn’t make it so.

    Of course, the whole motive of collaborationists is to end-run environmental laws, capitulate to power for a cut of the action, and advance the privatization of public lands and corporate outsourcing of governmental functions.

    So, it is with great amusement that when citizens demand that their government follows its own environmental laws and public process, their court challenges get propagandized as:

    a “way of imposing their beliefs.”

    Actually I could not agree more, in that it is my belief, we are a nation of laws — not merely a nation of collaborationists advancing corporate agendas by subverting the public process, undermining full disclosure and dialogue, while end-running environmental regulations and procedural laws.

    (btw, rumor has it that the Tongass Futures Roundtable is on its deathbed)

    • David, I don’t understand how collaborative efforts can be appealed and litigated and also be “end runs around environmental laws.”

      And I don’t see what Colt Summit had to do with “corporate outsourcing of government functions” and “privatization of public lands.”

      Remember, the judge said that the Colt Summit project had followed environmental laws and public process, and said more documentation was necessary, but didn’t seem clear about how the document was configured and I don’t think folks are allowed to ask the judge (not sure about this), which led to needing to change the document structure of the supplemental analysis.

      To me it doesn’t sound like end-running anything.

    • Thank you for that obligatory broad brush statement, David. Of course, I was directing my statement at BOTH extremes. I should note that there is a LOT less chance of ALL of our National Forests being clearcut compared to the chance that ALL National Forests will cease selling logs. There are people suing to stop timber sales, in support of the greater goal of ending all logging, everywhere. (See Chad Hanson)

      I would not be surprised to see last year’s project litigated and tied up. Just because we have local eco-groups signed on, that doesn’t mean the project won’t be appealed. Indeed, if I were working for an eco-group, I would appeal them all, knowing I could raise doubt that the Feds were “following the law”.

      When can we see major groups “blessing” individual projects, instead of waiting to find “stuff to litigate”? The new process seems to support working that stuff out BEFORE the decision is made. It seems that it is either “get involved”, or “go to court”. What do you think is easier and more effective, from the eco’s point of view?

  4. Hello: I haven’t had time to look over the spreadsheet, but I just received the following from the Forest Service’s Sandy Mack, Liaison Officer, Southwestern Crown of the Continent CFLRP.

    As an aside, does anyone else know of a CFLRP collaborative in the country that has it’s own Forest Service-appointed (and paid) Liaison Officer? Is that a common practice? Or could it just be further proof that what’s happening in Montana with the SWCC is way outside the norms of Forest Service “collaboration?”

    Here’s the CFLR spreadsheet

    ——– Original Message ——–
    Subject: RE: Source for CFLR figure in SWCC meeting notes?
    Date: Tue, 14 May 2013 20:06:48 +0000
    From: Mack, Sandrah P -FS
    To: Matthew Koehler
    CC: Austin, Deborah L -FS , [email protected] , Jake Kreilick , Weber, Chip -FS , Gary Burnett ([email protected]) , Melanie Parker

    Hello Matthew,

    As requested.

    Source: Attachment on Email from Lauren Marshall, WO CFLR Coordinator, to Sandy Mack 4/4/2013. Lauren generated original spreadsheet in response to an Information Request from the Public. Sandy added Summary Columns C, E, I, J and Rows 35, 36


    Sandy Mack
    Liaison Officer
    Southwestern Crown of the Continent CFLRP
    Bldg. 24 Fort Missoula
    Missoula, MT 59801
    (406) 381-3478 cell
    (406) 329-3817

    From: Matthew Koehler [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 1:04 PM
    To: Mack, Sandrah P -FS; Austin, Deborah L -FS; Megan Birzell; [email protected]; Jake Kreilick
    Subject: Source for CFLR figure in SWCC meeting notes?

    ii. Nationally over the 20 CFLR projects there have been 49 decisions. Of those,
    47% have been appealed or objected to and one litigated. Several of the appellants were part of local collaborative group.


    I noticed that the latest SWCC meeting notes contained the information pasted above. Can someone please provide me with more information about the facts/figures? Did it come from a report? Or a spreadsheet? Please send me whatever information you have. Thanks so much for your help.

    Matthew Koehler
    WildWest Institute

    • Matthew, thanks for getting this spreadsheet! I think it’s interesting that there was only one lawsuit.. which ultimately doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

      It sounds like the dynamics of Montana are different.. Which is kind of the same conclusion that the GAO reports got to… whassup with that do you think? Really, biologically, it can’t be all that different from neighboring Idaho and Wyoming…

  5. Matt, I’m sorry you have such a vendetta against the SWCC. Couple questions though:

    What do they “vote” on that’s so contentious (in your view)? What exactly does a “vote” constitute, considering what Sharon brought up above…(litigation and court examination, etc). I didn’t see anything in the Colt Summit court briefs, transcripts, opinions, etc about “collaboration” or “voting”, so there’s obviously no legal challenge/violation of law there. What a “vote” constitutes might be reprehensible, in your view; but may be nothing more than a barometer for social acceptance. I don’t know though….I’m only speculating.

    Why did you appeal a PFC project, but nothing locally? I’m actually REALLY interested your answer to this one. Why the normal toothless rabble-rousing about the SWCC?


    And haven’t you admitted to trying to appeal to College students yourself here before?

    Your friends have at least followed thru on their convictions and sent letters to the Sec. of Ag. What are you really hoping to accomplish here with this crowd? If you are sincere about your fact finding mission above and want to discuss on/off the record, you know how to contact me. Perhaps you’ll learn something new…if that’s not too intimidating for you. If nothing else, I’m pretty sure I still owe you a beverage. Great time of the year for a bonfire and beverage(s)!

    • Hello JZ, Perhaps you already started drinking beverages by the bonfire as you were writing the comment above, as pretty much everything after the half-way point reads like French to me. For example, what’s a “PFC project”? Thanks.

  6. Cute, but no. Wireless doesn’t reach that far and the time stamp is too early as well. I think my questions read just fine.

    I’m interested in column H15 on the spreadsheet you sent. If that info is accurate, than I would expect you know what PFC stands for.


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