When the government wants to take something away

These two stories about national forest management demonstrate how hard it is to change or eliminate existing uses, but the Forest Service is trying.  In both cases, there is outside pressure to do so.  In one, a lawsuit was required to force the Sierra Nevada national forests to complete travel management planning for over-snow vehicles that was required in 1972.  In the other, the Malheur National Forest is trying to implement changes in grazing required by the listing of salmon and bull trout under ESA, subsequent forest plan direction, and current oversight by the regulatory agencies.  The ranchers and snowmobile users are of course not happy.  (But some non-motorized winter users are.)

3 thoughts on “When the government wants to take something away”

  1. Jon, I think the Malheur grazing issue is much more complicated than an outsider can every understand. Maybe someone knows of a fair minded history of all this? Like how does the news story you cited fit in with this recent court decision:

    “Ranchers and the federal government have defeated a 15-year-old environmentalist lawsuit that claimed grazing imperils threatened bull trout in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest.

    U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman has dismissed the complaint, which was originally filed by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Center for Biological Diversity in early 2003.

    The environmental plaintiffs sought to prohibit livestock grazing on “units of concern” in seven allotments along the Malheur and North Fork rivers, arguing the waterways contain only 100 bull trout despite having the capacity for 4,000 of the protected fish.

    Last year, however, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak dealt the case a blow when he found that grazing authorizations hadn’t likely caused the decline in bull trout populations, which have suffered from the introduction of non-native fish, dam-building and other factors.”

    Is it the difference between bull trout and other fish species?

  2. This magistrate opinion on this case was summarized here:
    It dealt with seven specific allotments, and neither the Fish and Wildlife Service nor the Forest Service concluded that grazing was causing harm to bull trout. (This decision has been appealed.) The article I posted apparently deals with the entire Forest, involves steelhead, which are overseen by the National Marine Fisheries Service, which has determined that these measures are necessary under ESA. So there are a lot of differences that could make a difference. (But I don’t think it has anything to do with differences between the fish species.)

    I think there are some gaps in the steelhead article. The Forest apparently makes 5-year forest-wide grazing decisions, one of which was the subject of this consultation, but I don’t know how that fits into the Forest Service decision-making hierarchy (or how that relates to the grazing decisions in the ONDA lawsuit). I assume the focus in on the “biological opinion” because it includes an incidental take statement that protects parties from prosecution for violating ESA only if they are following the requirements imposed by NMFS. But at the end of the article NMFS claims the requirements are actually in the Forest Service decision (whatever the decision was). But my point was simply to provide examples showing that the FS is under pressure to make changes to protect its resources and under pressure by vested interests because they are trying to.

  3. NOAA Fisheries and the Malheur spent five years in extensive communication preparing the biological assessment to authorize grazing over the five-year period. Permittees were largely excluded from the process, as were most Forest range staff. Hardly any written materials such as meeting notices, minutes, or correspondence were produced.

    On May 16th, ranchers (but not their representatives) were sent seven unnumbered pages (eventually determined to be an excerpt from the many-hundred-paged B.A.) and given until May 23rd to comment in “recognition” of their standing in the consultation process. All permittee comments were dismissed out of hand by the Forest Supervisor and the 335-page “draft” biological opinion was issued on May 24th.

    I recognize that it is impossible to cover the full extent of such a complex matter in two paragraphs but to characterize it as the FS trying to do the right thing to protect “its” resources and selfish interests attempting to prohibit them from doing so, is grossly inaccurate and unfair, if even a little bigoted.


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