As Jon noted earlier in a different thread, it’s hard to know what exactly groups mean by no “logging”.. so I’d like to bring this discussion to the forefront, because it seems important that we understand what words mean. We can’t even tell if we disagree or not if we don’t use the same definition.
It is confusing..from this Earthjustice press release:
“The public wants the nation’s mature forests and trees to be protected from the chainsaw, and with good reason,” said Garett Rose, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “They store carbon. They protect imperiled species. They safeguard key waterways. It’s well past time for the federal land managers to adopt a rule that durably protects these climate-critical trees — and lets them be a key ally in the climate right.”
(I think Rose meant “fight.”) But chainsaws can’t distinguish if felled trees are going to the sawmill or not.
So let’s look at an E&E story..
The agency reported that more than 495,000 comments came through regulations.gov, and environmental groups say they delivered additional comments in person Thursday as the comment period ended on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking.
“The primary threat to mature and older forests is logging, not wildfire or climate change,” the Pacific Northwest chapters of Great Old Broads for Wilderness said in a letter typical of advocates for limiting timber production. The organization called for a halt to logging on mature and old-growth forests while the service contemplates a formal rulemaking procedure.
So the GOB group made that claim. That’s not what the data show in the ANPR, though. Unless “primary” has another meaning.
Agency officials haven’t said how they’ll proceed on regulations or even whether they plan to offer new limits on timber production. But because the call for comments follows President Joe Biden’s executive order directing an inventory of mature and old-growth forest, the timber industry and advocates for more intensive forest management said they worry the latest moves are the first toward heavier restrictions.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Sierra Club and Environment America said preventing the logging of mature and old-growth forests on federal land should be a “cornerstone of U.S. climate policy.” While federal protections such as wilderness designations and roadless-area limits on timber operations prevent logging in many areas of national forests, as much as 50 million acres of mature and old-growth forest on federal land doesn’t have such designations, they said, referring to the recent Forest Service inventory. “If the government lets timber companies chop them down, it will eliminate one of the most effective tools for removing the atmospheric carbon that exacerbates climate change. In addition, it would eliminate essential habitats for countless species and degrade the land,” the groups said in a news release.
Environment America’s public lands campaign director, Ellen Montgomery, said Friday that while it’s not clear how the Forest Service will proceed, she doubts the administration would put such effort into the matter without planning to propose specific regulations. Time is short, though, she acknowledged, with Biden facing reelection in 2024 and the outcome uncertain. Although the rulemaking could touch on many issues, limiting timber production from national forests is an obvious choice, Montgomery said. “Logging is pretty simple to address,” she said. “We have complete control over what trees get logged or don’t get logged.”
From the discussion in this news article, it seems like this is the old “no commercial harvest” discussion. But in many places, there is no market or infrastructure and trees are burned in piles. So it’s not clear what these groups mean exactly (we’ll look into their actual comment letters); if a fuels reduction project/thinning is proposed, would it be OK to fall the thinned material and burn it in piles rather than allow feds to sell it and be used? And it seems to be about “timber” and perhaps not so much about use for fuelwood or bioenergy? Because the Forest Service and other parts of USDA are researching uses for small diameter heretofore unsaleable material from both private and public lands. So does it really mean no cutting, no using at all, no commercial use, or no using for sawtimber?
The confusion about what “logging” means led in the Colorado Roadless Rule to us using the term “tree-cutting” to clarify that trees can be cut without being removed. So that gets us into details of the prescription and the harvesting (or not) plan. Many years ago (fortyish?) the silviculturists in our area went on a field trip to Lake Tahoe, where they were removing fire-wood sized chunks in wheelbarrows because residents didn’t want the smoke from burnpiles. On the other hand, many of the people currently involved in MOG (in some interest groups) don’t have backgrounds in on-the-ground practices, so maybe they’re not aware of all these possible complexities.
Heller also quotes NAFSR (the Forest Service Retirees’ Organization)
The National Association of Forest Service Retirees, in a comment letter, said retaining and expanding mature and old-growth forest isn’t a goal grounded in law.
The association cited the Multiple Use Sustained Yield Act of 1960, which established that all forest uses must be considered in planning and management of the land, and said further restrictions on harvest of mature and old-growth trees may go against parts of a 2012 planning rule that’s supposed to govern Forest Service policy.
Drawing on more recent legislation, the retirees group said the potential rulemaking could run against the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act, which provided money for stepped-up thinning of federal forests to reduce wildfire threats, including creation of forest fuel breaks.
Now I can’t speak for NAFSR nor other retirees (remember Jon and Jim Furnish and so many more are all retirees!) but I will add my own perspective (and I hope other retirees and others) do as well.
The Congress, at least the House, is interested in spending fuel treatment dollars wisely and getting the funded work done. Remember this “counting fuel acres accountability” bill from spring this year?
As for me, I really don’t care if such a proposed rule would be against MUSYA except for the fact that it would likely be litigated on that basis. What I mind is asking the agency and partners to revise or terminate the fuel reduction and resilience treatments they’ve been dutifully working on. We know that the Forest Service is having trouble finding skilled employees. It seems like setting them up for even more morale-busting confusion now and down the road. I want the few of them available to be working on PODs and prescribed and managed fire plans on my neighboring forests, and giving recreation the attention it deserves.
And if such a “no logging” proposal were to go through, then they would be placed in the weird “maybe-yes we can, maybe-no we can’t” space when AFRC and others litigate and at the same time Congress reacts. Which to my mind wouldn’t be good for employee nor partner morale.
Finally, where do the collaborative groups fit into such a proposed rule? Such a rule could potentially nationalize decisions and override agreements made with local and practitioner knowledge in specific places- as different as the Tongass and the Ocala.