Behind the Curtain: Colt Summit Appeals Resolution Meeting Notes

Pages from colt sum supplemental EA

One of my goals on this blog has been to try to share some of the “behind the scenes” that goes on with Forest Service projects, so that colleagues in academia and elsewhere can get an idea of what it’s like to be a practitioner in this world.

Here are the note from an appeals resolution meeting for the project we’ve been following, Colt Summit. Remember it was collaboratively developed, and the acres of commercial thinning reduced from 1298 to 597 based on public comment. This resolution call was open to the public.

Also remember that I said there were two pieces of information about “what groups want”. One is “what do you want to change about the analysis?” and the other is “what do you want to change on the ground for this project.”

In this transcript, the FS keeps asking “what do you want?”…and the appellants say “give us something and we’ll see if we like it.” That’s the old “bring me a rock” approach. And why should the FS “bring them a rock”?

Because, in the words of Sarah Jane Johnson “you are asking us to defend our appeal, we are all irritated by that, and we did a lot of work on our appeal, our offer is drop the project and do an EIS, you are supposed to provide a counter offer. ”

Hmm. “you are supposed to make a counteroffer..” is that in law, regulations or policy? Not that I recall.

This meeting resonated with me, as I have been in similar discussions with the same flavor, in fact it have me a flashback or two.

In the interests of being fair, I am posting the whole thing instead of an excerpt. Now it could be argued that the note-taker didn’t adequately capture the comments.. so perhaps all these meetings should be open to the public and videotaped?

May 25, 2011 1:30pm

Appeals Panel Resolution Meeting Conference Call

Notes taken by Allison Kolbe

Participants at Lolo SO: Scott Tomson, Tim Love, Barb Beckes, Tami Paulsen, Shane Hendrickson, Sandy Mack, Debbie Austin, Chris Partyka, Carly Lewis, Boyd Hartwig, Allison Kolbe

Debbie Austin: I will go over our agenda, we are here to resolve appeals for Colt Summit, the three appeals came from Friends of the Wild Swan and Montana Ecosystems Defense Council, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystem Council and the third from Native Ecosystem Council and Alliance for the Wild Rockies. We also received a Notice of Intent to Sue from the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of those groups.

This project had broad public involvement including participation by the Lolo Restoration Committee and the Southwest Crown of the Continent group. This project is unique because it is fully funded for implementation and for monitoring implementation and effects monitoring.

Our agenda for this meeting is:

1. Debbie Austin will make introductions, speak to why we are here (to see if we can come to resolution), introduce everyone in the meeting, we will go until 3:30 or 4pm if needed

2. Chris Partyka will go over the appeals process

3. Tim Love will give a Project Overview, including a quick summary of project including the

4. Sandy Mack will explain how we grouped the appeal points into issues

5. What do the appellants want to focus on, and what are their most important concerns?

6. Public on the call can comment

7. Closeout/Next Steps/Wrap‐Up/Resolved Issues

Participants in room introduced themselves: Debbie Austin, Sandy Mack, Shane Hendrickson, Boyd Hartwig, Tami Paulsen, Barb Beckes, Scott Tomson, Allison Kolbe, Carly Lewis, Chris Partyka

Participants on the phone introduced themselves: Arlene Montgomery, Steve Kelley, Michael Garrity, Sara Jane Johnson, Scott Brennan, Megan Birzell, Joe Kirkley, Melissa Hayes, and Julia Altemus.

Chris Partyka: The Administrative Appeals Process is designed to review public comments that question the decision that has been made, and anyone who submitted comments can appeal. There is a 45 day appeal period after the decision was made, then the appeal period closes and the Forest Service has 45 days to review the process and decision. This is an informal disposition meeting to try to resolve issues.

The Regional Appeal Panel determines whether we have done an adequate job of addressing issues that were brought up during the appeal period. The appeal panel is made of folks from other Forests and they are not hand selected. The panel reviews the issues and information and the Reviewing Officer
submits the findings to the Deputy Regional Forester who is the deciding officer and they determine whether the Forest did an adequate job. The Deciding Officer will uphold the decision, uphold the decision with instructions that there may be some item sthat could be covered in the project record, or withdraw decision and the Forest redoes the project. We are at day 15 and have until Tuesday to submit the project record to the Regional Office.

Sarah Jane Johnson: I question the chances of resolving the appeals, the chances are non‐existent that we will resolve any offers or changes by either side.

Debbie Austin: this is an opportunity for us to hear each other’s concerns.

Sarah Jane Johnson: We aren’t interested in going over our issues on our appeal, we have outlined them in our appeals. We aren’t going to argue our appeal.

Debbie Austin: we are here to see if we can do anything to move forward.

Chris Partyka: in these meetings there is an opportunity to find consensus, we can explain our analysis.

Sarah Jane Johnson: it sounds to me like you want to go through each of our issues.

Debbie Austin: we have grouped your issues, and we would like to discuss…

Sarah Jane Johnson: there is that word again, discuss, I don’t know what we will discuss, if you have questions, or if we do we could ask each other to clarify questions

Debbie Austin: the goal of meeting is to see if we can resolve, or clarify or gain a better understanding of issues.

Arlene Montgomery: you have seen our appeals, do you have something that you would want to change in the project? We have laid out what we think and what the deficiencies are, do you have something that the forest would propose?

Michael Garrity: we want to know if you are going to make any changes, otherwise this is a waste of time.

Debbie Austin: this is not an offer, counter‐offer process, I came to gain a better understanding of what your concerns were.

Michael Garrity: you have seen our appeal, if you are here to resolve our appeal then I want to hear how you are going to address our appeal, and I will tell you now I am not going to drop my appeal and I am willing to listen if you are going to make some changes.

Tim Love: The Colt Summit FONSI was signed March 25, 2011. The purpose and need of this project is to increase forest health, improve grizzly bear and bulltrout habitat by rerouting the Colt Road and to reduce fuels in WUI. The Modified Alternative shifted treatment to more understory slashing and prescribed burning and reduced commercial timber harvest by more than half. There was lots of public involvement, and we also met with research scientists. The Lolo Restoration Committee visited the project on a field trip, and the CSKT,DNRC, BLM, localfire district, and etc. also were involved. We had
FWS consult on both terrestrial and aquatic species.

Sandy Mack: we received 3 appeals that included 130 contentions or issues. We grouped them into 6 issues for ease of discussion. These issues are: lynx, grizzly bear, old growth and species viability for Management Indicator Species, soils and aquatics, WUI and treatments, and general NEPA including
CFLRP and request for an EIS.

Debbie Austin: did we miss anything?

Arlene Montgomery: you missed Cumulative Effects and the fact that there is an adjacent project on the Flathead, we don’t need to talk about it, you don’t mention it in your EA.

Sandy Mack: it is in the project record, we considered it when bears were analyzed, the 6th unit HUC for Clearwater happens to be a hydrologic boundary, the silviculturist looked at prescriptions and we looked at them on the ground and we used similar prescriptions.

Arlene Montgomery: It is not clear in your EA that you looked, quite frankly your EA is skimpy and I do not believe you did an effective cumulative effects analysis.

Debbie Austin: Arlene is there anything you would like to discuss?

Arlene Montgomery: we don’t want to go point by point over our appeal points to hear what you say you did.

Debbie Austin: what are the major issues that you really disagree with in this project?

Steve Kelley: it is not our job to design projects for you, you need to drop the project and do the EIS, and we did a lot of work in our comments and appeals, I don’t think this is going to serve anything.

Debbie Austin: what do you think an EIS is going to do?

Steve Kelley: I’ve been asking since 1987, we have a perfect understanding and I think we disagree, it is in the appeal, there is no ambiguity, then ask if you have questions, I’m clear and I understand the project, and I responded in the best way that I could.

Debbie Austin: instead of going over 130 things, I want to understand what truly are your concerns about the implementation over this particular project.

Arlene Montgomery: I think I clearly articulated in my appeal what I think the problems are in the project.

Steve Kelley: I don’t think we have a misunderstanding, we have a disagreement, isn’t this a fair assessment?

Chris Partyka: you seem to feel that there is a level of analysis that we did not do, looking at your appeal
points, then we went to the project record and were able to use that to answer your points. I suggest we tackle lynx or old growth so we can explain how we addressed something, it isn’tfai rfor us to ask you to go through the 1000 plus page appealrecord. Old growth for instance is very small at 17 acres of treatment and we hope to improve the old growth stand and protect it from future fire.

Steve Kelley: we totally understand that you think you can manage old growth, we just disagree.

Sarah Jane Johnson: old growth, you are telling me that you are doing a reasonable job of managing it and I don’t want to listen to you justify that you are managing it.

Debbie Austin: I want you to understand that we did make changes based on your comments, including with old growth, and the project is smaller in terms of activities than it was in the beginning.

Chris Partyka: do you want to offer us something,…

Michael Garrity: no we don’t, drop the decision and do an EIS which we think is what the law requires, and we understand that you disagree with that and I understand that.

Chris Partyka: I was hoping that we could find common ground, this project is a small tidbit at trying to find common ground, how do we get there, is this the flavor of everything from here on out, why can’t we just go over certain points? I was hoping we could resolve it with…

Sarah Jane Johnson: the confusion is we aren’t collaborating in this meeting.

Debbie Austin: no, we don’t intend it to be collaboration, but we want to discuss how we could move this project forward and discuss our agreements.

Sarah Jane Johnson: you are asking us to defend our appeal, we are all irritated by that, and we did a lot of work on our appeal, our offer is drop the project and do an EIS, you are supposed to provide a counter offer.

Debbie Austin: you guys did a lot of work on your appeal and we appreciate that, we also did a lot of work on our end, we haven’t necessarily seen yet what we will gain from doing an EIS.

Arlene Montgomery: I disagree that your analysis was thorough, and it looks like specialists reports that were just cut and pasted in the EA, for instance hydrology brought up wildlife issues that weren’t addressed by wildlife, this is one of the poorest EAs I’ve seen.

Michael Garrity: let’s just see what the appeal review board says.

Debbie Austin: I’ll now provide the public a chance to comment.

Michael Garrity: I’m going to hang up.

There were no public comments.

Meeting ended at 14:15

81 thoughts on “Behind the Curtain: Colt Summit Appeals Resolution Meeting Notes”

  1. Sharon, thanks for posting, this is interesting. But I find some of your remarks a little confusing, for example:

    In this transcript, the FS keeps asking “what do you want?”…and the appellants say “give us something and we’ll see if we like it.” That’s the old “bring me a rock” approach. And why should the FS “bring them a rock”?

    Because, in this instance, you quote the appellants, and you have even put quotation marks around what you claim they are saying (“give us something and we’ll see if we like it”). But, you’ve quoted something that they never said. This is false attribution, and misleading (one type of false attribution being when an advocate appeals to a fabricated source in support of an argument; here, your supposed quote is fabricated).

    This obviously wasn’t a very productive meeting. I do agree with your point that one important piece of information is regarding what appellants want to change about the analysis. I think they very clearly say that the project requires an EIS (rather than an EA), and that it needs to be done. In other words, the analysis was flawed. Their extensive appeal documents support the idea that an EIS should be done, and aren’t necessarily a laundry list of specific items to negotiate. If that’s the case, then the question of ‘what do you want to change on the ground for this project’ isn’t really relevant, because nickel-and-diming specific details of the project doesn’t really address the fundamental issue that an EIS is needed (in appellants’ viewpoint).

    The FS seems to be primarily addressing the second issue (what project specifics to change), and I would guess that is to obviate the need to go back and do a full EIS, which is of course a major undertaking. So the two sides are coming at this from very different fundamental viewpoints. It’s not surprising that they aren’t finding much common ground, and I don’t really see a reason to fault either side based only on this discussion.

    • “False and misleading” ? because I paraphrased them… oh well. You can be free to disagree with the way I paraphrased it but it still seems like “bring me a rock” to me.

      Reasonable people could disagree about whether this project requires an EIS. But generally through my experience, people don’t litigate because they want more paragraphs and different analysis but because they want a different physical outcome on the ground at the end of the day. My experience is not “wrong”; but that is not to say that these folks are the same as the folks I have run into in my prior experience.

      • Quotation and paraphrasing are different, that’s all. The distinction is significant, even (or especially) in a blog. Ideally, what you claim someone else said (by purporting to quote them) should be the same as what they actually said.

        e.g., (this is a quotation):
        “DIRECT QUOTATION… presenting the exact words of another writer through quotation is an important way to support your own ideas. Correct quotation tells your reader that you respect your sources, that you know how to distinguish between your own work and the work of others, that you will not allow your source’s words to dominate your writing, and that you will not plagiarize–make unacknowledged use of another writer’s words and ideas. Quotation is not a substitute for paraphrase: information from the text restated in your own words. Therefore, try to use direct quotations only for those times you judge to be essential; it is also recommended that you follow a quotation with an explanation of its relevance to your paragraph and or an interpretation of its meaning.” (Emphasis added)

        • Quotation and paraphrasing are different, that’s all. The distinction is significant, even (or especially) in a blog. Ideally, what you claim someone else said (by purporting to quote them) should be the same as what they actually said.

          Well said and reasoned Guy. Careful observers of this blog will note that this has been an on-going problem and issue, at least in my opinion. And I have a hard time understanding how anyone could possible argue the other side of this coin.

  2. Well, I find plenty to fault here. Sara Jane immediately jumps on the FS saying there’s no chance for changes — and it goes downhill from there, just a dogpile from those pretty much opposed to anything involving human intervention for any reason. I’m surprised it was 45 minutes long instead of 15.
    The managed part of the project involves two sections of land, which has been already compromised and collaborated into a puny one section minus — which is trivial in context of the larger landscape. The planet will not stop turning if some trees get cut — and this is “funded” meaning the taxpayers are already on the hook for a loser.
    The takeaway from this is, the Greens have no intention whatsoever of being open-minded and reasonable. It’s their way or the highway, period, and it’s too bad the general public can’t witness this kind of badditude for themselves — and comprehend that the LAW itself mandates that bad actors such as these are guaranteed a place at the table and before the bench.

      • Larry, I know you didn’t mean to say this, but it might sound to some like you meant all eco folks.. there are a variety of ecofolks and ecogroups as you know, and in the Colt Summit case many did collaborate, and if my aging brain remembers correctly some even supported the FS in their legal case..

        Groups have different views and tactics and people have different personalities. I think this one is interesting because it is one of the collaborative efforts that has been litigated, so it makes me wonder “whassup with that?”

        • Our local collaborative does have a few eco-groups involved, adding their spin but, still “coloring within the lines”. I’d bet that they have been accused of being “turncoats”. Some groups seem to feel that merely being involved in collaboration implies that they are part of the “machine”. I’d also bet that some groups see collaboration as “forcing their hand” in filing lawsuits, too.

          My comment was in response to Sarah’s quotes, where she is basically saying “My way, or the court way”.

          • When eco-groups talk about opposing “clearcutting Roadless Areas”, what can we assume about their motives? Or, better yet, what SHOULD we assume about their motives? Just WHERE is the Forest Service proposing this?!?!? Maybe JL can enlighten us about this. *smirk*

  3. It sounds like Sarah is saying, we’ll consider a compromise if you do an EIS, otherwise we’ll see you in court. Sounds like extortion, to me. It seems like every serial litigator wants an EIS for every project, as their “Plan A”.

  4. For another perspective . . . here’s the FS documentation for the Crater Ridge project informal resolution meeting. In substance, it says: “We did not reach resolution on any of the issues. We discussed the record and various aspects of it for approximately 45 minutes.”

    What’s not recounted is the give-and-take of that 45-minute discussion. It went down like this:

    FSEEE: “You should withdraw your decision to log Crater Ridge for the reasons we stated in our appeal.”

    District Ranger: “I won’t withdraw my decision to log Crater Ridge.”

    The rest of the time was spent with FSEEE asking questions about certain reforestation-related documents and the FS agreeing to provide them, if available.

    In the denouement, to refresh readers’ memories, FSEEE prevailed in its appeal on all counts.

    Sometimes no purpose is served by putting forward a compromise position, e.g., when the entire proposal is illegal.

      • The analysis seemed to be illegal…at least according to the judge.

        And I believe one of the people at the appeal resolution meeting pointed that out with respect to the cumulative effects of a nearby project. The Forest Service said it’s in the record. And the judge said, maybe, but it isn’t in the analysis. So instead of wasting tons of taxpayer dollars they could have just redid that part of the analysis, which was pointed out during the appeal resolution meeting. Now that the agency has lost in court and dumped so many resources into their EA does anyone really think that they would turn around and say yeah, you’re right, this may significantly impact the environment and we should have prepared an EIS in the first instance like the appellants asked? Hell no, it was a foregone conclusion they would just paper over the analysis.

        Question: How many times has the agency prepared an EA and then actually decided to complete an EIS without court intervention? Answer: Virtually never. NEPA is a paper exercise for an agency that wants to maintain maximum discretion and is just jumping through the hoops.

        If this project is ever implemented it will be very interesting to see what the post-monitoring data shows. There are lynx using that area on the west side of the road now. I bet they won’t be after this project is implemented. If they are no longer present, what will that monitoring data mean for future timber sales in critical habitat? I’m sure the agency will make up some excuse for why logging doesn’t have any significant impacts necessary to trigger an EIS in the future.

        The big greens don’t know about lynx. They know they haven’t gotten wilderness designated in a very long time. Correlation for why they collaborate on timber sales in critical habitat: you be the judge.

          • Larry, Could you please provide the name of which forests you believe “designate ALL lands above a certain elevation as ‘Potential Lynx Habitat’ (without even doing a survey), off-limits to ALL timber management?” Thank you.

            Also, how come the Lolo National Forest (and other national forests in the Northern Region) can continue to log within “potential lynx habitat,” yet according to what you say is true, “potential lynx habitat” is “off-limits to ALL timber management?” Thanks.

            • When I worked on the Bitterroot, we had to stay below an elevational line, which designated the “Potential Lynx Habitat”. I was working on a salvage project, and the line went right through a very large patch of dead trees. Above that line was a seemingly endless amount of dead trees, from the wildfires, with bark beetles killing off the survivors. (Yes, I have pictures that have been posted here, in the past) I have to assume that it isn’t just the Bitterroot that had this policy, back in 2004. I’m wondering that since it is so difficult to actually survey for lynx, that this policy was their best choice to “protect” them. Maybe once those dead trees were virtually worthless, through decay, they were willing to “sacrifice” that land to the lynx.

              Here’s a link to an aerial view of a salvage unit I worked on, with the upper boundary centered.
              Of course, some people will focus on the past cutting practices, ignoring the reality of using a new and somewhat arbitrary line to designate “potential” habitat.

              Here in California, even before the last wolverine sighting, we were “protecting” its “habitat”, despite no sightings in many decades.

              • The Lolo’s a bit different from that Bitterroot protocol that Larry referenced, they have a kind of complicated formula called the “UPDATED MID-LEVEL HABITAT CLASSIFICATION AND MAPPING CRITERIA FOR CANADA LYNX”, where:
                POTENTIAL LYNX HABITAT = (1) Elevation – (2) PNV non forest + (3) Vegetation – (4) VMAP 9 high elevation non forest

                which is basically start at 4,500 feet to 5,200 feet (except Seeley Lake area anything over 4,500), must be north aspect, then subtract non-forest, then apply Potential Natural Vegetation classification which excludes some forest types, then omit some other shrubby etc. vegetation types and omit elevation over 7,000 feet (not much forest there anyway). Then a little hocus-pocus and some voodoo magic, some folks believe, and voila: mapped potential lynx habitat. Then of course need to map stand initiation stage etc. to see what supports snowshoe hare winter forage…

          • Not all timber management is “off limits” in “critical habitat”. The Colt Summit project is a perfect example.

            Perhaps the small greens should let the Forest Service cut in the critical habitat units where the telemetry data shows lynx are active and the agency claims the habitat will be maintained. If lynx no longer use the area after the cutting, then the Forest Service shouldn’t be allowed to cut in critical habitat again.

            • You need to start reading our previous discussions on this. I seem to remember something about the area not being used by the lynx, with them crossing the highway in other places. How can it be “critical habitat”, when portions of it have been cut in the past and a highway goes right through the middle of it? I also don’t remember it being labeled as “critical habitat”, a legally-binding designation, if named by the proper Agencies.

              • It is a mistake to think about “critical habitat” in terms of one specific area. Critical habitat is made up of “primary constituent elements.” No site-specific area contains all of the primary constituent elements. It is the landscape as a whole that contains the PCEs.

                That is why lynx habitat has to be thought about (and managed) at the landscape scale.

                Unfortunately, the Forest Service has never consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure its programmatic management document will not allow for the “adverse modification” of critical habitat, which is illegal under the ESA. Notably, the programmatic management document (Northern Rockies Lynx Management Direction) does acknowledge that it allows the agency to move forward with projects that will have “adverse effects” to critical habitat on over 700,000 acres of Forest Service land. Will those “adverse effects” result in “adverse modification” which is illegal under the ESA? We don’t know, because the Forest Service refuses to consult on the document.

                The 2009 rule designating critical habitat said that management recommendations for critical habitat is most appropriate in subsequent management documents. In other words, the current management document (Northern Rockies Lynx Management Direction) that the Forest Service refuses to consult on, is outdated and needs to replaced.

                The Colt Summit timber sale (and all others in critical habitat) shouldn’t go forward until the agency consults on its outdated management direction or follows the Fish and Wildlife Service’s advice and puts together new programmatic management direction that protects critical habitat.

                • Doesn’t allowing “whatever happens” (eliminating management) represent “adverse effects”??? Couldn’t one say the same thing about the entire western US, claiming that all historic grizzly bear and wolf territory is “critical habitat”, or even “potential habitat”? It seems like your idea of “critical habitat” differs from the legal definition.

                  • My definition is the same basic legal definition of critical habitat for Canada lynx. 74 Fed. Reg. 8616, 8638 (2009) (“Lynx use habitat at a landscape scale, which means that no single locality (small scale) contains all of the required habitat elements that lynx need to ensure survival and reproduction.”

                    Are you saying that if we eliminated management in lynx critical habitat there would be adverse effects to lynx? If that is your position I would disagree because the reason lynx were listed was the lack of standards in forest plans regarding management.

                    • I was talking about specific pieces of land, legally-designated and on the books, instead of some generic description that lacks having established lands set aside. I wonder how many lynx were incinerated in fires in the last 20 years. Adverse effects, indeed! Lands that burn at high intensities do kill animals. A few final questions. Why isn’t the lynx extinct, due to the last 100 years of logging? If previous destructive logging didn’t kill it off, what makes people think that today’s more enlightened land management will send them the way of the Dodo?

                    • “Why isn’t the lynx extinct, due to the last 100 years of logging? If previous destructive logging didn’t kill it off, what makes people think that today’s more enlightened land management will send them the way of the Dodo?” See my response to “Spectator.” FWS did not find that habitat destruction threatens the lynx’s survival.

            • “If lynx no longer use the area after the cutting, then the Forest Service shouldn’t be allowed to cut in critical habitat again.”

              Using that same logic, if we find lynx in old clearcuts, shouldn’t we make more? *SMIRK*

              • Two points here:

                1. You said if we find lynx in “old” clearcuts. Which is entirely different than finding them in new clearcuts. We shouldn’t be cutting where they are actively found, because the science says they don’t use areas that are recently cut.

                2. Do lynx need old clearcuts to survive? That is different than saying they are found in old clearcuts. The reason lynx are listed is because of cutting, not because of the lack of it.

                • I pick my words carefully. I used “old” for a good reason, as I am not a fan of clearcutting, myself. I’m merely making fun of your idea that if we don’t find lynx, on a given piece of land, that they don’t like it. What if a lynx was there the day before you surveyed? What if an uncollared cat was there but, not detected? What if the lynx saw you but you didn’t see it? Of course, when I smirk, that just might mean I am joking, ya know. You cannot say that just because lynx need varied habitat, that we should protect all of those varied habitats from any management. Then, there is also the problem of other endangered species needing much different habitats than the lynx. Goshawks need both dense nesting habitats, and open stands for hunting. Should we preserve their hunting habitat until it becomes nesting habitat, eventually starving the birds?

                  I doubt that lynx will just die if they don’t get all the lands as “critical habitat”. With management plans, we can mitigate effects and restore habitat, where it is needed. That being said, I’m not in favor of managing pure lodgepole stands. I would think that there is plenty of those kinds of lands, which we could set aside for “critical lynx habitat”. In other mixed stands, we can do other things, “for the greater good”, including lynx, loggers, birds, snails and slugs, etc.

                  • “With management plans, we can mitigate effects and restore habitat, where it is

                    The problem is that the agency is using an outdated management plan that has never undergone Section 7 ESA consultation to drive all of these projects. Once the agency puts a new management plan in place as suggested by the FWS, then we can get into the weeds of whether it mitigates and restores habitat.

                    • “The problem is that the agency is using an outdated management plan that has never undergone Section 7 ESA consultation to drive all of these projects.”

                      In 2007, the Forest Service amended its forest plans with the “Northern Rockies Lynx Management Direction,” to which FWS gave an ESA Section 7 consultation thumbs-up.

                      Is there some reason for thinking this 2007 plan is out-dated? Not according to Judge Molloy, as of 2012.

                    • Andy, they never did the adverse modification analysis as part of the 2007 consultation. Why not? Because no critical habitat had been designated. Why not? Julie Macdonald. So in 2009 when they finally designated over 12 million acres of critical habitat on National Forest Lands (which should have been designated in 2000 when they were listed) the designation rule said this:

                      “Specific management recommendations for areas designated as critical habitat are most appropriately addressed in subsequent recovery and management plans.” 74 Fed. Reg. 8616, 8623.

                    • I understand the argument — the subsequent designation of critical habitat, per se, makes the 2007 lynx plan out-dated. So far, as a matter of law, that argument has prevailed in the district court. But, as a practical matter, is there anything about the critical habitat designation that calls into question the biological reasoning of the 2007 lynx plan? A strong argument on the science would help bolster a legal doctrine that has taken some hits.

                    • Fair enough question.

                      What do you think of the Draft 2013 LCAS? It makes me think the agency is considering a new programmatic management document. They probably wouldn’t move on something like that until the litigation is done because it would give the plaintiffs more ammo.

                    • Here’s what you said, again: “If lynx no longer use the area after the cutting, then the Forest Service shouldn’t be allowed to cut in critical habitat again.”

                      Of course, I was talking about old clearcuts, from a past paradigm, which, obviously, have been cut. What kind of time frame do you put on such lands, before you consider them “old” and usable? I rather doubt that comprehensive studies have been made about how much time must pass before those lands become “habitat”.

                      Also, what about non-clearcut managed areas? You seem to be assuming that future management would be clearcuts. Your “all lands” approach seems to include such areas, too. Also, Andy is saying that timber sales have no effect on viability. In forests, I tend to distrust most absolutes. Yeah, I’m kinda crazy that way. *smirk*

                      One side talks about ever-changing updates and “best available science”, while the other talks about “moving the goalposts”. Collaboration seeks to come up with viable compromises, in a pure sense, in a perfect world. It is up to us moderates to sort out stuff and come up with something everyone can live with. I do understand that there are people who want to eliminate your point of view from collaborative issues. Since I am learning about the lynx, I welcome a meeting of the minds to make good decisions, instead of selfish bickering.

                      As I have said before, collaboration’s best feature is public education, and we cannot use the process to arrive at biased decisions by people who refuse to compromise. It cannot be a fix-all if consensus is not reached.

                    • What kind of time frame do you put on cut over lands before they are old and useable? “[T]imber harvest, resulting in little or no understory structure, is unsuitable as snowshoe hare habitat for lynx foraging. That temporarily unsuitable stand would regenerate into suitable snowshoe hare (lynx foraging) habitat within 10-25 years, depending on local conditions.” 74 Fed. Reg. 8616, 8637 (2009) citing Reudiger et al. 2000.

                      I did not talk about clearcuts until after you mentioned the word. I’m certainly open to talking about other types of less invasive management.

                      The science says that timber management can benefit lynx. I believe that. Although I don’t think it is appropriate in areas where lynx are present (some of the cutting units on the west side of the road in Colt Summit) or by relying on an outdated management plan.

                      People that teach collaboration will tell you to protect yourself from making an agreement you should reject. In other words, not every collaborative effort will or should lead to some sort of deal being made. It seems like we need to be okay with that if we want collaboration to be taken seriously.

                    • Spectator:

                      You’ve been making some thoughtful and informative comments lately, and obviously have a great deal of insight into federal regulations and lynx habitat, so I am curious: why do you use a pseudonym?

                • “The reason lynx are listed is because of cutting, not because of the lack of it.”

                  Not true. FWS did not find that the “The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment of Its Habitat or Range” qualified the lynx for listing: “We further conclude that timber harvest and fire suppression may have regional or local impacts but do not currently threaten the contiguous United States population.”

                  FWS listed the lynx solely on the basis of the “Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms,” i.e., there are not adequate federal and state lynx conservation plans in place.

                    • In case you are still spectating, I don’t believe that the Forest Service wants to revisit the entire NRLMD based on the 2013 LCAS. After the scramble to try get adequate regulatory mechanisms in place to prevent listing in 2000, the expectation was to fold future lynx planning into (still) pending individual forest plan revisions.

                      I’m not sure why you left the blank to fill in, since it is spelled out in the listing decision: “These criteria included, but are not limited to, precommercial thinning, fire management, landscape patterns, winter recreation, and monitoring. Individually, these criteria may not impart substantial impacts on the DPS, however, current Plans do allow actions that cumulatively could result in significant detrimental effects to the DPS.”

                      That plans might ‘allow’ effects to a greater degree than they have occurred in the past (and thus were not factors in the listing) is an interesting assumption.

                  • I know that everyone will not agree with the suitability of my comment – but the FWS efforts to protect the Canadian Lynx include very large Habitat Conservation Plans with at least one major forestry company as part of the need to meet the Landscape level requirements of the Canadian Lynx.

  5. Sharon suggests that the informal appeal resolutions meetings be open to the public and videotaped. I agree. But, when I tried to do so (record the informal resolution meeting associated with FSEEE’s appeal of a part of the Biscuit salvage logging project), the forest supervisor barred me from doing so. I know of no legal ban against recording these meetings.

    • Andy, the Biscuit was a while back. I am only thinking the Supe was thinking “this could be trouble.” And it certainly could have been. But today we are more used to things being recorded and if there was one settlement session with all appellants/objectors involved…, everyone would be on their “not closed door” behavior anyway.

  6. These notes were written by Allison Kolbe, who was (and perhaps still is) a Public Affairs Specialist for the Lolo National Forest.

    Too bad the appellants didn’t have the resources to hire a PR specialists to attend this meeting and take notes on their behalf. If they did, it would certainly be interesting to “compare notes”, eh?

    Sharon: Can you please provide a link to where these notes are found? Thanks.

    I too would support the Forest Service video taping these meetings and posting the entire video on-line for interested members of the public to view. I’d support the same thing with any “collaborative” meetings run by the Forest Service, or including Forest Service officials.

    • I think we have blog consensus that all meetings involving the management of public resources should be fully transparent and videotaped and/or recorded for future reference. The costs are minor, and the benefits seems obvious.

      • I agree with the need for transparency and as others have stated, it applies not only to meetings but also to the scientific basis for the positions taken by all parties in any contested resource management issue.

    • Yes, too bad Matt…it certainly would be interesting. Breaks of the activist lifestyle, I suppose. But then again, if I read the Guidestar report correctly, AWR brought in almost three quarters of a million from 2008-2012. I’m sure they could afford to hire a scribe for a few hours…if it were in their (et al.) interests to do so. I know you are a fact checker and will correct me if I’m wrong.

      Good suggestion with video taping the appeal resolution meetings. What happens when it’s done over the phone though, as most appeal/objection resolution meetings are? In my experience, it would be the appellants that would not be in favor of such an approach. It seems (to me) that the more people involved, the less the appellants are willing to dialogue. It’s a fear of conflict thing, I guess. Not sure cameras would help. Easier to do things in writing than in person. For better or worse.

      I’d agree about video taping “collaborative meetings” run by the FS. What an opportunity that would be! Not being a smart-ass (well maybe a little), but C-Span is darned boring…maybe we should lobby for some air time??? I’m sure folks back in Jersey, Michigan, NY, etc would love to tune in and watch discussion of big tree retention and EA vs. EIS and so on. What do you think??? Honestly, I think interested (and even critical) folks would learn a lot about what does and more importantly does not go on during these meetings. Maybe it would be the impetus needed to *GASP* spend the time/money/resources to go and participate!!!

      That would be my expectation of such an effort. Alas, I know you and your friends have other views. Of course short of Forest Plan revision(s) the FS doesn’t convene “collaborative meetings” to gather concensus views for projects. That would be a violation of the FACA. Never saw or have seen any of those allegations, yet (project specific).

      “Collaborative” meetings NOT convened/run by the FS, (even those that may include FS officials) could not be subject to this “transparency” requirement, unless we also get full insider access to the “other (enviro) side” as well. Gotta play fair. Wow, gee….now we’re talking about collaboration and playing with all the cards up!!!

      As far as the transparency thing, it would seem that the FS can do no right unless you expect EVERY conversation with an environmental “activist”, or any public for that matter are video taped / published for public viewing per your and Bob’s new standards. I’m all for that, but that’s plotting a new course for the Agency…..and to what end?

      • Yes, JZ, because everyone knows that when trying to hold the federal government of the United States of America accountable a few hundred thousand dollars a year goes a long, long ways.

        Hey, speaking of money:

        And, speaking of holding the US Federal Gov’t accountable:

        On Tuesday, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Friends of the Wild Swan filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland, Ore., alleging that the USFWS has dragged its feet for more than a decade in developing a recovery plan for bull trout in the northwestern U.S….

        AWR first sued the USFWS over the lack of designation of critical habitat for bull trout in 2001.

        Almost two years later, the USFWS proposed including a vast area for bull trout habitat: more than 18,000 miles of stream and almost 533,000 acres of lakes in Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

        But when the final habitat rule was published in October 2004, it included less than 2,000 miles of stream and 61,000 acres of lakes, none of which were in Montana.

        AWR sued again, suggesting that the change in habitat was politically motivated by USFWS Under-Secretary Julie McDonald, a senior Bush administration appointee.

        McDonald resigned under pressure in 2007 before a 2008 U.S. Inspector General report established that McDonald had tampered with scientific evidence, removed species and habitat from protected status and gave internal documents to oil-industry lobbyists and property-rights groups.

        • I watched the FS spend hundred of thousands of dollars managing for Bull trout on the Willamette National Forests. Never enough is it?

          • And many of us watched the FS spend hundreds of millions of dollars cutting down most of the ancient, old growth forests and punching roads into the heart of roadless areas on the Willamette National Forest. Never enough is it?

            • Matthew:

              I don’t know how many of the timber sales on the Willamette National Forest were in old-growth and how many were in 2nd- growth, but I can guarantee you that the USFS did NOT spend “hundreds of millions of dollars” cutting them down. In fact, these operations MADE hundreds of millions of dollars that were funneled into federal, state, and county treasuries and that created thousands of jobs supporting thousands of families — without affecting water quality, air quality, biodiversity, or aesthetics in any significant manner. And while increasing recreational opportunities for thousands of families during the process. These weren’t loser “restoration” sales, these were actual, profitable, timber sales.

              Could they have been designed better? Yes. Have these sales had a negative impact or a positive impact on “forest health?” Depends entirely on your own personal perspective. I would say more positive than negative by a large margin, but that is just my perspective, however well informed.

      • As one of the “transparency” inclined folks.. I would say any Post Collaboration Concession discussions should be open to folks involved in the collaborative and be publicly available.. phone recordings are fine, I realize that most occur via phone. I think it would be interesting to try this approach on this sample and see how it works. Notes would be OK except would people agree on them? and more paperwork and emails…

    • I’m willing to post any notes anyone took. I’m not a good notetaker, but have been known to do it without hiring someone, when asked.

      I don’t have a link. I received it in an email. Anyone out there seen it online?

      • So, Sharon, the Forest Service hasn’t made the notes taken by the Forest Service’s Public Affairs Officer available to the general public? Someone, I assume at the Forest Service, sent them to you via email? Will you tell us who you obtained these notes from? Yep, talk about “behind the curtain.”

        And for the record, at one point you refer to these notes taken by the Forest Service Public Affairs Officer as a “transcript,” which would mean they are an “exact copy or reproduction” of the actual meeting proceedings….which I very much doubt is true.

        • Matthew, as I’ve said before, I would be happy if the FS would post all of these documents and photos and videos of the project in an easy to find format.

          But these notes, as well as many other interesting documents, are in the admin record for the litigation, so if some eyes can see, I think all eyes should be able to see.

  7. These meeting minutes depress me, especially when the conflict has less to do with the decision-making process (e.g., NEPA) and more to do with the values associated with the project. While I contend the FS could make a better effort of engaging different perspectives in developing the “why” for a project, using an appeal to argue value-laden topics is frustrating at best. Given this project’s purpose to take action, the following questions could be asked when contemplating the project’s design:

    Should the forest health be improved/increased in this particular area? Why?
    Does the grizzly bear habitat in the project area need to be improved? If so, what’s wrong?
    Does the Colt Road jeopardize the integrity of grizzly bear and bull trout habitat? If so, how should it be addressed to improve these species’ habitat conditions?
    Do the fuel amounts in the Wildland Urban Interface increase the risk of people losing their lives or personal property?

    Striving to understand whether interested perspectives agree that these are problems to address – before a proposed action is issued – would be a more productive use of people’s time rather than arguing values within a constrained post-decision environment (e.g., informal resolution process).

    • Tony, since this is a collaborative project with a large collaborative group, I think those ideas were probably addressed in detail by that group. I know there are readers of this blog who were involved in the collaborative group and maybe they can speak to that.

      This is a different group, so what we’re talking about here is what we might call
      “Post- Collaborative Concessions” with different groups than the ones involved during those discussions (or maybe they were involved, but disagree with aspects of the project).

      • Tony, since this is a collaborative project with a large collaborative group, I think those ideas were probably addressed in detail by that group.

        I’m not sure that’s entirely true, Sharon. Well, at least if we give some weight to what was in, or not in, the official U.S. Forest Service project file for the Colt Summit Timber Sale.

        “This project was very controversial because it was supported by groups and individuals associated with the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative. But although the Montana Wilderness Association, the National Wildlife Federation and the Wilderness Society claimed they were heavily involved in the development of the project, the project records gave no indication of that. The project was proposed by the Forest Service and then supported by those groups — despite the fact that there were no discussions of the impacts to lynx between the collaborators and the Forest Service.” – Mike Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies

        • Matt has proven, at least to me, that not every collaborative group is created equal, or “fair and balanced”. All views should be represented, even if they go against the Forest Service’s desired outcome. If that desired outcome is strong enough in science and public support, it should be relatively easy to explain why it should be the selected outcome. On the other hand, if eco-extreme ideas are used for obfuscation, delay and “monkeywrenching”, that should be cause for censure. I really don’t like the idea of stacking the groups with members who will “vote” against eco-groups’ ideas, in a kneejerk kind of way. If an idea is a bad one, tell us why it is bad, in a transparent and truthful way.

          Every decision, or non-decision is a compromise and serious trade-offs often exist. It is important to me that there is balance and open discussion, as well as expediency.

        • Let’s see.. you know both things could be true..could they have been involved in discussions about lynx and it not been in the project record? Conceivably, yes, suppose they were out on a field trip.

          The statement makes it sound like MWA and NWF and TWS are all lying… which makes me wonder about Mr. Garrity’s general fairness and accuracy in writing. There’s only a fuzzy line between strong statements, misstatements and hype. You can choose to express yourself that way, hoping to get people enthused and supporting your views. But you also lose the people who are more careful with facts and accuracy, who then don’t believe things you say without independent verification .

          And therefore, given that I am not going to read the project record (unless someone pays me to), if I had to believe Garrity or the other groups, I guess I’d have to go with the other three groups.

  8. “all meetings involving the management of public meetings should be full transparent and videotaped and/or recorded for future reference. The costs are minor, and the benefits seems obvious.”

    Good point.

    “Striving to understand whether interested perspectives agree that these are problems to address – before a proposed action is issued – would be a more productive use of people’s time rather than arguing values within a constrained post-decision environment”

    Another good point.

    • I meant “management of public resources should be fully transparent,” of course, but the meaning is still about the same (used “edit” to fix the original comment). I don’t remember the last time there was such agreement about something on this blog, but it has been awhile. Good to know we all seem to be on about the same page regarding this issue of the need for government transparency in both politics and science.

      • Yay, I agree, Bob! We are onto something here.

        So far we have agreed on 1) monitoring and some data transparency
        and 2) public decisions being as transparent as possible.

        I think the public needs to talk about what gets out, why and how, and we need to have an open discussion about pros and cons.

        I am speaking as a person who had my emails (possibly, they were in the record) read by someone reviewing the admin record for litigation. If unknown folks working for plaintiffs can read all that stuff, then everyone should be able to.

        Yes, it could cause a lot of drama and headaches, but there is already a lot of drama and headaches. Sometimes you have to take some risks and try something new. And this Administration is committed to transparency so this would be the time to try it IMHO before we get into pre-election hyperfear.

        • Sharon

          There is even video of the Prez making his commitment to openness and transparency.


  9. Thanks for digging this up Sharon! It really appealed to my macabre sense of humor….I laughed a lot while reading it. You are probably the only person here who can understand that!

  10. This is a good case study of a problem with the Forest Service appeals/objection processes. They usually start with the premise that (like Andy and Tony suggested) the parties agree with the purpose and need, but disagree with how to a achieve it. In many cases, that is not true. In some cases they do not want any project. In other cases, they may not be sure what they want because the agency has not provided sufficient information in the NEPA process to make an informed decision. This project obviously falls into one of the latter categories. A meeting between the parties is likely counter-productive in these kinds of situations, and such situations could easily be identified in the exchange of letters.

    • Some eco-groups don’t want to go on record as being against the thinning of small, but merchantable trees. It’s not good for donations to be so public about their inflexibility and anti-management slants. They want the NEPA to fit their view of how things should be. Some groups will never agree that fuels reductions and fire safety are issues we should manage, by reducing stocking levels, restoring species compositions and having diverse forest structures. In other words, “restoration”.

  11. “Bull trout”: once they were one species, S. malmo, called “Dolly Varden.” Then in the 1980s, the biologists divided them into two distinct species based on habitat and use (why?). The old Salvelinus Malmo was retained for those with access to the sea, and those above dams or other barriers were named S. Confluentus. They were fluvial creatures, in stream migrators, who also went high in watersheds to spawn, eating all the way. Their competition is the introduced S. Fontanalis (Eastern Brook trout), which evidently breeds and hatches in a timeframe that enables their young to predate on the eggs and fry of the “bull trout.” The native fish has an introduced (by Oregon and the Feds) predator that pares the number of Bull Trout in a stream system.

    In Montana, years ago, I was looking at some timber up the Shields River, and saw this electroshocking crew. They were shocking the creek, and throwing the Eastern Brook and rainbow trout on the bank so as to save native cutthroat. Always curious, I went to the ranger station and read the decision. This is the corker: The funding came from the Exxon Valdez settlement with the USFS!!!! Region One used the blood and oil money to kill fish!!! And where, where, was the environmental dismay and litigation? There was none. Same way today. USFWS hiring shotgunners to kill Barred owls to expand NSO habitat. Selective deaths. USFS has its own eugenics division. Fealty to the Native Species!

    The only problem I see in Oregon is that our Governor will not allow the execution of a death sentenced prisoner. None. Ever. On his watch. Yet he is allowing the killing of Darwin’s invading Barred Owls. Why? Because he is faithful to the money that elects him and his party to office. He is not going to offend the political donors. Biology is supported by money, and we get the biology we pay for, or someone pays for. Milo Minderbinder Biology. The American Way.

    Dams have precluded anadromous salmon and their eggs, offspring, and carcasses from the food web, chain, leaving the bull trout to predate on resident species. As they seek the highest accessible areas of the watersheds for spawning, they also eat a lot of the resident fish. Thus, there is not a habitat limit on their numbers in terms of soil disturbance and tree cover, but a dam induced food shortage to which they have adapted. Also, there is the introduced Brook Trout, which limits Bull Trout spawning success. But how easy to attribute that to some prior logging.

    Some Bull Trout populations, like on the Metolius River, which now uses the Warm Springs Confederated Tribe’s reservoir, Lake Billy Chinook, for a feed ground, work on the introduced land locked sockeye called Kokanee and do well. They need to attain a size and weight to be capable spawners. Good feed provides for that. They are very successful in that environment. Knowing all this, and more, dueling biologists, expert witnesses, have managed to create a picture of the beleaguered bull trout as a victim of logging and forest management.

    The very same fish, in its anadromous phenotype, is very much present in increasing abundance the further north you go along the Pacific Coast, and very abundant from the Haida Gwai north to where they come in conflict with Arctic char and other species at the epicenters of their habitats. They are a salmon follower, just like the old “harvest trout” we fished for on Oregon’s coastal estuaries and streams when they were called “blueback” while silvery and feeding in the bays and along the beaches. Those were O. Clarki, the anadromous cutthroat trout of the coastal streams. I caught the most beautiful one I have ever seen in SE Alaska in my younger days when I was logging up there. Black green on top, and then gradations of dark greens shading to yellows on the sides down to the belly, with the blood red gill plates, fin tips, all of it covered with ebony spots. No way you do anything but gently release a fish like that. We kept the Dollys and smoked them and their worms. Brine them in salt to get most of the worms to leave. The Dollys, like the sea run cuts, were in the streams both to breed and to eat the offerings of salmon: eggs, fry, and shards of spawned out flesh, the detritus of eagle, gull, bear and raven feeding. That is not a part of above dam habitat, especially Lookout Point and Hills Creek dams on the upper Willamette.

    Protecting Portland and towns upriver from floods is the reason for the 12 dams of the Willamette Project. Loss of anadromous fish runs is an unfortunate result. No amount of habitat work above a dam can restore S. confluentus to its former numbers. Remember, this is a salmon fry and smolt eating machine, which had a bounty on it in Oregon until the early 1950s, just because of their measurable impact on salmon spawning, and out migration impacts due to net numbers of smolts consumed. They were not killed for table fare. They are oily, and palatable at best. A salt fish or smoked fish at best.

    When I was a little kid, and on the Metolius fly fishing as best a kid can do, I saw this guy on the lower river who had a container of some variety of chipmunks. He was rigging them with a hook, a big hook, and he would take a shingle, and float it at the edge of the riffle, and place the chipmunk on the shingle, and free spool his line as the shingle floated off towards this log jam. Above that he would jerk the chipmunk off the shingle and it had to swim for its life. The object was to catch large Bull Trout, voracious and not very selective feeders. Sort of like catching big rainbow trout from tribs to Bristol Bay, and other streams in Alaska using mice or lemmings as bait. Or the great big deer hair flies that imitate a mouse. The man on the Metolius that day told me that ducks work better, but they were now out of season. My Dad caught me trying to net a chipmunk. Told me to cut it out. Yes, sir. He had the T-shirt for nocturnal rodents running on the wheel all night.

    • Ahhhh, yes. Again we see the “lumpers” versus the “splitters”. If the “splitters” had their way, skin color differences on humans would mandate that each would be a different species.

      I love reading your posts, John. I’m glad you are a regular here!

    • I agree with Larry and also offer to post other stories/history you think are relveant to the blog. Your writing and experiences are interesting, and you might think about writing a book of your experiences. If we older people don’t do that, historians will tell the story and they may miss a great deal if we who were there don’t get our memories out there. IMHO.

    • JTjr

      To echo Sharon and BobZ, it is always a pleasure to read your well written and informative comments.

      While we are discussing the scientific validity of breaking the Dolly Varden into two species maybe we also ought to consider why some scientists no longer consider Pluto to be a planet and why it matters? 🙂


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