While some of us were vacationing, the alert Charles Pekow published this.
From the Federal Register Notice here.
In accordance with the provisions of the Federal Advisory Committee
Act (FACA), as amended (5 U.S.C. App. 2) and with the concurrence of
the General Services Administration (GSA), the Secretary of Agriculture
intends to establish the National Advisory Committee for Implementation
of the National Forest System Land Management Planning Rule. The
Committee will be a discretionary advisory committee. The Committee
will operate under the provisions of FACA and will report to the
Secretary of Agriculture through the Chief of the Forest Service.
The purpose of the Committee is to provide advice and
recommendations on implementation of the planning rule. The Committee
will be asked to perform the following duties or other requests made by
the Secretary of Agriculture or the Chief of the Forest Service:
1. Review the content of and provide recommendations on directives
related to implementation of the planning rule;
2. Offer recommendations on implementation of the planning rule,
based on lessons learned and best practices from on-going or completed
assessments, revisions, and monitoring strategies;
3. Offer recommendations on new best practices that could be
implemented based on lessons learned;
4. Offer recommendations for consistent interpretation of the rule
where ambiguities cause difficulty in implementation of the rule;
5. Offer recommendations for effective ongoing monitoring and
evaluation, including broadscale monitoring, for implementation of the
6. Offer recommendations on how to foster an effective ongoing
collaborative framework to ensure engagement of Federal, State, local
and Tribal governments; private organizations and affected interests;
the scientific community; and other stakeholders; and
7. Offer recommendations for integrating the land management
planning process with landscape scale restoration activities through
implementation of the planning rule.
Advisory Committee Organization
This Committee will be comprised of not more than 21 members who
provide balanced and broad representation within each of the following
three categories of interests:
1. Up to 7 members who represent one or more of the following:
a. Represent the affected public at-large
b. Hold State-elected office (or designee)
c. Hold county or local elected office
d. Represent American Indian Tribes
e. Represent Youth
2. Up to 7 members who represent one or more of the following:
a. National, regional, or local environmental organizations
b. Conservation organizations or watershed associations
c. Dispersed recreation interests
d. Archaeological or historical interests
e. Scientific Community
3. Up to 7 members who represent one or more of the following:
a. Timber Industry
b. Grazing or other land use permit holders or other private forest
c. Energy and mineral development
d. Commercial or recreational hunting and fishing interests
e. Developed outdoor recreation, off-highway vehicle users, or
commercial recreation interests
No individual who is currently registered as a Federal lobbyist is
elegible to serve as a member of the Committee.
The Committee will meet three to four times annually or as often as
necessary and at such times as designated by the Designated Federal
The appointment of members to the Committee will be made by the
Secretary of Agriculture. Any individual or organization may nominate
one or more qualified persons to serve on the National Advisory
Committee for Implementation of the Planning Rule. Individuals may also
nominate themselves. To be considered for membership, nominees must
1. Resume describing qualifications for membership to the
2. Cover letter with a rationale for serving on the committee and
what you can contribute; and
3. Complete form AD-755, Advisory Committee Membership Background
Letters of recommendation are welcome. The form AD-755 may be
obtained from Forest Service contact person or from the following Web
Thanks to Matthew Koehler for this link and also for the above photo
Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act Misses on Weeds and Wilderness
A coalition claims it wants to protect Montana’s Rockies by supporting the proposed Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, but is it a wolf in sheep’s clothing?
By George Wuerthner, 8-21-11
The Coalition to Protect the Front supports the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act as a means of “protecting the Front”. It justifies the legislation by the “threat” noxious weeds make to the native plant communities of this magnificent landscape. Weeds, by displacing native plants, reduce the carrying capacity of the Front for native wildlife—which everyone agrees is one of the special attributes of the Front.
Unfortunately, the Heritage Act only proposes a paltry 67,000 acres as wilderness. While any new wilderness on the Front is welcome, the Heritage Act misses an important opportunity to protect the bulk of the wildlands that exist here, including the Badger Two Medicine and other important roadless lands.
Indeed, on its web page, the Coalition describes the threat of more wilderness as one of the reasons for supporting the plan. So to prevent the “threat” of wilderness, locals want to designate the majority of land along the Front as “Conservation Management Areas.” What a misnomer that name is.
Conservation Management would permit logging, livestock grazing and motorized use in some areas. All of these activities have been recognized time and again as destructive to native ecosystems, and biodiversity and ironically all are among the major sources for the spread of weeds.
Yet the participants supporting the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act either do not know, or more likely, have agreed to ignore the well-documented role that logging, motorized use, and most especially livestock grazing have in the spread of weeds and for creation of the disturbed soil habitat that favors weed establishment to garner support from these constituencies.
It’s like a coalition made up of tobacco companies agreeing that lung cancer is a serious threat to American health without mentioning that cigarette smoking is a major contributor to that cancer.
Instead of dealing directly with the cause of weed spread, the Coalition wants to treat the symptoms. It’s analogous to promoting cigarette smoking while advocating for more hospitals to treat cancer victims. This never works, and will only result in more weeds, and greater tax payer subsidies of these industries and activities.
The best way to slow and prevent the spread of weeds is to eliminate motorized access, logging, and cattle grazing. Designation of wilderness is by far the best solution (other than it unfortunately allows cattle grazing to continue—thus guarantees more weed spread).
If people are truly concerned about the spread of weeds, then we need to recognize that livestock (also an exotic species that displaces native species) grazing, motorized use and logging are incompatible with that goal. And the silence on this issue by the Coalition to Save the Front makes them all the more culpable in the spread of these unwanted plants.
What makes the Heritage Act even more disappointing is that the Rocky Mountain Front wildlands received some of the highest wilderness quality ratings of all federal lands outside of Alaska during the RARE11 (Roadless Area Review Evaluation) in the 1970s. These are among the best wildlands left in the lower 48 states, and to allow a small group of self appointed local folks to degrade wildlands values that belong to all Americans by allowing continued logging, motorized use, and livestock grazing is an affront to Americans and future generations.
The best way to save the Heritage of the Front is to eliminate these degrading uses and designate all the remaining roadless areas as wilderness. The Coaliton to Protect the Front Heritage Act is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing designated to permanently protect activities known to degrade and destroy public values.
George Wuerthner is an ecologist, former government botanist, and author of 35 books.
In keeping with the Holiday season, the Forest Service announced it is uniting with the Ad Council to promote Universal Pictures’ new movie, Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. At least that’s likely how Universal Pictures’ p.r. department spun the story to its board. The Forest Service says that Universal Pictures is promoting forests to kids. [BTW, I've got four teens in the house; they know about forests. They would just rather not have much of anything to do with them.]
My guess is that the Forest Service’s bold partnership will attract the interest of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who wants to cut-off funding for the Forest Service’s public education programs because they are too green.
It would not be the first time pro-logging interests tried to ban the Lorax.
Here is a piece on the changes in income in rural communities, also some other economic statistics for rural communities from the Daily Yonder. May be relevant to the current interest in jobs in rural communities in Oregon and elsewhere.
Note 1: the text says “click on the map”; that only works on the maps on the original website.
Note 2: I don’t know if these are accurate; if you think they aren’t you can comment on the site and here, they previously corrected an error.
U.S. Census/Daily Yonder This map shows the change in median family income in rural counties between 2007 and 2010.
Nearly 7 out of 10 rural counties saw their median family incomes drop from 2007 to 2010, according to new figures from the U.S. Census.
Median income is point where half the families in the county make more than that amount and half make less. The national median family income in 2010 was $50,046. Only 120 rural counties (out of 2,036 total rural counties) had median family incomes higher than the national median.
The map above shows the change in median family (or household) income from ’07 to 2010. We picked 2007 as the starting point since that was before the recession began. (The official beginning of the recession was December 2007.)
Pink counties had median incomes that were falling. Brick red counties had the largest losses — more than $3,000. (We used constant 2010 dollars throughout this study.)
Green counties had the largest gains. Look at the large number of green counties through the Great Plains, which have benefited from oil and gas exploration and high prices for crops.
Click on the map to see a larger version. The fifty counties with the largest gains and losses in median income can be seen on the next page.
There are a number of regions where incomes have fallen by large amounts. Pockets in the West have had falling family incomes, as have New England, the Upper Midwest and the Southeast.
Income change is different from income, of course. The map below shows the difference in median incomes across all 2,036 rural counties.
The national median family income is $50,046 a year. There are only 161 rural counties with medians at or above that number. They are in dark blue in the map above. Note that some areas with large drops in income (New England in particular) are also counties with high median incomes.
And Appalachian Kentucky has low income, but not much drop in income from ’07 to ’10.
To see a larger version of the map, click on it.
Most high-income counties were in metropolitan areas. The Census reports that metro areas contained 68 percent of those counties in the top quarter in terms of family income. Nearly 96 percent of the people living in counties in the top quarter in terms of family income lived in cities.
Buffalo County, South Dakota, had the lowest median family income in rural America, at $20,577 a year. It was followed by counties in Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and some counties on the Texas/Mexico border.
Here is the link.
Congress has to get cracking; time is running out on timber counties
Three Oregon congressmen recently described on these pages the outlines of a plan aimed at breaking the impasse on federal forests and preserving basic county services across timber country. It looks promising, and we’re eager to see more.
Democrats Peter DeFazio and Kurt Schrader, and Republican Greg Walden, say they have worked through their differences and are preparing a bipartisan plan that would create thousands of new jobs by expediting harvest of previously logged forests, protect old-growth and critical wildlife areas and provide steady funding for rural schools, roads and law enforcement.
Of course, lawmakers have raised hopes for this sort of grand forest legislation before, only to have their best-laid plans go nowhere in the face of environmental opposition and congressional inattention. But now there’s an unmistakable fiscal crisis looming across timber country, where federal payments to counties have expired and some local governments could plunge into insolvency in the coming year.
The prospect of failing local governments and families fleeing declining rural communities ought to focus minds both in Oregon and in Congress. The issues surrounding federal forests and rural counties simply can’t be pushed off any longer.
The three Oregon congressmen seem to be headed down the right path. They describe a plan that would allow a steady and sustainable level of timber harvest primarily from younger second-growth forests. Sensitive areas and mature and old-growth forests would be set aside and protected. The forest lands open to harvest would remain under the ownership of the federal government, but be managed by a diverse, public board in trust for the counties.
Other elements of the proposal will appeal to those concerned with the future of the old-growth and other sensitive areas. The management of mature and old-growth forests would be transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service. The plan also proposes major new wilderness and wild and scenic river protections in key areas, such as the Rogue River area.
There’s a lot to like in this broad outline, but Oregonians ought to reserve judgment until the lawmakers fill in the details early next year. But something has got to change on the federal forests that cover half or more of many Oregon counties.
The status quo — the administrative gridlock and legal appeals, the drip, drip, drip of mill closures, the failing counties — threatens to hollow out rural Oregon. Already, falling school enrollments across timber country indicate that many families don’t see a future in these communities.
Of course, this congressional plan will trigger all the usual suspicion and reflexive opposition from those who have spent their lives fighting over activities in federal forests. But we still hope there is a place where most people can meet in the middle on federal forests, where timber harvest is carried out in a sustainable manner, where ancient trees are preserved, where rural counties can survive on stable federal timber revenues and fair contributions from local property taxpayers.
DeFazio, Walden, Schrader say they have put aside their differences and found that place in the middle. That’s good. Now they must lead the rest of us there.
In September, 2007, the lightning-ignited Moonlight Fire burned 65,000 acres in and around California’s Plumas National Forest. In keeping with the ecology of these forests, the fire burned a mosaic of high-intensity mixed with unburned trees. The Forest Service estimated 549 million board feet were scorched.
In making its salvage logging decision, the Forest Service evaluated 4 alternatives, ranging from a low of 14 mmbf to a high of 120 mmbf. All alternatives appraised negatively. That is, the Forest Service predicted a timber purchaser would lose $600,000 logging the 14 mmbf alternative and almost $12 million if a purchaser bought and logged the 120 mmbf sale.
In July, 2009, the Forest Service decided to move forward with the 120 mmbf sale, citing the jobs and wages that would be generated in the local economy.
Fast forward to the present. Now the purchaser, Pew Forest Products, is pleading his case to the Forest Service and Plumas county supervisors that he will go bankrupt if forced to carry out the timber sale contract he purchased.
Question for readers: What part of “you’ll lose $12 million if you log this timber” do people not understand?
From Oregon here:
Oregon’s rural communities cannot afford another 20 years of gridlock in our federal forests. Without a new path forward, mills will continue to disappear, forest jobs will be outsourced and counties will be pushed off the budgetary cliff. During a time when it’s particularly hard to find common ground in public policy, we think we have achieved a balanced forest health and jobs plan — and in a uniquely Oregon way.
As a bipartisan coalition, we have worked through our differences to forge a plan that would create thousands of new jobs, ensure the health of federal forests for future generations and provide long-term funding certainty for Oregon’s rural schools, roads and law enforcement agencies.
Federal support payments to rural and forested communities, commonly known as “county payments,” helped support rural Oregon counties for more than a decade. They expired Oct. 1.
Absent a long-term solution, diminishing county payments will have serious consequences for Oregon families and businesses.
A recent Oregon State University study found that without county payments, Oregon’s rural counties will shed between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs. Oregon business sales will drop by an estimated $385 million to $400 million. Counties will lose $250 million to $300 million in revenues.
Counties already near the financial cliff and facing depressionlike unemployment soon may call for a public safety emergency and will be forced to eliminate most state-mandated services — including services that help the neediest citizens in our communities.
Failing counties will have consequences for the entire state. Those counties will continue to release offenders and close jail beds. Potholed roads and structurally deficient bridges will be neglected. And already-underfunded rural schools will be devastated.
Given the serious fiscal crisis our forested communities face, we believe a new approach is necessary to create jobs, help stabilize Oregon’s rural communities and better manage our forests.
We hope to release the full details of our plan early next year. But, given the importance and enormous amount of public interest in this issue, we wanted to update Oregonians on the broad outlines of our work:
Our plan would create an estimated 12,000 new jobs throughout Oregon. To preserve and expand Oregon’s manufacturing base, our plan would continue the ban on exporting unprocessed logs from federal lands and impose penalties on businesses that violate the law and send family-wage jobs overseas.
Our plan would allow sustainable timber harvest primarily on lands that have been logged previously. It sets aside sensitive areas and mature and old growth forests. The timber harvest lands would remain under the ownership of the federal government but would be managed in trust for the counties by a diverse, public board under strict guidelines to ensure sustained yield and to protect and improve clean water and terrestrial and aquatic values. The mature and old growth forests would be transferred from the federal Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service.
Our plan would provide counties in Western Oregon with a predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support essential county services such as law enforcement, health care, education and transportation. It would reduce counties’ dependence on uncertain federal support payments in favor of a long-term solution that allows them to return to the tradition of self-reliance that embodies our state’s heritage.
Our plan is expected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by reducing the annual federal management costs associated with the management of Western Oregon timberlands and making Oregon counties self-sufficient and not dependent upon federal county payments.
Our plan proposes major new wilderness and wild and scenic designations to protect some of Oregon’s most incredible natural treasures, such as the iconic Rogue River.
Our plan is a moderate approach.
It will not appease those who insist on returning to the days of unsustainable logging and clear-cutting old growth on public lands. It will not win the support of those who are content with the status quo — administrative gridlock and endless legal appeals that have led to unhealthy forests, failing rural counties and a deteriorating timber industry.
And like all legislation in Congress, our plan still is subject to the legislative process. While we believe the plan we have crafted is a reasonable compromise that serves the best interests of Oregon, we must work with the House Committee on Natural Resources and our colleagues in the greater House of Representatives, the Senate and the Obama administration.
Fortunately, the most persuasive arguments are on our side. Our balanced, bipartisan plan would create thousands of jobs in our forests, mills and communities, stabilize rural communities, save taxpayers money, protect old growth and ensure the health of federal forests for future generations.
It’s a solution that Oregonians deserve. We look forward to working with those who want to make this long-term vision a reality.
U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader represent Oregon’s 4th, 1st and 5th congressional districts.
Battle for Preservation In Montana Is Nothing New
By Gabriel Furshong / Writers on the Range on Wed, Dec 28, 2011
More so than any other landscape in Big Sky Country, Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front derives its wonder from a violent juxtaposition of geological forms. The Front is the convergence of two mega-ecosystems that together cover roughly a quarter of our country – the Northern Plains and the Northern Rockies.
This is where each seemingly limitless region reaches its limit. Within this thin strip roams the second-largest elk herd in the Lower 48, as well as 13 species of raptor and a third of all plant species known in Montana. It’s the only place south of the Canadian border where grizzlies still den between the peaks and the prairie.
For 100 years, this landscape has been the subject of debate over the limits of acceptable change. Montanans along the Front have fought oil and gas exploration. It is a measure of their success that the battle cry of each generation has gradually shifted from our grandparents and great-grandparents, who wanted to “return it to the way it was,” to our parents and ourselves, who now want to “keep it the way it is.”
This last phrase – keep it the way it is – has for 10 years been the unofficial motto of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, a loose affiliation of outfitters, ranchers, farmers, community organizers, business owners and outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to this coalition, the debate over change on the Front is now closer to resolution than ever before.
Last October, Montana Sen. Max Baucus introduced the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which would designate 67,000 acres of wilderness and prohibit road building or any expansion of motorized use on an additional 210,000 acres. That’s big news. Yet, the relative calm with which the news was received has been surprising. When I asked a veteran writer and former journalist for the Missoulian newspaper what he thought about the media coverage of Baucus’ announcement, all he could say was, “I just don’t understand why it hasn’t gotten more attention.”
His words followed me to the Front where I retreated for a hunting trip just a week after the announcement. While waiting on white-tailed deer, I found myself reflecting on the twists and turns of our local debate over change. I wondered why this pending resolution has been received so quietly after so much time and such a lot of fuss.
The coalition’s many predecessors fought seemingly endless battles for the better part of a century, from the near-extinction of the buffalo and other species to agency road building and aggressive oil and gas exploration. Our first victory finally came in 2006, when Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus banned all leasing of federal minerals along the Front. Forest Service travel plan decisions that followed in 2007 and 2009 emphasized traditional use over motorized recreation, and suddenly, a once-complicated landscape was largely cleared of competing interests.
It was then that farmers and ranchers affiliated with the coalition raised an important question: Would we have the restraint to avoid becoming agents of change ourselves? Over the next four years, we interviewed grazing permittees, argued with county commissioners, developed alliances, held meetings of 100 people and meetings of 10 people, and sought out hundreds of kitchen-table conversations, one person at a time.
We drew boundaries. We nearly fell out with each other several times, but we hung onto the ideal of restraint. In the end, it was not just the landscape that we chose to the keep the way it was. We chose to maintain all existing uses as well, including motorized and bicycle use alongside traditional horse and hiker travel.
So after going through so much, it’s understandable that this final stage in the fight is underwhelming. Indeed, the only evident opposition to the Heritage Act so far came in the form of an indignant email from a small western Montana environmental group decrying the legislation as containing far too few wilderness acres. I mentioned this to a Vietnam veteran and local lawyer from Choteau, Mont., when I ran into him on my hunting trip. As he trailed his horse around me, he just shook his head and said, “Well, we’ve had that debate a million times before.”
Yes, we have, and with any luck it won’t change a thing.
At this time of the year, I am working on my end-of-year donations. I received a “Top 10 Reasons to Give” list from an international environmental law NGO that I support. One of the bullets on the list was “because forest peoples deserve a say in how their land is used…. we will continue to work to safeguard the rights of indigenous people and other local communities in the implementation of projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation (REDD).” It’s a good question for consideration, I think, in the New Year. We should be considering property rights, local history, and political legitimacy in terms of the legitimate role of local people in our own country.
What kind of “rights” should local communities have in terms of decision making on federal lands? It reminds me of a dinner I had once with a Senior Executive of another federal agency. His point of view was that the people of Delta don’t deserve any more of a voice in the management of public lands around Delta than people in the Bronx. On the other hand, we have the county “coordination” movement and increasing local/federal tensions. What can we learn from the two examples above, who seem to have managed to find a middle ground?
CA initiates state protection for rare woodpecker
By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press
Monday, December 26, 2011
(12-26) 02:44 PST South Lake Tahoe, Calif. (AP) –
Over the objections of the U.S. Forest Service, wildlife officials in California are taking steps at the state level to protect a rare woodpecker partly because the federal agency won’t stop logging the bird’s ever-shrinking habitat in burned stands of national forests in the Sierra Nevada.
The California State Fish and Game Commission recently voted to add the black-backed woodpecker to the list of species that are candidates for protection under the California Endangered Species Act, launching a year-long status review of the bird that is at the center of an ongoing legal battle in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals over salvage logging in the area where 250 homes burned near Lake Tahoe in 2007.
Commissioner Michael Sutton said he’s satisfied there is a “substantial possibility” the woodpecker could end up being listed as threatened. He said his support for the move was based in part on correspondence from the Forest Service indicating the agency doesn’t believe the bird needs any protection and that even if it did, USFS wouldn’t be required to provide it.
The Forest Service had designated the black-backed as the indicator species for all fish and wildlife dependent on burned forests across the Sierra, from north of Tahoe to south of Yosemite. It’s the same kind of designation agency biologists gave the northern spotted owl in the 1980s to serve as a barometer of the overall health of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest.
But, said Sutton, it has become clear “their management policy has changed recently. They now permit, under relevant forest management plans, 100 percent salvage logging of burned areas, which is the preferred habitat of this species.
“That may be fine for the Forest Service,” said Sutton, after moving to add the woodpecker to the state’s list of candidate species on Dec. 15. “Their mandate is multiple-use, including timber harvest… Our mandate is stewardship of wildlife.”
Commissioner Daniel Richards was the lone dissenter in the 3-1 vote advancing the listing petition by the Phoenix-based Center for Biological Diversity and the Earth Island Institute’s John Muir Project in Cedar Ridge, Calif.
“I do believe it is a rare species, but that doesn’t make it is endangered. It has been rare forever,” Richards said. “We get these every month. Everybody would like for us to list everything as endangered … to burden our department with further analysis.”
Chad Hanson, executive director of the John Muir Project, said the action was significant because “they are acknowledging that not only is there a total lack of protection from clear cutting on private lands, they (the woodpeckers) also don’t have any protections on Forest Service land to fall back on.”
“It’s the first time anybody has acknowledged that a species is impacted by post-fire salvage logging,” added Justine Augustine, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity based in San Francisco. “They accepted the fact there is substantial evidence there is a problem here and we’re going to have to step in.”
Hanson, a wildlife ecologist at the University of California, Davis, helped persuade the Forest Service in recent years to designate the black-backed woodpecker the indicator species for all wildlife dependent on burned forests throughout the Sierra and has been citing the agency’s own research for years in his bid to show the bird may already be on its way to extinction.
“Even in burned forests, the black-backed is one of the rarest birds in California,” he said, adding there is “no dispute its habitat has declined dramatically since the 19th and early 20th century due to fire suppression.”
As a result, such post-fire habitat now comprises less than one-half of 1 percent of the Sierra forests the woodpecker once inhabited, he said.
But Forest Service officials say there is no evidence that the bird’s population itself is actually in a state of decline. While Hanson maintains there may be as few as 1,000 pairs of black-backs left in the Sierras, the agency believes there are many more.
Randall Moore, Pacific Southwest regional boss for the Forest Service based in Vallejo, presented the state commission earlier this year with a 16-page memo questioning the “degree and immediacy” of the threat to the black-backed from Forest Service practices. He said more information was needed, and that “management of National Forest System lands is inherently complex given the responsibility to manage public natural resources for a wide variety of often conflicting threats and opportunities.”
Halting or significantly restricting fire suppression activities — even away from homes — the memo noted, is “unlikely to be implementable due to social and political resistance.”
Augustine said it was “inappropriate, at best” for the Forest Service to imply the state should change its findings to accommodate the Forest Services’”complex” management. He said the wildlife commission’s decision will help put the spotlight on the service’s new legal stance that even if the bird did warrant added protection, the agency no longer is required to provide it.
The agency was long bound by the National Forest Management Act, which President Reagan signed into law in 1982, which established the so-called “viability rule.” It stipulated that the Forest Service would attempt to maintain a viable population of all species found on individual forests. But the Forest Service says the rule is super-ceded by the 2007 forest plan amendment, which, still provides general guidelines for protection of fish and wildlife. But, according to the agency’s interpretation, it does not prohibit projects such as salvage logging just because the potential impact to a particular species’ habitat could threaten the sustainability of its population on that individual national forest.
Hanson said the change in position represents a “significant threat of extinction to a number of species in the coming decades. It is an outrageous and dangerous position for the agency to take, and I think it had an impact on the commission’s decision.”
The issue will be front and center in late January or February when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the same two environmental groups’ appeal challenging a federal court’s refusal to halt the logging at Lake Tahoe.
The Forest Service maintains it met all the law’s requirements for the Angora fire project, intended to speed restoration of the burned area as well reduce future fire threats over nearly 3,000 acres. The agency said it was made clear in the environmental assessment that its proposed action could reduce potential black-backed woodpecker territories, and that was its “only project-level analytical duty.’”
Given the federal agency’s position, Hanson said, state protection of the bird may be its only hope.
“Basically what the commission did is stand up for the science on this species,” he said. “I know it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to go through with a listing a year from now, but they did the right thing here.”
Note from Sharon: In the first sentence, the author characterizes the FS response as “won’t stop logging” “its ever shrinking habitat”. If the idea is that every snag everywhere should be left because the bird is so endangered, then that bodes problems when snags fall down. Also, if more fires are likely to result from climate change, then won’t there be more habitat?
Also “They now permit, under relevant forest management plans, 100 percent salvage logging of burned areas, which is the preferred habitat of this species.” But species don’t know what’s permitted; they only react to what’s accomplished and it seems unlikely that anywhere near 100 percent would be even attempted.
Here and here are links to previous discussions of the Angora project on this blog. It appears that 1398 acres of the 2700 FS acres would be treated under the preferred alternative. Based on fuel loading and proximity to houses.. given different fuels and no proximity to houses (the project is in the WUI defense zone), as in large parts of the Sierra Nevada, one might expect lower percentages of snag removal than that.
Thanks to Matthew Koehler for finding this paper..it’s an interesting review paper. Here’s a summary from Science Daily:
Forest Health Versus Global Warming: Fuel Reduction Likely to Increase Carbon Emissions
Forest thinning, such as this work done in the Umpqua National Forest in Oregon, may be of value for some purposes but will also increase carbon emissions to atmosphere, researchers say. (Credit: Photo courtesy of Oregon State University)
ScienceDaily (Dec. 20, 2011) — Forest thinning to help prevent or reduce severe wildfire will release more carbon to the atmosphere than any amount saved by successful fire prevention, a new study concludes.
There may be valid reasons to thin forests — such as restoration of forest structure or health, wildlife enhancement or public safety — but increased carbon sequestration is not one of them, scientists say.
In research just published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Oregon State University scientists conclude that even in fire-prone forests, it’s necessary to treat about 10 locations to influence fire behavior in one. There are high carbon losses associated with fuel treatment and only modest savings in reducing the severity of fire, they found.
“Some researchers have suggested that various levels of tree removal are consistent with efforts to sequester carbon in forest biomass, and reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels,” said John Campbell, an OSU research associate in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society. “That may make common sense, but it’s based on unrealistic assumptions and not supported by the science.”
A century of fire suppression in many forests across the West has created a wide range of problems, including over-crowded forests, increased problems with insect and pathogen attack, greater risk of catastrophic fire and declining forest health.
Forest thinning and fuel reduction may help address some of those issues, and some believe that it would also help prevent more carbon release to the atmosphere if it successfully reduced wildfire.
“There is no doubt you can change fire behavior by managing fuels and there may be other reasons to do it,” said Mark Harmon, holder of the Richardson Chair in Forest Science at OSU. “But the carbon does not just disappear, even if it’s used for wood products or other purposes. We have to be honest about the carbon cost and consider it along with the other reasons for this type of forest management.”
Even if wood removed by thinning is used for biofuels it will not eliminate the concern. Previous studies at OSU have indicated that, in most of western Oregon, use of wood for biofuels will result in a net loss of carbon sequestration for at least 100 years, and probably much longer.
In the new analysis, researchers analyzed the effect of fuel treatments on wildfire and carbon stocks in several scenarios, including a single forest patch or disturbance, an entire forest landscape and multiple disturbances.
One key finding was that even a low-severity fire released 70 percent as much carbon as did a high-severity fire that killed most trees. The majority of carbon emissions result from combustion of surface fuels, which occur in any type of fire.
The researchers also said that the basic principles in these evaluations would apply to a wide range of forest types and conditions, and are not specific to just a few locations.
“People want to believe that every situation is different, but in fact the basic relationships are consistent,” Campbell said. “We may want to do fuel reduction across much of the West, these are real concerns. But if so we’ll have to accept that it will likely increase carbon emissions.”
Note from Sharon: I like the fact that they state:
There may be valid reasons to thin forests — such as restoration of forest structure or health, wildlife enhancement or public safety — but increased carbon sequestration is not one of them, scientists say.
I think it’s just an illustration (if true as generally as the authors claim) that climate change makes what used to be considered a simple problem of “protecting the environment” more complex. As in coal versus natural gas.
I also think carbon cycling is by far one of the most complex and difficult to explain concepts we have dealt with since I have been working in this arena. I think it’s because you have to look at it over a long timespan, and each action you do leads to both some release of GHGs (at different rates) and some opportunity for sequestration on the area where the release has happened. Further, not doing things can in some cases lead to tree death of overstocked stands (say, by beetles) which could lead to either quick release through fires or slower release by the use of forest products or the logs just lying there and releasing carbon. I often think a diagram of release by scenario over time would be really helpful to visualize and understand. Clearly there are a number of assumptions associated with the likelihood of different scenarios, and sensitivity analysis of these assumptions would also be helpful.
Here’sa link to the study.
My wish for you all is the peace, love and joy of this Season.
This quote from Dr. King seems particularly apt as we head into an election year..
Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
–Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City
I’ll be back Monday.