Here’s a link. Below is an excerpt.
The Forest Service helped its cause by finally releasing its rationale for picking the Montana company for the initial 300,000-acre contract.
– Pioneer would hire about 500 people,
– It could get started just seven to eight months after contracts were signed
– It would make a variety of products (furniture parts, molding, flooring mimicking hardwoods) that would be diversified enough to sell consistently during recessions.
– It would have the advantage of stable fuel costs in turning branches and fine matter into biofuel as proposed.
That didn’t convince Pascal Berlioux of AZFRP, who sent out a three-page single-spaced email on the day that administrative appeals were due listing the reasons he thought his company would be a better choice. Whether it was price, risk, technical expertise or marketability, Berlioux insisted his was the better proposal. Personally, he noted, he had put six years of his life into the project, and some of his fellow board members had put up their life savings.
But in the end, Berlioux did not appeal, saying the Forest Service had made a nebulous “best value” judgment that it was unlikely to overturn. For the forest’s sake and the health of its host communities, Berlioux did the right thing by not appealing, and we in northern Arizona owe him a big thanks.
That still doesn’t rule out possible legal appeals by the Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust and others with objections to the contract. Their main concerns appeared to be a fear that Pioneer would not be as collaborative a partner as AZFRP (it didn’t offer to pay for monitoring) and that it lacked relevant local experience. Also, its plan to convert biomass into cellulostic biodiesel fuel was untested, they said.
Those objections, however, amount to speculation. The reality is that both companies would have been good choices, but only one could win — there isn’t enough wood to support two wood processing mills over the next 20 to 30 years.
Each year of delay is another year that catastrophic crown fires could wipe out much of the forest resource and devastate local ecosystems. As it is, the Pioneer mill won’t be up and running for at least a year or more. There are no more legitimate excuses for delay, and we urge conservation groups to stay in the 4FRI process and see it through to a successful conclusion.
Note from Sharon: So what interested me was this statement: “The reality is that both companies would have been good choices, but only one could win — there isn’t enough wood to support two wood processing mills over the next 20 to 30 years.” Maybe not around Flag, but lots of other places there is. This seems to be one of the few places where there is more capacity than material.
I received permission to reproduce this in its entirety so here it is. Here’s the link
POCATELLO, ID (June 13)–The BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) today strongly criticized a U.S. Forest Service proposal to exempt major ground disturbing activities from environmental analysis and public comment.
The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) today began accepting public comment on a proposed change in regulations that would allow certain activities, including road obliteration, to be exempt from any public comment or analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The proposed rule would allow the agency to bypass normal environmental review for projects that remove, replace or modify water control structures and remove debris and sediment after natural or human-caused events including floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. The rule would also exempt road decommissioning efforts such, as stabilizing slopes, restoring vegetation, blocking the entrance to the road, installing waterbars and removing culverts.
However, the proposal would also exempt major ground disturbing activities such as completely eliminating the road bed by restoring natural contours and slopes.
“Some of the agency’s recommendations make sense, but as usual, they go too far,” said Brian Hawthorne, Public Lands Policy Director for BRC. Hawthorne said, “If 40 years of NEPA has taught us anything it is that noble intentions don’t justify half-baked analysis. A bulldozer moving dirt is a bulldozer moving dirt. Environmental impacts don’t magically disappear because the source of sediment is called a restoration project.”
“This borderlines on willful mismanagement,” said Greg Mumm, BRC’s Executive Director. “The Forest Service is sitting on 20 to 40 million acres of beetle-killed fire hazard and the fuse is lit. Their priorities are out of whack.” Mumm said.
As an example, Mumm said that just in Colorado some 6.6 million acres are affected by the mountain bark beetle epidemic. The agency estimates that, over the next 10 years, an average of 100,000 trees will fall daily. Visitors to USFS lands are affected not only by the visual impacts, falling trees pose serious risk to human life and the infrastructure our rural communities rely on. Dead trees across the state have created heavy fuel loading which can result in intense, so-called “fatal wildfires.” Beetle-killed trees now threaten thousands of miles of roads, trails and developed recreation sites. Mumm said; “Exempting culvert removal is all well and good, but the agency crosses a line when, at the same time, they increase analysis on such things as maintaining safe power transmission corridors.”
Hawthorne also expressed frustration with the proposed changes. He noted that the USFS is saying the majority of issues associated with road and trail decommissioning arise from the initial decision whether to close a road or trail via the travel planning process. “That’s not our experience,” Hawthorne said. BRC has been urging the USFS to develop a streamlined procedure to allow public comment before any ground disturbing or road obliteration activities are proposed precisely because the travel planning is usually focused on recreational users of the Forest. Other users are often assured their access and activities could still continue under stipulations of their permit, lease or other agreement.
Hawthorne said few, if any, USFS travel planning projects get it right the first time. “Many travel planning projects we are aware of have been amended within one or two years after completion, and many have been amended even before the plan has been completely implemented on the ground.” It is quite likely that routes proposed for decommissioning will be necessary additions in future recreation and travel planning. Hawthorne said the fact the agency doesn’t want any public involvement means the agency probably doesn’t care about any potential recreational uses of these routes.
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The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BlueRib – http://www.sharetrails.org