Here’s a snippet of Char Miller’s piece on the
Read all of it here.
“One of the purposes of the Sierra Club,” David Brower, its one-time Executive Director wrote in 1964, is to “gather together people who know how important it is that there should always be some land wild and free.”
These activists’ central mission was clear: to “counter the rationalizations of the highway builders, and dam and logging road builders, who would slice through and dismember the Sierra Wilderness, all for a variety of reasons that may apply someplace else but that ought not be allied here.”
After all, Brower concluded, neither “California nor the rest of America is rich enough to lose any more of the Gentle Wilderness, nor poor enough to need to.”
His maxim still holds true, and I can only imagine how riled up Brower, who died in November 2000, would be by the latest attacks on wilderness — as place and idea — emanating out of Congress.
In mid-April, the GOP-dominated House of Representatives passed, largely along party lines, the cynically titled Sportsmen’s Heritage Act (HR 4089). It has kicked up a storm of protest with the broad environmental movement, who see it as an ill-disguised assault on the wildlands and the Wilderness Act that Brower and early generations fought so hard to protect and secure.
What has led them to conclude with Wilderness Watch that the “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act Will Essentially Repeal the 1964 Wilderness Act”?
The legislation’s language initially seems banal; one of its provisions, the Congressional Research Service summarizes in this way:
Requires that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service lands, excluding lands on the Outer Continental Shelf, be open to recreational fishing, hunting, and shooting unless the managing agency acts to close lands to such activity for specified purposes, including resource conservation, public safety, energy production, water supply facilities, or national security.
Note the word “require”: it appears that its compulsory meaning is offset by subsequent terminology indicating that these federal land-management agencies can “close lands to such activity for specified purposes….” Yet the list of the acceptable purposes is striking for what it says and does not say.
It makes sense that the BLM should be empowered to limit hunting if rifle fire would interfere with oil-and-gas production or wind farms or solar facilities. It cannot stop hunting, however, if it chose to do so because it judged that this form of recreation to be inconsistent with (and inimical to the purposes of) wilderness, as defined in the 1964 Act that banned hunting within designated wildlands.
Moreover, HR 4089 tightly constrains the capacity of these federal agencies to act on behalf of wilderness. As the Congressional Research Service notes, the bill “sets forth requirements for a withdrawal, change of classification, or change of management status that effectively closes or significantly restricts 640 or more contiguous acres of federal public lands or waters for fishing or hunting or related activities.
The Question of Moderation
Sometimes people on this blog are civil. Sometimes they say negative things about each other. I recognize that moderating this has been uneven. That is for at least two reasons: 1) it is hard to be consistent over time, especially when one is in a hurry due to other obligations and 2) several people have the authority to moderate comments and we probably don’t have the same worldview of acceptability because we are all dealing individually with 1), in addition to our own differences.
I myself have been accused of being unethical, a consort of the Sith Lord, etc., but while it doesn’t bother me (sticks and stones and all that), I think by it does pollute, albeit perhaps subtly, the atmosphere of the blog. We have plenty of great policy questions to debate without accusing others of bad intentions or self-interest or whatever.
I think we have erred in the direction of quickness, so the dialogue is real time, and generally probably been too easygoing about the effects on the atmosphere, which is not necessarily a good thing. Hence, this discussion.
So I have exhorted people not to do it. And they don’t, for a while. And then someone starts.
The alternative would be for me (and possibly the other volunteers if they agreed) to spend a lot more time editing comments, or to not approve them and email people to tell them why, or not approving and having people figure out on their own as to why. None of these seem like desirable alternatives (to me) because they displace the responsibility from the writer to the volunteer blog administrators.
Even though I plan to spend more time on the blog in the future when I retire, I’m not sure that micro-editing snarky statements would be the best use of my time. It would be much better for people to police themselves.
But in reality that does not seem to work. So here are a couple of other ideas.
1. Others on the blog could step up, perhaps, and say… so and so, you are over the line. Now this tends to happen only across philosophical lines, perhaps each group could form a team and police their own?
2. Maybe we could find a charity that funds civility and get a grant for a “civilizta” to patrol the site.
I’m interested in what others think:
Do you think moderation is a problem?
If so, What are your ideas for a solution?
This is the USDA Press Release online here.
USDA Forest Service Seeks Comments on Efforts to Improve Efficiency of Forest Conservation Activities
Improved restoration efficiency is goal of three proposed categorical exclusions
WASHINGTON, June 12, 2012 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced a proposed rule to streamline and shorten categories of environmental review for certain restoration projects on National Forests. The proposed rule will allow the Forest Service to more efficiently implement projects related to improving water flow and the restoration of land and habitat.
“We are gaining efficiencies that allow us to move more rapidly through the environmental review process while reducing the cost to the taxpayers of unnecessary documentation,” said Harris Sherman, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “These projects are really a win-win for the environment and the public and will result in positive environmental outcomes.”
The three proposed categorical exclusions published in today’s Federal Register facilitate the Forest Service to:
restore the flow of waters into natural channels and floodplains by removing, replacing or modifying water control structures;
restore lands and habitat to pre-disturbance conditions by removing debris and sediment conditions following natural or human-caused events; and
restore, rehabilitate or stabilize lands occupied by non-National Forest System roads and trails to a more natural condition.
“These proposed changes will allow us to be more responsive and do a better job of working with local governments, Tribes and communities to move forward important on-the-ground projects,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.
The proposed rule accelerates the pace of restoration and calls for a three- to five-page decision documentation process, which is less costly to write and review and can reduce the timeframe by as much as nine months compared to a typical environmental assessments which can be hundreds of pages long. This process retains the public notice, comment and appeals procedures that currently apply to categorical exclusions.
Categorical exclusions define certain actions that typically do not have a significant effect on the human environment and therefore do not require preparation of a larger environmental review, such as an Environmental Assessment or Environmental Impact Statement. The agency establishes categorical exclusions based, in part, on its experience implementing similar actions, the experience of other agencies and information provided by the public.
The comment period for the proposed change in Forest Service regulations is open for 60 days and closes August 13, 2012. Comments must be received in writing and can be submitted online, by mail or via facsimile.
Note from Sharon.. I’m curious to see what folks think about these CEs who generally think that CE’s are faux NEPA (well they didn’t exactly say that, but weren’t exactly CE enthusiasts .
Thanks to Hipnology for this piece in the Economist
Here’s a quote:
As Ms. Poulos and Mr Workman note, a century’s accumulation of dry fuel on public lands makes it too expensive and risky—for people, property, habitats and carbon emissions—to unleash prescribed fires on a scale needed to manage America’s national forests more efficiently. (Including private land, national parks and other government property, forests cover nearly 750m acres in America—a third of the country’s land surface.) On the other hand, letting the lumber companies loose to go logging in the national forests on such a scale would engender a massive public outcry. So, what is to be done to release the water that over-stocked forests squander?
One practical solution, known as “forest to faucet”, is being undertaken in Colorado by Denver Water, a utility serving 1.3m Denver residents. After severe wildfires stripped the local landscape and left the soil exposed, subsequent storms drove so much sediment down the hillsides that the utility is now having to spend $30m to dredge the streams and reservoirs that supply its water.
The lesson the utility has learned is that, even though it is not its responsibility, it is far better to pay to have the upstream forests thinned and cleared—so future wildfires in the watershed are nowhere near as fierce, river flows improve, storms do less damage and droughts become less frequent. Under a five-year agreement, the Forest Service will share the cost with the utility to ensure the watershed is properly managed. Denver Water’s enlightened customers will each stump up $27 over the period.
This public-private approach is the kind the Wesleyan researchers favour. They note that water rights in western parts of America are valued at $450 to $650 per acre-foot and rising. It therefore pays thirsty downstream communities to spend $1,000 per acre (the average cost to the Forest Service) to remove the fire-prone trash trees in upstream forests that affect their water supply. In return for their investment, they get the 2.3 acre-feet of water (worth $1,000 to $1,500), which would have otherwise transpired into the sky, for every acre of forest that has been properly thinned.
What is stopping other communities in America’s arid west from following suit? Nothing, other than a mind-set among many who think that if a dozen trees are good, 100 are better. Meanwhile, to replenish the streams before they dry up, others have to accept that chopping down trash trees to prevent conflagrations, and thereby preserve the forests, is no bad thing. As the Wesleyan ecologists admit, “We lifelong tree-huggers must learn when and where to let go.”