The federal government is (still) shutdown. Does that mean public lands logging is shut down?

I just called the supervisor’s office of the Lolo National Forest: The pre-recorded message said they were closed because of the government shutdown.

I called the Flathead National Forest: Same Story.

Ditto for the Bitterroot National Forest, and the Flathead National Forest, and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and the….Well, you get the picture.

Does anyone know if logging on U.S. Forest Service lands has also been stopped during the on-going government shutdown? What about mining, and oil and gas development and commercial grazing on U.S. Forest Service lands?

Are all these resource extraction activities on America’s National Forest stopped during President Trump’s shutdown of the federal government? Or are all these resource extraction activities on America’s National Forest still actively taking place on America’s National Forests, but with zero to minimal oversight by the U.S. Forest Service?

10 thoughts on “The federal government is (still) shutdown. Does that mean public lands logging is shut down?”

  1. Matthew –

    Logging on national forests is ongoing. In fact, I’m currently litigating a post-fire salvage sale on the Klamath NF in California that has been operational since November. The government moved for a stay of our oral argument date (set for this Thursday), we opposed, and the Court denied the motion to stay, noting that ongoing logging was causing irreparable harm to my clients. So, we’ll be in court later this week.

    I do understand that USFS contract officers are exempt from the shutdown, so technically there is at least some minimal oversight of ongoing logging operations.

    I don’t know as though new operations, which have not started before the shutdown, will be allowed to begin operations.

    Susan Jane

    • Susan, at the risk of being in the weeds here, are you saying that the COs are still working but the COR’s are not on the site? What exactly is the difference between normal operations and current (shut-down) operations?

      • I only know what my Department of Justice opposing counsel told me, which is that “the Forest’s timber sale administration staff has been exempted from the shutdown” and therefore was overseeing operations. I don’t know if the COR is on site or not, but would hope so, since that’s their job (which hasn’t been suspended). That said, my clients were up at the active logging over the weekend (there’s no closure order in effect) and noted several violations of BMPs and PDCs, so it’s not clear whether in fact someone from the Forest Service is monitoring logging operations. Is that “normal”? Folks on this list may have a difference of opinion about that 😉

        • Thanks, Susan. I think that through time and space there are different approaches to how many times someone from the FS visits the site. And I might be using the wrong terminology.. it might be Sale Administrator (I’m not an expert on where Contracting and Timber Sales intersect). It would be nice if someone currently expert could weigh in.. except that they are probably either working on timber sales or furloughed…Larry? Recent retirees?

          • Well, you can be sure that there aren’t any temporary employees (Harvest Inspectors) currently working. I also expect that most logging projects are shutdown, this time of year, due to “resource damage” associated with wet weather logging. I have administered salvage projects in the winter before, and that required frozen ground to minimize erosion problems and road impacts.

            When I was a Harvest Inspector, I was expected to be out there everyday, looking at a multitude of operations, making sure that resources weren’t being damaged. Yes, I did get into trouble for reporting an incident where the logger pushed a bunch of mud off their landing. My Sale Administrator didn’t like me talking to the Soils person, and bigger bosses had to get involved.

  2. Looks like Susan Jane’s earlier comment is a proverbial “straight from the horse’s mouth” of the very example I was about to mention.

    From E&E News, this about the Klamath situation was shared in an article about “Justice Delayed…”:
    “Usually, we try to accommodate the situation, because it’s not really Justice’s fault that they’re in this pickle,” WELC staff attorney Susan Jane Brown said today. “But in my case, logging has been ongoing and I’m seeking emergency injunctive relief, so in this case I was not comfortable in accommodating [DOJ’s] request.”

  3. Matthew, there are a couple of questions we would have to know about mining and oil and gas operations (who exactly inspects them, how often..). I think grazing operations, at least in most of the northern part of the west, are done for this year. I also think wildfire folks are still on call.

    FWIW it looks like BLM inspects current operations. But if you tried to call them and ask if this is going on you would probably find out that the public affairs office is closed (not essential). So many Catch-22’s! Let’s all hope that this is over soon!

  4. Most logging on federal lands is prohibited during the winter months due to resource concerns. Sometimes you can log outside of the “normal operating season” if you have good roads and it is not to wet, depending on your contact.
    It is rumored all operations will cease if the government is not opened by the 16th.
    There were several sales set to sell in the next few weeks. We can only assume they are cancelled, but there is no one around to find that out.

    • 100% for certain, most logging on federal lands in the northern Rockies, upper Great Lakes and other parts of the country is NOT prohibited during the winter months.

      Also, for whatever it’s worth, if the Trump shutdown continues I’m pretty sure those several timber sales that were set to sell in the next few weeks will not be cancelled. Instead, I’m pretty certain the timber sales will be sold once the Trump shutdown ends.


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