OG:- White House Announcement; More NGO Comments and Some Concern About FS Bandwidth from AFRC

Thanks to SJ for adding these ..  the White House Announcement is of particular interest. Here’s a copy of the letter to forests.  It reminds me a bit of the old “reviewing roadless projects in the WO” effort. As they say:

This letter only affects the process by which such activities are authorized. It does not alter or prescribe any substantive standards for the management of old growth forests

I always wondered about the legality of these kinds of   review processes, it seems they are designed to provide an outcome before there is a legal reason to do so.  Just saying it doesn’t prescribe anything different (perhaps on the advice of OGC?) has not, in the past, been accurate. Perhaps our legal TSW friends can clarify.

This workshop sounds interesting, and that it is joint by BLM and FS is good; after all, PJ is  the most abundant old-growth and traditionally disagreements have not been timber-war-ish.

Collaborative Efforts to Conserve Pinyon Juniper: Pinyon and juniper woodlands encompass tens of millions of acres of federal lands across the West, and have significant biodiversity, climate, and cultural values. Pinyon-juniper woodlands are the most abundant forest type in the federally managed inventory of mature and old-growth forests, and are the majority of mature and old-growth forests managed by the BLM. While much management focus has been rightly placed on pinyon-juniper encroachment onto sagebrush ecosystems, less attention has been paid to the importance of mature and old-growth pinyon-juniper ecosystems. The Forest Service and the BLM will co-host a public workshop focused on the conservation of these ecosystems in 2024. Through this effort, the Forest Service and the BLM will engage the public, Tribes, land managers, experts, and stakeholders in informed discussion around management issues, threats, trends, and opportunities for climate-smart management and conservation of mature and old-growth pinyon-juniper woodlands on federal lands.

Susan also linked to this group of ENGO’s quotes.

It seems like some of the quotes focused on  consistency across the country (Sam Evans) and a seat at the table for developing national policy (The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife), while EDF uses that other “f” word (flexibility) and notes the role of local folks:

The proposed forest plan amendment creates a rigorous, science-based process that will both protect old-growth forests and provide flexibility for managers, local communities, and tribal nations to recommend management actions to improve resilience to catastrophic wildfire and other climate change-induced threats.”

Meanwhile our friends at AFRC also have a press release. Perhaps oddly, so far they are the only ones who seem to be concerned about loading more paperworky processes on already-overburdened and difficult-to-hire federal employees. Excerpts:

 “The Forest Service’s data confirms logging poses a negligible threat to old growth forests, and existing federal environmental laws and forest plans provide direction on managing and protecting old growth. Yet the agency is now being directed to embark on a new, massive bureaucratic process – during a wildfire and forest health crisis – that will likely make forest management more complex, costly, and contentious.

 “Protecting old growth requires intentional, thoughtful action on the ground – not more paperwork.  It’s not clear how amending every single Forest Plan will help the Forest Service implement the Biden Administration’s own 10-year wildfire strategy that calls for a threefold increase in forest health treatments. Rather than giving our public lands managers the policy tools and support they need to sustain our forests and all the values they provide, this policy will force them to focus limited time and resources on more process and that will do nothing to address the real risks on the ground..

23 thoughts on “OG:- White House Announcement; More NGO Comments and Some Concern About FS Bandwidth from AFRC”

  1. I wonder how many employees, in the twilight of their careers, will see this time as the perfect choice to retire. Somehow, this political decision probably won’t be a simple “cut and paste” exercise. Yes, we will see people who will push the idea that thinning is bad for old growth forests, continuing with the extremes playing word games.

    Will this be a boon to the ‘industrial litigation complex’? *smirk*

  2. In my opinion, this “interim” “review process” is not a new idea and probably not vulnerable to being challenged as a substantive decision (even if it appears that some kind of substantive test is being applied). Interesting that neither the announcement nor the letter say anything about “economic” reasons being factor in this review.

    I found this to be more interesting and maybe more relevant to the “why” question for active management of old growth. It sounds like it should be a rare case where large/old trees should be removed to reduce fire risk. (If we have seen or discussed this “direction” could you remind me where?)

    “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Implementation: As directed by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Forest Service issued leadership direction to the field on how to integrate mature and old growth forest stewardship and ecological restoration into wildfire mitigation projects. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $5.5 billion to USDA and $1.5 billion to the Department of the Interior for wildfire, forest health, and restoration. The law also directs agencies to fund projects that maximize the retention of large trees and fully maintain or contribute toward the restoration of the structure and composition of old growth stands consistent with the characteristics of that forest type.”

  3. from AFRC statement “…data confirms logging poses a negligible threat to old growth forests”
    Well, yes, I can see the truth of this statement currently on an acre-by-acre basis with fire. But, not so fast. What about the many millions of OG acres that were logged 1950-90? Kinda like saying the risk of crown fire has been “diminished significantly” by clearcutting. Can’t ignore history. I think the FS has a responsibility to address the dramatic reduction of OG caused by its own logging regime. Well intentioned at the time, history has shown the fateful FS choices to be unsustainable with serious negative consequences – illegal even, per Judge Dwyer,1991. OG protection LONG overdue

    • Almost the entire Oregon Coast Range was covered with 2nd-growth forests from 1515 to 1750 or so. Very little “old-growth” at all. No one knows what the landscape was like before then (not even James Agee or Jerry Franklin), but we do know that exotic diseases from Africa, Europe, and the eastern US decimated Oregon populations during that time.

      My research seems to indicate the the second-growth forests that aged into “old-growth” status during white exploration and immigration may have been a function of dramatically reduced Indian burning and occupation during those centuries. The abrupt lack of stewardship — or active management — following NEPA, ESA, EAJA, ETC, has resulted in wildfires eliminating much of this condition since 1990. Way more than logging during the same timeframe.

      I am not sure why old-growth trees and the supposedly “critical habitat” they provide for a few minor species has become so popular in recent years, but it does seem to be a human trait — which I strongly share — that favors big, old trees. And why I have always championed their survival through active management and stewardship, rather than letting them burn up in a wildfire, or fall victim to competition, bugs, and disease. History is behind us — let’s make reasonable plans for the future, including maintenance of our remaining older trees is my thought.

  4. “including maintenance of our remaining older trees”… now that 95% are gone in PNW. How gracious Bob. And cherry picking “since 1990…” tut tut.
    I tend to disagree with your hypothesis about state of coastal forests pre-1515. As you say, it may not be known. But it is just as likely that OG dominated the Coast Range. I suspect indigenous peoples frequented coast and valley (where oak savanna burning likely occurred frequently) more than interior. Snags in old CC’s illustrate persistence of big old trees from fires that swept Coast circa 1850s.

    • Hi Jim: I’m not sure where you get that 95% figure, but I’d be interested in your start date, the percentages lost to logging, fire, or to other causes, and the amount that have grown into old-growth status since then.

      I’m not sure why you are tut-tutting (I can visualize this) about the 1990 date. Maybe you didn’t know that that’s when spotted owls were listed and the USFS began their shift to New Ecological Forestry. Pretty significant date in PNW forest history. Including logging and wildfire history.

      So far as my “hypothesis” on Oregon Coast Range tree ages, it is based on extensive research on my part for my dissertation, where I began to realize that most of the well-known tree ages from the Valsetz study, the Weyerhaeuser Coos Bay study, and others from the mid-1900s showed that most of the “old-growth” being documented at that time were 300-350 years old — up and down the Coast. Using arithmetic, that means they were all less than 200 years old from 1750 and before. And no real evidence that they had been preceded by other trees of any age, much less earlier stands of old-growth. You should read my book, especially pp. 148-153, to get a better handle on this.

      Nobody has any idea what grew on the west slope of the Coast Range before 1515, but on the east slope it was mostly prairie and oak savannah. Major fires on the Coast Range travel from east to west, with constant ignitions by people on both sides. Little or no lightning.

      Also, thank you for pointing out that I am a “gracious” person, but please note that I’ve been promoting active management of our biggest trees for more than 50 years, which is well before 1990. And I am very familiar with the snags remaining from the fires of the 1840s, 1868, 1879, 1890s, and 1902. Never heard of even one that germinated before 1515.

          • You’ve…..constantly argued for returning to forestry the way it was done in the 70s and 80s and early 90s, which is overwhelmingly clearcut forestry. How are the two compatible?
            Unless you have facts and numbers?

            • Hi Anon: My argument is for a return to active management, which you characterize as “overwhelmingly clearcut forestry.” I don’t agree with that assessment necessarily, but my main point is that we didn’t have catastrophic wildfires during those years (until 1987), and that rural timber-producing communities and their schools were doing very well. Now, fires and government dependency, people sleeping on sidewalks, and millions of acres of snags waiting to burn again. Not a pretty picture.

              People always make mistakes, no matter how hard we try not to, and there is always room for improvement as one result. If I were a benign dictator, I would certainly design timber sales differently now than how we did then. With more of a strategic effort to keep our biggest and oldest trees safe and accessible.

              That being said, in the Douglas Fir Region seedlings need full sunlight to survive and grow. That means clearcuts at some point, whether by fire, landslide, volcanic eruption, windstorm, or clearcutting.

              My concerns are salvage logging, site preparation, better reforestation planning and forest maintenance — and local jobs. Clearcutting at some point and with certain objectives is certainly part of this equation, but not the “overwhelming” concern you suggest. Most people under 50 or that moved to the DFR in the past 40 years seem to think these fires are a “natural” and even “normal” part of “forest health,” but I think that is missing the important part human presence and stewardship takes in forest history.

              • I didn’t know that federal lands are responsible for the well-being of “rural timber-producing communities and their schools.” Sounds like that would be “government dependency.”

                • Hi Jon: More like “government responsibility” for owning a critical resource. I like the 1897 perspective that created the federal forest reserves in large part to “furnish a continuous supply of timber for the use and necessities of the people of the United States.”

                  Now why are our western forests being controlled by a central government at all — and particularly in this new age of “let it burn and rot” because it’s “healthy” and because some people say it’s good for some birds. And CO2 sequestration, too, somehow. What happened?

                  • “I like the 1897 perspective.” I guess that’s your choice (which explains a lot), but I like to think we’ve learned a lot since then, and we’ve changed the laws accordingly (MUSYA/NFMA/ESA).

                    • Don’t forget NEPA and EAJA! And yes, I think we need a lot of work done in our national forests at this time due to a generation of neglect and loss, and it should be done by local people and businesses that know and care for the land, rather than distant bureaucrats and migrant labor contractors.

              • Oh, so maybe variable retention/New Forestry isn’t such an awful idea?
                The arbitrary 1987 date I just that, arbitrary. Maybe…just maybe….all those even aged plantations are coming home to roost, under a climate with increasing vapor pressure deficit (read as, red flag style catastrophic fire weather), on both federal and private lands.
                What are your concerns with salvage logging? That both in 2023 and 1987, the mill infrastructure was never there to support the small timber owners, only the big players, let alone what the feds had?

                • Hi Anon: If you would like to have a discussion along these lines, you will need to come out of hiding. I have little interest in a public discussion with an unknown person. If there is a legal reason or some other purpose to your anonymity, you can send me an email.

                  • Nice cop out, Bob.
                    I’ll just go ahead and assume you don’t have valid answers to these questions, that you wish to share in a public forum.

                    • Since you are anonymous you’ll just have to accept the fact that no one cares at all about anything you might assume, whether you share publicly or not. Comes with the territory of being a nobody — especially a nobody that uses their anonymity to make cowardly swipes at real people.

  5. I sense from my reading of these very sparse comments that there really is somewhat limited interest in true preservation (at lease for a few decades before everything wooden burns) of old growth.
    Back in the day (1980s-1990s) when some of us were actively starting work on the first editions of “FOREST PLANS”, defining, locating, managing, preserving old-growth was a really big deal in some of our western forests. My personal experiences were somewhat unique as a planner on the Colville NF as it transitioned from administrative management in R-1 (Missoula for some of you west coast folks) to R-6. For a year before a transfer to the IPNF in Idaho, I had the honor and education, so to speak, of regular meetings and communication with close-by R-6 forests (Okanogan, Wenatchee NFs) . Learning of the extent of interest (in these Washington forests and some of the regional specialists) in old-growth was an eye-opening experience. In Region One there was at that time practically no discussion about this issue.

    Back in R-1 as we geared up to tackle the FPs, and with my limited OG background, I sensed a disturbing lack of concern when I attempted to discuss OG with other R-1 planners. It was like I had moved from one world to another. The “old” R-1 bias of “get out the cut” that I grew up with in Montana in my early years was clearly still strong. Building management and protection for OG in our planning efforts was NOT embraced by most in R-1. On at least one occasion a planners conference in Missoula left me feeling as tho I was alone on an ice-berg in the arctic!

    What’s my point with these comment? Considering the almost overwhelming participation of true West Coast members in this forum, and my limited experience with you, I expected more, I guess. More interest and more concern about management of the very few, scattered stands we still have left. Their values and importance, and can we really save (at least for a generation or two) what we have. So far this forum gives me little hope.

    • That lack of concern may stem from the Northwest Forest Plan and the Eastside Screens having provided a fair amount of protection to older forests from loss due to logging since the mid-1990s.

    • Ed, I think it really depends on what area you live in and the history and tree species of the area. And when people talk about OG they have ideas in their mind that might be different… to some it might be a misty HJ Andrews type of place, and in other places.. well.. just older ponderosa or lodgepole with varying understories. And the greatest threats are things we can’t control, fire or bark beetles. And we can’t get younger trees to grow any faster to get larger, because with no timber industry it costs too much to thin.. and our resources are going to fuel reduction. And so much land is off-limits to logging, Roadless and Wilderness, so that they are either OG or going towards OG, until bugs and fire intervene. So in some sense it doesn’t seem to be an issue (here), what happens happens. We can do PODs to try to protect OG stands from wildfire, and I hope that this national EIS will involve locals in doing exactly that.


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