Montana ‘Timber Partners’ Drop $30,000 on Ads Calling for Lawless Logging, No Public Appeals Process
Just in time for the “Forest Jobs Tour “ (a series of one-sided presentations around Montana about Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act) “timber partners” RY Timber, Pyramid Mountain Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products and Sun Mountain Lumber took out this full-page advertisement today in at least six Montana newspapers, including the Helena Independent Record, Missoulian, Kalispell Daily Interlake, Great Falls Tribune, Montana Standard and Bozeman Chronicle According to Ad reps I spoke with at two of the papers, the retail cost of the advertisements likely ran between $27,000 and $31,000.
The title of the Ad is “Out of Control Administrative Appeals and Frivolous Lawsuits Against the U.S. Forest Service Must be Stopped Now!!!“
The full-page timber industry Ad is full of statements such as this: “We believe the Forest Service is being held hostage by a small group of professional obstructionists.” The Ad ends with these timber mills providing the following “solutions,” including suggesting that Congress could simply exempt many timber sales from judicial review, just as was done with the Wolf Rider from Senator Tester. [note: all emphasis is as it appeared in the Ad]
“We see several options available to Congress to immediately rectify these abuses:
1) Amend the Equal Access to Justice Act by requiring a Cash Bond in these types of administrative appeals and lawsuits. Amend the Act further by implementing a Loser Pay System, where the loser is responsible for paying the attorneys’ fees and costs of the overall prevailing party.
2) In designated Timber Management Areas already established under the approved Forest Plans, Congress could exempt from judicial review those Timber Sales which deal with trees that have been killed or severely damaged by the Mountain Pine Beetle. The authority of Congress to limit court jurisdiction can be found under Article III Section 2 of United States Constitution. A similar limitation was recently enacted by Congress when they removed Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species List and barred the federal court from any further review.
3) Scrap the entire Forest Service Administrative Appeals Process and use the more streamlined approach that the Department of Interior – BLM uses for their timber projects.”
More about the timing of these Ads. It must be pointed out that these same exact timber mills are sharing the stage this week and next week with their friends – or is the correct term ‘collaborators’ – representing the Montana Wilderness Association, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Trout Unlimited and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition for the Forest Jobs Tour to support Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, S. 268. So, the timing of the timber industry’s $30,000 Ad ‘Blitzkrieg’ couldn’t be more transparent.
Honestly, having already attended a number of these one-sided FJRA dog-n-pony shows I doubt I’ll waste my time – and a perfectly good spring evening – attending any of the ‘Forest Jobs Tour.’ In the past, these events have been carefully scripted to limit any tough, substantive questions or dissent and I assume that tonight’s Tour stop in Missoula will be the same. Heck, during a similar FJRA event – held in a public building at the University of Montana – a representative of Montana Wilderness Association even attempted to prevent one of our interns from passing out simple handbills announcing a “Forest Jobs and Recreation Act Study Club,” the sole purpose of which was to simply read the actual bill language, and then discuss what the language means.
However, I can’t help but wonder if during this so-called “Forest Jobs Tour” if these conservation groups will bother to express concern or speak out against their “timber partners’” wish list for more logging, less public and scientific over-sight and no judicial review of Forest Service timber sales? Or will these conservation groups give their consent through their public silence? I have a hunch I know how the “collaborators” will roll. And, if that hunch is correct, what does that truly say about the state of their collaboration with the timber industry?
Update: People may be interested to know that Montana Trout Unlimited and Pew’s Campaign for America’s Wilderness have deleted the following comments I made on their Facebook pages (here and here) and have blocked me from commenting ever again in the future. This tactic has also been recently used by Montana Wilderness Association (here and here) and Hellgate Hunters and Anglers, which is part of the National Wildlife Federation. In fact, Hellgate Hunters and Anglers (a group I was once a member of) censored and removed my substantive comments regarding the FJRA, including the actual official testimony of the head of the Forest Service from their ironically named “Bully Pulpit” blog. This has been a very common tactic used by the “collaborator” conservation groups supporting the FJRA and I believe the public should be aware of this tactic.
There’s more fall-out from the Forest Service’s questionable decision to award a massive 300,000 acre timber harvesting contract as part of the Four Forests Restoration Initiative (4FRI) in Arizona to an under-the-radar Montana timber corporation represented by a retired Forest Service official. The 4FRI is a showcase forest restoration project for the Obama administration under what’s known as “the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act” and program. Late last Friday, the Center for Biological Diversity sent out this press release.
Tommie Cline Martin, County Supervisor for Gila County, Arizona and a member of the 4FRI, had this to say.
“In my opinion, the Contract that was selected is bogus in several ways: If in fact, an agency insider that was involved in setting policy and advising potential contractors in the process and knew the particulars of the other bidding proposals, then “retired” and helped craft the winning bid is true, this is a perversion of our public trust at the highest level.
Meanwhile, yesterday the Grand Canyon Trust – a founding member of the 4FRI – issued this press release, which among other things said:
[W]e were shocked – and to honest – extremely disappointed that the Forest Service did not choose Arizona Forest Restoration Products (AZFRP) as the contractor responsible for implementing 4FRI treatments over the next decade….AZFRP did not receive the 4FRI contract. Pioneer Associates [from Montana] did. We, and the rest of the northern Arizona community, know almost nothing about the rationale for this decision, and know even less about Pioneer Associates. Some of what we do know is not at all encouraging. Pioneer Associates offered $10 million less than did AZFRP in the bidding process – a sum that would significantly address the critical shortfall in funding currently faced by 4FRI….We at the the Grand Canyon Trust find the recent contracting decision made by the Forest Service extremely problematic and worrisome….
We believe that the Forest Service should, for the sake of transparency, release all information regarding the decision-making process and rationale underlying the contract decision. Similarly, we believe that Pioneer Associates should follow the transparency lead modeled by AZFRP and share, in detail, their business model, implementation strategies, and plans for collaboration. Finally, we believe that an independent and transparent review of the bidding and contract award decision-making process is warranted and should be conducted with all due haste.
Yesterday also saw this hard-hitting editorial from the local newspaper, the Payson Roundup under the title, “We have this terrible, sinking feeling that the Forest Service has done it again” below are some snips from the editorial:
Last week the Forest Service somehow managed to turn the most hopeful and visionary consensus on how we can save our forests and our communities into yet another muddled controversy….So after all that preparation, study, waiting and hope — the Forest Service announced its choice: Pioneer Forest Products — an out-of-state [Montana] wood products company. The company plans to partner with Marlin Johnson, formerly the chief Forest Service logging industry supervisor in the Southwest.
The choice proved instantly controversial, mostly because Johnson spent years battling the very environmental groups whose agreement made the 4-FRI approach so promising. Johnson and groups like the Centers for Biological Diversity fought one another to a deadlock, largely over whether the Forest Service should let the timber companies continue to cut a large share of the remaining old-growth trees.
Even conservative, pro-industry experts like Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin have expressed concern about the choice, although they have focused on other elements of the contract — like the assumption that Pioneer can make a go of using a lot of the brush and small trees in a relatively untested process for making diesel fuel from wood products….
Now, we hope we’re wrong. We hope that the Centers for Biological Diversity is overreacting when they condemned as ‘cronyism’ the inclusion of Johnson as a partner with a company he used to regulate….But we have to admit, we’re unnerved by the immediate outbreak of controversy and the Forest Service’s stubborn refusal to accept the advice of local officials, conservationists and other stakeholders. Other bidders seemed to offer a much closer working relationship with those groups at a seemingly lower cost to the taxpayers.
We hope it blows over. We hope the Forest Service and Pioneer find a way to quickly reassure the critics, who have worked so hard and so long to achieve the agreement that this choice of contractors threatens to unravel. But we’d certainly feel better if this didn’t feel so familiar — and if we could put out of our minds the unnerving recollection that it was the Forest Service’s cozy and short-sighted relationship with industry that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Sadly, it appears that fire folks can’t be trusted to safely accomplish prescribed fires. Their overconfidence has again resulted in destroyed homes and damages to private property. This area is well known for its terrain-enhanced winds, known as the “Washoe Zephyr”. High winds had been forecast, as well, and it appears that fire crews didn’t make sure the fire was fully extinguished. Gusts of 35 mph are expected for today, and the fire is burning towards more difficult terrain. It always seems like firefighters are more concerned with “good burning conditions”, rather than public safety. Perish the thought that it might be too wet for “complete combustion”.
Are YOU ready to welcome a prescribed fire in your “neighborhood”?
Update: The TV news says that more structures are threatened.