White House Dislikes Hastings Bill

As many know, I am “politically impaired” so don’t understand why the White House would get all interested in a bill that is unlikely to pass both houses.. when there are potential and real world crises going on..

So what theater might this be about? An effort to affect Wyden’s thinking? Any politically astute people are welcome to hypothesize.

I saw this blog post from the Hill..here’s a quote.

The bill would would force plaintiffs to pay for the government’s court fees, potentially limiting access to the courts, would give states new powers for federal land management and exempt a variety of actions from federal laws.

“This would undermine appropriate management and stewardship of these lands, which belong to all Americans, would compromise habitat for threatened and endangered species, and would create legal uncertainty over management of these lands as well as increase litigation risk,” the White House said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost $86 million over the next five years, but would reduce federal spending by $269 million by 2023.

So I am having trouble with how 1) potentially limiting access to the courts, 2) exempting a variety of actions from federal law.. would actually INCREASE litigation risk, according to the White House. Which I’m sure is the opposite of what is intended. Are they saying that the bill isn’t written correctly to have the desired outcome?

I also thought the CBO figures were interesting.

34 thoughts on “White House Dislikes Hastings Bill”

  1. I’m thinking we need another round of LA Basin fires, driven by Santa Ana winds, to push Congress into forced bi-partisanship. It wastes time and money to push for bills that have no hope of passing, due to partisanization. The Republicans will claim “we tried”, when the bill fails in the Senate. In reality, it was a pitiful attempt that they had to know would fail. However, they seem to think that it will be a political win, even if the bill fails. That way, they can point at the Democrats, saying that they refuse to act on important rural and ecological issues. Each side claims that they are counterbalances to the other side, even when they both despise political equality. A good counterbalance requires the ability to compromise, and that just isn’t desirable among the parties’ leaders.

  2. Sharon

    It is just another way to tell Environmentalists: ‘Don’t forget to vote for democrats, we are all about saving the world from these horrible environmental terrorists.’ It has absolutely nothing to do with any desire to solve the problem since that would cause them to loose their grip over the environmentalist vote.

    Re: “I am “politically impaired””

    –> Memorize this statement and you will no longer be “politically impaired”:
    ‘Its all about what will get me the most votes or loose the fewest votes’

    –> For your doctorate in political science memorize this:
    ‘Don’t let principles, facts, promises, prior statements, or emotion get in the way of getting the most votes’

    –> For your post doctoral memorize this:
    ‘The only way foreword is to slime your opponent. If there is no slime, make some up’

    It really is that simple, except on the rare occasion when you run into an honest and principled politician who actually wants to do what is right for the country rather than his chances to get re-elected. But don’t worry about that because you wouldn’t recognize one if one existed. 🙁

  3. Posted the following elsewhere on this blog, but seems to belong here too.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. 20503

    September 18, 2013
    (House Rules)

    H.R. 1526 – Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act
    (Rep. Hastings, R-WA, and 22 cosponsors)

    While supportive of working with States and communities to restore National Forests and rangeland, the Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1526, which includes numerous harmful provisions that impair Federal management of federally-owned lands and undermine many important existing public land and environmental laws, rules, and processes. The bill would significantly harm sound long-term management of these Federal lands for continued productivity and economic benefit as well as for the long-term health of the wildlife and ecological values sustained by these holdings. H.R. 1526, which includes unreasonable restrictions on certain Federal agency actions, would negatively impact the effective U.S. stewardship of Federal lands and natural resources, undertaken on behalf of all Americans. The bill also would create conflicts with existing statutory requirements that could generate substantial and complex litigation. A number of the Administration’s concerns with H.R. 1526 are outlined below.

    Title I would negatively impact forest resources and the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) current statutory obligations to manage forest lands by requiring USDA to sell no less than 50 percent of the sustained yield from the bill’s newly created Forest Reserve Revenue Areas (FRRA). The Administration does not support specifying timber harvest levels in statute, which does not take into account public input, environmental analyses, multiple use management or ecosystem changes. The bill would create a fiduciary responsibility to beneficiary counties to manage FRRAs to satisfy the annual volume requirement, which may create significant financial liability for the United States. It would also impede National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for projects within FRRA, which undermines the reasoned consideration of the environmental effects of Federal agency actions. The bill also would establish significant barriers to the courts by imposing a requirement that plaintiffs post a bond for the Federal government’s costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees.

    Title II would give States the ability to determine management on Federal lands, including prioritized management treatments for hazardous fuel reductions and forest health projects without consultation with Federal land agencies, public involvement, or consideration of sound science and management options. The title would also accelerate commercial grazing and timber harvests without appropriate environmental review and public involvement, and would impede compliance with NEPA and Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements. The Administration supports early public participation in Federal land management. The bill would mandate processes that shortchange collaboration and would lead to more conflict and delay. Further, this title’s mandated use of limited budgetary resources would likely reduce funding for other critical projects.

    Title III would transfer from Federal agencies to a State-appointed Trust, the rights and responsibilities to manage most lands covered by the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act (O&C) lands, and attempts to create exemptions from NEPA, ESA and other land management statutes. This would undermine appropriate management and stewardship of these lands, which belong to all Americans, would compromises habitat for threatened and endangered species, and would create legal uncertainty over management of these lands as well as increase litigation risk. Further, Title III also contains seriously objectionable limitations on the President’s existing authority under the Antiquities Act to designate new National Monuments in this region.

    Title IV would remove authority from the Secretary of Agriculture for management of National Forest lands designated as Community Forest Demonstration Areas, while requiring the Secretary to be responsible for a number of management actions including fire presuppression, suppression, and rehabilitation. This title’s proposed management strategies would create a patchwork of management schemes and difficulties for the agency to meet other statutory and regulatory requirements. Federal environmental laws should apply on Federal lands; however, Title IV creates exceptions to, and potentially exemptions from the normal application of these laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, and the ESA.

    If H.R. 1526 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

  4. How would it increase litigation risk? Because all the places that *aren’t* covered by the exemptions are suddenly going to be much more at risk of litigation. If you fragment everything smaller and smaller and smaller, the scraps that are left become incredibly vital and will become incredibly fought-over.

    So let’s say you make 25% of a forest an FRRA and significantly reduce the habitat value through extensive, high-impact harvesting… $RANDOM_KEYSTONE_SPECIES starts to decline and ends up on the threatened list. Guess what? All of that species’ suitable habitat on that forest that *isn’t* in an FRRA is suddenly going to be critical habitat for a threatened species. Every *other* forest that hosts that species is going to have critical habitat for a threatened species. Forest planners tear up their plans and tear out what’s left of their hair.

    You can’t just magically exempt a whole bunch of NFS land from ESA, NEPA, NFMA, etc. and *not* have a whole bunch of ecological, social and legal knock-on effects upon the land that isn’t exempted.

  5. Maybe the administration paying attention to bills in Congress is normal practice. We just aren’t paying close attention to the process that often.

    W/r/t the CBO score, don’t forget that CBO counts the effects on the budget but ignores the effects on public assets. So the DeFazio/Walden/Schrader title in the Hastings bill might save a few dollars in the budget at the expense of a massive transfer of valuable public assets (i.e., ecosystem infrastructure that provides clean water, stabilizes slopes and hydrology, provides habitat for fish & wildlife, recovers endangered species, provides recreation and scenic values, stores carbon and stabilizes the climate). The loss and degradation of all these public values are ignored by CBO. This strange accounting system only makes sense inside the beltway.

  6. Is anyone else as shocked as I am on this development? Harvest Moon tonight follows August’s Blue Moon. Some things are just that predictable.

    Politicians and lawyers aren’t going to fix anything until we fix our objectives. Rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship didn’t work 20 years ago or 100 years ago, why would anyone think it would work this time? Maybe we need to set another course at some point, in a direction without giant obstructions in our path. Lipstick on a pig isn’t working, but pigs make great bacon. That’s real commitment, and with entirely different objectives.

  7. @Travis Mason-Bushman
    That’s interesting.. you would have “more” on the “other” acres..but if most of them are litigated anyway, this doesn’t sound so bad.
    From the practical FS (legal) work standpoint if there is more than one lawsuit per project, most of the work would be the same.
    Also at the risk of being offensive to people, it sounds/feels a bit like an abusive relationship.. “if you run to the shelter, we’ll just beat you harder when you come out. You really have it pretty good right now, if you weren’t too stupid to see it. Wait to see what we can do when we really get mad.”

  8. @TreeC123
    But to measure that you would have to agree that 1) those values would be impinged on more by what is happening under the law than what would otherwise happen. which we don’t know.

    2) it might be interesting to actually take similar areas and manage them differently (including the way in this bill) and measure at the end of 20 or 30 years. You could examine all the environmental and social impacts.

    I think that’s what was supposed to happen with the Adaptive Management part of the NW Forest Plan, so we should know.. does anyone remember why that didn’t happen?

  9. @TreeC123
    So, should we embrace the bark beetles and the wildfires that dirties water, destabilizes slopes, disrupts natural hydrology, destroys critical habitats for fish and wildlife, damages recreation zones and scenic values, releases massive volumes of carbon, GHG’s and toxic gases, severely damages soils, and destabilizes the climate? That is what is already happening under the current laws, policies and rules. Tree seems to be saying we would be going back to 1000 acre clearcuts and massive high-grading, at the expense of our forests. Assumptions run wild when active management of all the forest values are proposed.

  10. Is there anyone out there who thinks that the timber resources of our public lands are being well managed under the current system? Near as I can tell not even Forest Service employees (at the field level) think so. HR 1526 (Hastings version) has some great ideas: Community Forest Demonstration Areas and mandated harvest from Forest Reserve Revenue Areas ( but provides no funds for fulfilling the mandate). The Administration doesn’t like the ideas at all, but offers no alternative solution. Seems to me that HR 1526 at least makes an attempt to solve the problem – something that no-one else (including bloggers) has been willing to do. All you complainers and nay-sayers: If the bill is so bad, what’s your alternative?

  11. @W.V. McConnell
    HR 1526 may “make an attempt to solve the problem” (though some would argue otherwise, and also doubt the sincerity of the attempt), but it does so by running roughshod over a number of laws that are on the books, including NEPA, ESA, and probably NFMA. Support of U.S. laws and regulations, and resisting those who wish to eliminate or neutralize them, does not make one either a “complainer” or a “nay-sayer”. A belief that the USFS continues to mismanage our public lands is widespread, as you suggest, but many who think so consider this bill to be a step in exactly the wrong direction. One step in the right direction might be for USFS to get better at actually following the laws that are already in place. -GK

  12. But the FS does follow the laws that are in place… mostly the FS wins as the study cited previously shows.

    It is a long way from the nobility (sausage-making) of the original law, to the regulations, to the court cases (which seem sometimes to be fairly random) to the actual implementation of the regulations, to the regulating agencies’ personal predilections or a variety of other interpersonal disputes (leading to interagency mediation).

    Here’s a NEPA example. A recently hired person at EPA reviewed a NEPA document and said it wasn’t specific enough. Lawyers at CEQ thought it was specific enough. What’s a land management agency to do? (Note: we too figured out that lawyers at CEQ trump; but how often can you invoke them? There aren’t that many lawyers there.). I’m sure that others have examples of “when laws reach the ground” that end up to be seemingly “arbitrary and capricious.”

    Not to go into the details but at the broad scale, immigration laws are another example. They were started with good intentions, but as implemented they are problematic in a variety of ways. That’s why people want to reform the law. Some might argue that “if we just follow the law” there wouldn’t be any problems. Others think there are plenty of problems.

  13. @W.V. McConnell
    Mac: The answer to your question is easy. It goes back to my lipstick on a pig analogy — the reasons our forests are so mismanaged is because of all the massive and contradictory laws and regulations that have been adopted over the last 40 years. The “science” that is the basis for much of this debilitating regulatory burden has become outdated and counterproductive. Don’t want to “lose” our last old-growth by logging? Why not let it burn up in a wildfire instead? Same with “critical” habitat. Nothing like the cleansing action of wildfire to take care of that, too. And what is so wrong if a few people get killed or society is stuck with the $billion dollar cost? Birds eat bugs that live in rotting trees — isn’t that worth everyone paying a little more for their homes or other wood products?

    So the answer is for Congress to get serious and revisit the mess that is the basis for the self-mutilation of our lands and resources that the government has undertaken during the past few decades. Are original ESA and NEPA goals and objectives actually being met by these outdated attempts to restore “balance” to the management of our forests and wildlife? Is the “science” that was the basis of these apparently well intentioned Acts still valid, or has more information become available since computers and Internet have become commonplace?

    All rhetorical questions, of course. The system is seriously broken and needs to be repaired. A 40-year old Volkswagen probably doesn’t serve its original purpose for purchase very well, either, and that is the condition of our current regulatory (and results) nightmare. It is probably impossible to follow all of the laws and regulations currently in place, and even if we could the results would probably not be anywhere near what was initially intended, and would continue to be a counterproductive, costly and debilitating burden on our country and its citizens. The root cause of our problems needs to be addressed, not disguised with yet another coat of paint.

  14. @bobzybach
    This response cuts right to the chase, Bob. The current patchwork of laws simply aren’t serving the land. The rules, laws and policies were never meant to outright block active management. Since they are, we need to make some changes but, those changes need to meet the intent of the cornerstone laws with scientific realities considered. Skilled and enlightened monitoring shows that our forests are becoming more threatened by major impacts, and the Forest Service has its hands tied, in more ways than one.

  15. @Sharon “But the FS does follow the laws that are in place… mostly the FS wins as the study cited previously shows.” Well, that’s certainly a “glass half-full” way to look at it. I didn’t see the study you cited so I added up some numbers myself, below are nationwide (district and circuit decisions) USFS NEPA suit results for an 11-yr period (most recent years not available here, maybe elsewhere). Basically, from 2001-2011 the FS lost 43 of 87 court cases, or 49.4%, and won 50.6% Hard to imagine any other entity (private company for example) saying “well yeah, the court only found that we broke the law 49% of the time, so that means we really do follow the laws.” And I know there’s lots of excuses, but judges nationwide continue to find those excuses lame (enough to clearly override “agency deference”), and they continue to issue some pretty blistering opinions about them.

    USFS NEPA COURT SUCCESS numbers & quotes from: http://www.lucindalowswartz.com

    2011: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) again won first place as the agency involved in the largest number of NEPA cases, with 5 cases. The agency prevailed in 2 of the 4 cases (50 percent) in which the agency took a position (one case involved a third-party intervention and USFS took no position on the issues). Every other agency had only 1 case.

    2010: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) again won first place as the agency involved in the largest number of NEPA cases, with 16 cases. The agency prevailed in 12 of the 16 cases (75 percent). BLM came in a distant second with 6 cases, of which they prevailed in 2 (33 percent).

    2009: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) again won first place as the agency involved in the largest number of NEPA cases, with 12 cases (one of which also involved the U.S. Bureau of Land Management [BLM]). The agency prevailed in 8 of the 12. BLM came in a close second with 10 cases (one of which also involved USFS), of which they prevailed in 6.

    2008: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) again won first place as the agency involved in the largest number of NEPA cases, with 12 cases. The agency prevailed in 5 of the 12. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) was a distant second with 7 cases, all of which were decided in the agency’s favor.

    2007: The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) tied for first place as the agencies involved in the most number of cases with 5 each. Both agencies prevailed only once.

    2006: As in previous years, the U.S. Forest Service was the agency involved in the most number of cases (9), and prevailed in 6 of them. A close second, the Bureau of Land Management was involved in 8 cases, and prevailed in 3. Note that two cases involved both agencies (prevailed in 1, lost in 1).

    2005: As has been the case in previous years, the U.S. Forest Service was the individual agency involved in the most number of cases (6); the agency prevailed in only 2 of the 6 cases.

    2004: As has been the case in previous years, the U.S. Forest Service was the individual agency involved in the most number of cases (5); unlike previous years, the agency prevailed in 3 of the 5 cases.

    2003: In 2003, federal courts issued at least 16 decisions involving implementation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by federal agencies. These cases involved the U.S. Forest Service (6 cases), U.S. Department of the Interior (4 cases), National Marine Fisheries Service (1 case), U.S. Department of Transportation (4 cases), and U.S. Navy (1 case). Of these, plaintiffs were successful in 11 cases and the federal agencies prevailed in 5.

    2001-2002: 12 involved the U.S. Forest Service (won 4, lost 8)

    2011 2 2
    2010 12 4
    2009 8 4
    2008 5 7
    2007 1 4
    2006 6 3
    2005 2 4
    2004 3 2
    2003 1 5
    2001-02 4 8
    TOTAL 44 43

  16. Guy, Follow existing laws and all problems will be solved. Really! Here’s what the Forest Service .S. told me on Aug. 30 last year in response to my inquiry.

    “1. the F.S. currently has has 183 open lawsuits and 32 appeals. During the last year the agency has processed 253 appeals, 99 of which were dismissed.

    2. The publication “Selected Laws Affecting Forest Service Activities (USDA Forest Service 2004) lists 93 laws that govern management of agency activities. … No one has ever tallied the complete list of executive orders and directives that the Forest Service works with.

    3. Currently, we know of 4 trust proposals for the 112th Congress, We are tracking for the Forest Service approximately 250 separate bills.”

    How would you like, as a land manager, to work your way through that morass?

    Closer to home – The Apalachicola National Forest, my home forest, has faithfully followed (to the extent possible) all laws, regs, &exec. orders. It has never been in litigation over a timber sale. Here are the actual annual figures for the recently concluded 10 year plan period.

    Total growth: 13.3 MMcf
    Planned cut: 3.5 MMcf
    Actual cut: 0.9 MMcf
    Mortality: 2.9 MMcf

    The Apalach is a young forest, growing on formerly cut-over land. Now, virtually unmanaged, it is headed towards the same fate that has befallen the National Forests in the west. It and the people who live and work in it deserve better.

    Again, HR 1526 may not be perfect, but it is at least an attempt. My preferred solution is to move all land whose highest and best use is commodity production out of federal ownership and into Trust Management. I present my case in http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?page_id=591. If you have another solution (specific not generalities), speak up!

  17. @Guy Knudsen
    Guy.. I was thinking of this study cited by Steve Wilent here:

    There are many reasons for case loss, not all of which are the FS’ sole responsibility. The decision to settle, for example is DOJ’s. Or DOJ might choose to take on different cases in different administrations (which we would expect.. it’s part of the Administration) or maybe not. As JWT said:

    One of the most stunning facts that I have learned over the past year is that, in its ability to independently determine whether or not to proceed with any legal activity, the Department of Justice wields the greatest capacity to set policy of any agency of the government. I naively assumed that the chief of the Forest Service made the decision as to whether to pursue a court action. Not even the undersecretary or the secretary makes those decisions. Such can merely request and suggest. The Department of Justice decides- the agency can proprose and the Department of Justice disposes. That power is not well understood even by students of the internal workings of government. If the policy-setting power of the lawyers in the Department of Justice were well understood, I don’t think anybody- Congress, the persons affected, or politically appointed agency administrators- would appreciate that fact.”

  18. @Sharon
    thanks Sharon, actually I think I have that paper somewhere and forgot about it. A different timeframe than I looked at, and also my search was restricted to NEPA suits. I’m guessing ESA suits get settled more often, because sometimes plaintiffs are requesting an EIS instead of EA, and/or FWS consultation, which the FS then agrees to do (especially the consultation, cheaper than going to court). As a crude estimate, it looks like maybe the FS won a higher percentage in the “early years”, then did worse in the early 2000’s as the enviro groups honed their skills, and now is starting to do better again as the agency hones its NEPA skills… pure conjecture, of course. -Guy p.s. I guess you at least partially answered my question from the other post too

  19. @Travis Mason-Bushman

    – Do I read you correctly in concluding that you think every USFS acre is sacrosanct?
    — If not, who should decide: when nature only applies and when and what type of human intervention is appropriate?

    – Is there any place for commercial harvesting on USFS lands?
    — If there is, who should decide what is and what isn’t suitable for commercial harvesting?

  20. @Guy Knudsen

    Considering that you are a lawyer with some forestry background:

    Would you kindly address the points made by Mac, Larry, Bob and Sharon above in regard to the impossible situation that the USFS is in?

    There seem to be so many laws working at cross purposes that almost nothing can be done without breaking the law. Add to that the fact that they have a very large group of people who make it their hobby and hire representatives to watch every move made by the USFS and use whichever law that they can find to defeat the USFS efforts to have a proactive, comprehensive, internally consistent operating policy. Instead, the USFS has been forced into a totally reactive position which means that they can do nothing but fail.

    How would you resolve all of the conflicting directives and organize the USFS so that they could be an effective organization in carrying out your wishes for our National Forestlands?

  21. I’m always bemused by how bloggers drift away from the key issue and endlessly debate peripherals. Litigation is but one of the many causes of Forest Service failure to manage the land. How many cases are won or lost by whom means nothing. The issue is how to restore rational management to our public lands. HR 1526 proposes to do this. So far in this discussion I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the proposal but no specific alternatives.

    The Administration’s Statement of Policy follows the same tactic: HR 1526 is all bad but never a word about solving the problem. The Forest Service has offered no solution – except to cut its FY 2014 budget request by 15%. Can we all agree that Federal land management is a hopeless cause and move on from there?

  22. @W.V. McConnell
    Mac: I did send in a specific alternative. Rewrite the ESA, in conjunction with an independent scientific assessment and legitimate public participation. Corrective surgery, not more piecemeal band-aids.

  23. Gil:

    No, I do not believe “every USFS acre is sacrosanct.” I’m really quite unsure how you managed to tease that meaning out of my words, which didn’t say anything remotely like that. What I believe is that exempting huge tracts of NFS land from the environmental and public participation laws generally applicable to the public lands is a) ecologically unsound, b) bad management practice and c) not how the American public wants their lands managed.

  24. @Travis Mason-Bushman
    Travis: a) What does “ecologically unsound” mean, b) why would that be a “bad” management practice (sounds like nothing more than a personal value statement from here), c) how is it that you know “what the American public wants,” while Gil does not? Actually, your statements do seem to add up to some kind of belief that “every USFS acre is sacrosanct” with these kinds of arbitrary pronouncements.

  25. What does “ecologically unsound” mean?
    It means that enacting a legislative mandate on the level of timber harvest would override scientific views about the suitability of lands for harvest and likely have significant negative impacts on the forest’s ecology.

    Why would that be a “bad” management practice?
    Because the mandate to cut timber regardless of the impact of that harvest on competing values and interests on those lands would operate to reject and subvert the deliberative, collaborative process of planning and balancing multiple uses of NFS lands. For example, far and away the most valuable product of national forests in my region is salmon. This act would force forest managers to sacrifice salmon habitat in favor of timber harvest, even if it is determined that the best use of those lands is for anadromous fisheries.

    How is it that you know “what the American public wants,” while Gil does not?
    Because the environmental and public participation laws in question were passed by substantial bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress several decades ago, and enjoy broad public support according to reputable opinion polls. In fact, the ESA was passed darn near unanimously. By contrast, this bill may only just barely squeak through the House and has not the slightest hope of being passed in the Senate.

  26. Actually, your statements do seem to add up to some kind of belief that “every USFS acre is sacrosanct” with these kinds of arbitrary pronouncements.

    Please explain how anything I’ve said suggests that I believe no timber harvest at all whatsoever should take place on NFS land. Timber harvest can and should take place on the national forests. Where we disagree is the level of harvest.

  27. When I read this discussion between Bob and Travis, I think that what Bob is saying is that the law plus regulations plus case law plus administration of the laws at the ground level have become impenetrable to most and lead to actions that don’t actually help the creature intended to protect (ESA) or are randomly interpreted by the courts (NEPA) and thereby difficult to always win, even when you do the best you can and have tons of help by OGC. But we can’t explain how random that is to people without examples. Also people seem to not be clear on the political nature of many of these micro scale decisions about how regulations are interpreted and how that plays out with the personal and Administration positions of all the agency personnel involved. Which I don’t think is bad (that political considerations enter), but it’s not as if the people who “support ESA” really understand “how it works” and not “what it was intended to do.” Not to speak of the fact that ESA is going to have problems with its idea given the dynamics of ecosystems and climate change.

    I already posted an example, where one regulatory agency (EPA) had the authority to review agency documents. The person they hired from school with little experience felt there was not enough specificity in a document. CEQ attorneys felt there was. If folks in the government can’t agree about “how to follow the law” how can people outside possibly agree?

    So a couple of things come to mind…one is that people working in the fields of administering the laws should talk about examples of silly things that really happen (like shooting owls, but there are many more). Or stories of agency infighting. or… the real world.

    Then perhaps people who like the ideas of the laws and people who have experience administering them could look in the same direction and say… given that we want to protect species, have clean water, and analyze the environmental effects of actions and involve the public, can we think of a better way?

  28. @Travis Mason-Bushman
    Hi Travis: Thanks for the thoughtful replies. Here’s my responses:

    I am an ecologist and a scientist. Anything anyone does anywhere is apt to “override scientific views” someplace. So what? I know several other scientists with similar perspectives as mine, and many others with different opinions, so that’s ok. Science is a game of challenges, not consensus. When you speak on behalf of “the scientific community” or “science” or “scientists,” your remarks can be taken as presumptuous, because they are. The other option is to be a “cherry-picker.” Neither one is a particularly valid scientific viewpoint. Your statement that such practices can have “negative effects” is probably true at some level. Positive effects, too. Just depends on who is doing the evaluation — these aren’t universal truths by any stretch, just personal opinions. You and I share many values and we disagree on many values, because we are humans. No problem with that, but it is probably a cultural anthropology thing rather than biological science.

    You have similar problems with your statement that “far and away the most valuable product of national forests in my region is salmon.” That is just your opinion. Some of us would argue — somewhat convincingly in my opinion — that salmon aren’t a forest product at all, no matter who dos the evaluation. They need food and water and a safe environment and they’ll do pretty good just about anywhere, forested or not. Freshwater or saltwater. They’re pretty adaptable and don’t require a forest in their life cycle. Logging is hardly “sacrificing salmon habitat,” that is just an idea that some people promote for whatever reasons they can come up with. In my opinion.

    The houses of Congress are not the same thing as “the American public.” And just because something has broad political support at one time or another, doesn’t mean it still exists at this time. Things change, members of Congress change, and things don’t always work out the way that was intended. There was broad bipartisan support for Pinchot’s work and ideas, too, for much of the 20th century. Now you are saying the American public wants something entirely different. This is a bold statement, and one you are probably not qualified to make. It’s presumptuous, rather than factual.

    “Sacrosanct” hardly means “no timber harvest at all whatsoever should take place,” so you are putting words into both my and Gil’s mouths to support your personal viewpoint. Not a good way to win an argument. My perspective is we seem to disagree WHERE harvests should take place to a much greater degree than HOW MUCH harvest should take place. I would contend that harvesting — whether timber, huckleberries, wildflowers, or fish — should probably take place anywhere people go, whereas I’m assuming you think many places are too sacrosanct to allow such activities at all, or to any great degree. I see people as a critical element in the ecology of the planet, and you seem to be saying that we are pathogens to the natural (“non-human”) environment in many places.

    I’m not too keen on continuing a discussion of good vs. bad, or ones in which some group is being represented without their knowledge and consent, but I am interested in why you think logging is so bad, and particularly why you think it might be bad for salmon.

  29. If you are going to argue that salmon aren’t a forest product, then we might as well just stop right here because we’re not even going to agree on the baseline for discussion.

  30. @Travis Mason-Bushman

    Re: “Please explain how anything I’ve said suggests that I believe no timber harvest at all whatsoever should take place on NFS land.”
    –> Nothing specific – Can’t explain it – I am glad that my hunch was wrong.

    Re: “Timber harvest can and should take place on the national forests. Where we disagree is the level of harvest.”
    –> I can’t have a level of harvest without knowing a whole lot more information and several years worth of work – So how do you know that we disagree on the level of harvest?

    So, now that we are square that neither of us has a fixed opinion, how do we move forward? Some questions that I would like to get your feedback on include:

    1) Is there any group who you think is trustworthy and knowledgeable enough to decide what is and what isn’t suitable for commercial harvesting?

    2) What sort of process would you think would be required to ascertain that a piece of property was environmentally suitable for commercial logging? (This list below is not meant to be a comprehensive list of options – just listed to provoke thought):
    — a) Every acre within the contiguous USFS timberlands would have to be visited by a large multidisciplinary team, and any persons with interest in the survey, in order to develop a comprehensive 100 plus year plan for the contiguous acres. Second, the proposed harvest plans would have to ensure that logging would have no significant environmental impact on the rest of the contiguous acres and that there were no significant environmental concerns on the logging site that couldn’t be compensated for by Best Management Practices and followup Independent Audits?
    — b) ?
    — c) ?
    — d) A single professional forester cross trained in Hydrology, Botany, and Zoology aided by small scale satellite imagery and knowledge of the surrounding acres whose judgment was audited annually along with the logging jobs that he/she authorized? This person would consult with specialists and ensure that logging would have no significant environmental impact on the rest of the contiguous acres and that there were no significant environmental concerns on the logging site that couldn’t be compensated for by Best Management Practices?

    3) How would you make or who would you trust to make tradeoffs if what was good for one endangered species was going to be bad for another endangered species? How would you deal with possibilities that might happen but for which their was only question on the part of a specialist but no experimental studies to support the opinion of the specialist?

    4) Would you accept plantation management on some portion of the contiguous acres, even if it had a negative impact on some species, if that management plan could be shown to increase stand vigor and reduce the probability and size of large beetle and fire catastrophes which would be a long term net positive for more species?

    • Hey Gill,
      Great questions. Here’s at least a partial answer to a couple of them. In 1972, I was a member of an interdisciplinary team that identified the land on the Ocala National Forest whose highest and best use was the production of commercial timber. It took us about 6 statewide “listening sessions” and several weeks of spirited debate, sequestered in a room at the local Hojo. The results can be seen in slides 9 & 10 at http://www.wvmcconnell.net/?attachment_id=1003.

      That map was the result of compromise, respect for other perspectives, recognizing the problems and a strong desire to solve them for “the greatest good, for the greatest number in the long run” -things that one seldom sees in today’s public land management debates.

      The Regional Office rejected this locally-generated heresy and shipped the Supervisor off to parts unknown. I suspect that anyone foolish enough to attempt such innovation today would meet a similar fate.

      • Mac

        Once again, we are totally in agreement in terms of the concept. Very good presentation. Hard to believe that HoJo doesn’t exist anymore. But then I don’t remember anyone crying as it died out.

        We can be fairly sure that the super was shipped off because it would have been royally attacked by national environmental groups not willing to give up any of their unlimited veto power over any future activities. ‘I mean Dude, we might find some bug in there that we hadn’t seen before and it might be endangered’.


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