Many thanks to Russ Vaagen for giving another perspective. It helps us understand the frustrations of the different parties, and also (as is often the case) how the FS is between a rock and a hard place. Here I’d like to especially highlight one point:
I just hope we don’t have to go through this process of Forest Planning again. It has no place in this modern era of collaboration and public involvement. If those efforts result in a need to alter the Forest Plan, the USFS should recognize it and alter the plan a step at a time rather than the whole thing.
This reminds me of the idea of some planners that plans should be more like a loose-leaf notebook of decisions. It also reminds me of the R-2 forests who didn’t want to get on the list for plan revisions because “it’s like opening up all the disagreements that we had settled, to what end?” Anyway here’s his whole comment, originally posted here.
As the President of NEWFC I would like to say that not everyone feels the same way that Tim does. I completely understand where he’s coming from and support his ability to speak for himself and his organization.
Tim and Kettle Range Conservation Group have been great members of our collaborative. The fact is, these forest planning processes are divisive. He’s right, we did collaborate for a long time to reach a consensus on the Forest Plan. However, due to the broad nature of the community involvement it attracted members of the public that weren’t as adept at the collaborative process and never got to the point where they dropped the positions and started talking about interests.
I don’t have the same opinion of Colville National Forest Supervisor Rodney Smolden. Because of this planning process he was put in a very difficult position. If he were to agree to press forward with Wilderness levels supported by NEWFC members, all 9 county commissioners in the three counties affected and a number of groups would have all been adamantly opposed. The fact is, most were opposed to any additional Wilderness. I’m not making a judgment call, I’m just saying when you hear somewhere between 120,000 and 200,000 acres from a local collaborative and then zero from other community leaders including elected officials, 60,000 was an attempt at a compromise. Unfortunately that’s not popular, and it doesn’t work for anyone.
If we are to be giving collaboration its due, we need to adjust this Forest Planning Process. It goes against collaboration and the collaborative process. It’s a disaster.
I know we can agree to more Wilderness on the Colville, but more importantly we can agree to other designations that achieve the interests of conservation and other interested parties. The forest industry participants have already sent a signed letter to the Colville National Forest urging the agency NOT to pursue any projects that would involve logging in Inventoried Roadless Areas. This is a big win for Conservation. Since the letter, no projects have taken place in an IRA on the CNF. When the previous Forest Supervisor suggested some management of an IRA, it was immediately met with opposition from the Forest Industry participants.
I’d also like to address the clear cutting. Tim is right, no one in NEWFC has been asking for Clear Cutting. It’s my opinion that the Forest Service has taken some liberties with some openings by making them too large and subsequently unsightly. I think it was a mistake on their part and these issues have been addressed. I’m hopeful that any future openings will be smaller and mimic natural disturbances. The VAST MAJORITY of the treatments on the CNF are restorative. That means that it’s dominated by thinning.
The Forest Service leadership on the Colville NF and others need to continually revisit expectations of the members of the collaborative groups to ensure that they don’t take things too far. The social license to manage these forests can easily be revoked if the projects don’t consistently match the expectations of the collaborative groups.
I’d also like to address the 25,000 acres of annual treatment. These acres are restorative in design. Over 20 years, that’s 500,000 acres of the 1.1 million acre Colville NF. That almost directly matches up with our collaborative plan to restore and manage about 491,000 acres (if memory serves) that have roads and have been managed in the past. There’s another layer of land between the front country or actively managed lands and potential Wilderness that may or may not need treatment. Therefore, the acreage of treatment isn’t surprising, so long as it’s completed in a way that meets public acceptance.
Tim is a member in good standing with NEWFC and his disappointment is palpable. We’ve all done incredible work on the CNF. The fact that there’s a new Forest Plan now, signed by the Regional Forester, won’t change the fact that we will continue to collaborate. Collaboration has shaped the way we manage the forest and will continue to. That same collaboration will lead to solutions which I believe will include a completed Wilderness Bill and further solutions that will enhance conservation, recreation, and the economics of the forest. I just hope we don’t have to go through this process of Forest Planning again. It has no place in this modern era of collaboration and public involvement. If those efforts result in a need to alter the Forest Plan, the USFS should recognize it and alter the plan a step at a time rather than the whole thing.