Earlier in the week the owners of the Rough and Ready Lumber mill south of Cave Junction, Oregon announced they were closing their doors for good. There was one reason cited by the owners: A lack of logging on Forest Service and BLM lands in southwestern Oregon. Jennifer Phillippi even went so far as to describe the situation this way, “It’s like sitting in a grocery store not being able to eat while the produce rots around you.”
Well, if you wander away from the timber mill’s talking points even a little bit and talk with actual neighbors in southwestern Oregon who have witnessed Rough and Ready’s handywork over the years, you get a much different story – a story of over-cutting, mis-management, toxic contamination and political manipulation.
Jennifer Elliott with the NBC station in Medford has the other side of the story (click here to watch the news segment):
Today, as the last saw mill in Josephine and Jackson county announces it’s plans to close, some residents are sharing the other side of the story: one they say includes political manipulation, mis-management, and contamination. For some, the news that Rough and Ready Lumber in Cave Junction is going out of business threw up a red flag. Residents fear the threat to close is a ploy to gain access to more timber.
Residents say they’ve seen this happen before. “It’s been some years back the Rough and Ready mill was up for sale,” says South Cave Junction Neighborhood Watch member, Guenter Ambron.
“It’s just wrong,” says a neighbor of Rough and Ready, too scared to identify herself on camera for fear of retaliation. She tells us there’s more than meets in the eye in the company’s announcement to close. “I think it’s being used as a tool to push our representatives and governor into giving them O&C lands,” continues the neighbor.
She says at one point, Rough and Ready was considered a self sufficient company with private logging lands, but she says it’s their own fault they’re out of wood.”If they actually maintained their resource lands and had not clear cut and sprayed with poisons they would actually have a constant supply of timbers to harvest.”
“Now they go in and take this land and bio massed it, all of money they’ve done combined could not pay for the damages it’s done for us, ” says Orville Camp, who lives below a 60 acre area he says was clear cut and sprayed by a group he claims has ties to Rough and Ready Lumber.
“You can see it’s all dead down here,” he remarks.
He tell us that’s part of the reason the wood can’t grow back for this company as well as other timber groups with the same plight.
“They say the land is no longer sustainable for growing trees, which is kind of true.”
Plus, he says it’s destroyed his personal watershed, created a fire hazard, and contaminated his ponds.
We contacted Rough and Ready owner Jennifer Krauss Phillippi for her thoughts on these accusations. She was unavailable for comment.
“For the Phillippi’s to think they’re entitled to our public lands is wrong,” says the anonymous neighbor.
We do know Oregon’s governor is in contact with Rough and Ready owners, but we do not have any information as to the details of that communication.
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt.
The fisher is of particular interest. Despite its name, the furry mammal does not live in or near the coast but instead occupies remote, closed-canopy forests, sites that are prime landscapes for illegal marijuana grows. Akin to a weasel, it pursues a wide diet ranging from fruits to small mammals to birds, and has been known to take on the most bristly of forest creatures. It is the “only animal tough and clever enough to prey regularly on porcupines,” observes the Center for Biological Diversity — “no easy feat.”
However skilled a killer it might be, the fisher is not able to discern whether its dinner is laced with rodenticide. This has led to a spike in its mortality, further diminishing its already declining population. That’s the word from scientists working for the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project, out the College of Natural Resources at UC-Berkeley; they have launched the first in-depth analysis of the threats this toxin poses to this rare species. Of the 58 fisher carcasses they autopsied, the data revealed some troubling patterns:
79 percent were exposed to one or more AR [anticoagulant rodenticides] chemical. The number of AR compounds detected per animal ranged from 1 to 4. Both first and second generation ARs were detected, with brodifacoum being most common and detected in 44 of the 46 (96%) exposed fishers, followed by bromodiolone (16 of 46; 35%), diphacinone (8 of 46; 17%), chlorophacinone (four of 46; 9%), difethialone (one of 46; 2%), and wafarin (one of 46; 2%).
The lethality of the chemicals listed is only part of the picture. Another facet is the spatial distribution of the dead Pacific fishers; their bodies were widely distributed across northwestern California and in the southern Sierra Mountains. The fact that there was no clustering of deaths by specific location “indicates that fishers are encountering these poisons in remote, natural forest regions within their home ranges.”
CBD litigated and the fisher listing proposal is due in 2014.. on the CBD website they say the problems are logging and development that caused “habitat destruction”; yet if people are finding them dead scattered around, it might indicate that the habitat is OK. And if people are already doing things that are illegal to fishers, it doesn’t seem like the threat of violating ESA will stop them. Unless you can litigate counties or the Feds to force them to do more law enforcement? But you gotta wonder if the threat of citizens in the forest being killed is not enough to get sufficient law enforcement, why fishers would apparently count more than forest visitors. Not to speak of “what is the rural equivalent of the “broken window” theory?” in terms of letting lawlessness go forth..
It makes me wonder whether some of the toughest environmental problems might not being addressed by groups that specialize in litigation, due to litigation not being the tool to solve the problem. Kind of an example of the old joke..
“Man searches diligently under lamp-post at night. Explains to passer-by that he has lost his keys. “Did you lose them under the lamp-post?” “No.” “Then why are you looking under the lamp-post?” “Because there’s no light anywhere else.”
I’m not saying litigation shouldn’t be a tool in the toolkit, but if we are to have safe and economically vibrant rural communities and sustainable forests, it will take a great deal more than that. Or as I used to say when I wored in NEPA, documenting environmental effects is necessary, but not sufficient, to meet section 101 goals, i.e.:
Federal Government, in cooperation with State and local governments, and other concerned public and private organizations, to use all practicable means and measures, including financial and technical assistance, in a manner calculated to foster and promote the general welfare, to create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic, and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans.
This is a guest post from regular commenter John Persell. -mk
Here’s the link to the Oregonian story: “Federal judge in Idaho agrees with skiers, says snowmobile excemption is arbitrary.”
The meat of the court’s decision is in the last several pages, but the intro provides good background on how travel management came about on public lands.
This is a very satisfying victory for many who have advocated for management of snowmobiles and motorized travel in general on national forests, and is the result of great work by Advocates for the West on behalf of the Winter Wildlands Alliance. It is not clear yet whether the Forest Service will appeal to the 9th Circuit or comply with the 180-day timeframe ordered by the judge.
The judge’s straightforward decision highlights some truly head-scratching plain language twists the Forest Service attempted to use. The case also raises questions as to why the current administration chooses to defend some of the previous administration’s actions (as here) but not others (the 2008 NFMA planning rule).
Certainly this story is about Colorado and neither Oregon nor South Dakota; still, it makes a person wonder.
Here’s the link and below is an excerpt.
If wildlife acres burned double in the next 50 years, how can birds that live in burnt trees be on a bad trajectory in terms of habitat? Could someone in the legal business explain the logic path.. facts found, conclusions drawn, how that relates to the ESA regulations to make the FWS go spend bucks (I wonder if they track how many?) to assess this situation when Interior can’t afford to plow the roads to Yellowstone Park?
The hotter, drier climate will transform Rocky Mountain forests, unleashing wider wildfires and insect attacks, federal scientists warn in a report for Congress and the White House.
The U.S. Forest Service scientists project that, by 2050, the area burned each year by increasingly severe wildfires will at least double, to around 20 million acres nationwide.
Some regions, including western Colorado, are expected to face up to a fivefold increase in acres burned if climate change continues on the current trajectory.
Floods, droughts and heat waves, driven by changing weather patterns, also are expected to spur bug infestations of the sort seen across 4 million acres of Colorado pine forests.
“We’re going to have to figure out some more effective and efficient ways for adapting rather than just pouring more and more resources and money at it,” Forest Service climate change advisor Dave Cleaves said.
“We’re going to have to have a lot more partnerships with states and communities to look at fires and forest health problems.”
The Forest Service scientists this week attended a “National Adaptation” forum in Denver, where experts explored responses to climate change. They’ve synthesized 25 years of federal climate science as part of the National Climate Assessment — now being finalized for the president and Congress — as the basis for navigating changes.
Degradation of city watersheds is anticipated along with diminished cleansing capacity of forests. Forests today absorb an estimated 13 percent of U.S. carbon pollution.
New data shows bug attacks are already broadening. In Colorado, insects target trees at higher elevations, such as white-bark pines found in wilderness areas, said David Peterson, a Forest Service research biologist who co-wrote the 265-page report.
This was also interesting..
Some Western governors took the climate change warning as confirmation of current trends and called for federal help creating new forest projects industries.
Fires and insect attacks “are only going to get even worse,” Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Wednesday. “We need a real federal commitment to managing our forests in a way that will prepare and protect our communities, protect and enhance wildlife habitat and protect our water for drinking, irrigation and fishing.”
When we talk about how scientific information and scientists’ opinions should be used, we are part of a larger world of science and policy. And of course, climate change is popular for funding, so there are many more people to participate in discussions, which makes it interesting.
I thought this discussion on Roger Pielke, Jr.’s blog was appropriately current and relevant. If you haven’t been following the literature on planetary boundaries you can find some links. For me, as a person with experience with local land and people, it seems too abstruse to have any real world validity. However, it has triggered some interesting dialogue.. here are a couple of quotes.
From Melissa Leach, Director of the STEPS Centre at Sussex University:
This meeting – and many others like it in the run up to September – raise a significant question: Is there a contradiction between the world of the anthropocene, and democracy? The anthropocene, with its associated concepts of planetary boundaries and ‘hard’ environmental threats and limits, encourage a focus on clear single goals and solutions. It is co-constructed with ideas of scientific authority and incontrovertible evidence; with the closing down of uncertainty or at least its reduction into clear, manageable risks and consensual messages.
This is a far cry – as a South African participant pointed out – from some other worlds: on the ground in the global south and north, where people and social movements debate and contest their interests, values and desired futures; and the world according to democratic theory, in which such politics are worth acknowledging and respecting. In this world, there is a need to open up, make uncertainty and ambiguity and dissensus explicit, and foster diversity to cope with it.
From Nico Stehr:
Consensus on facts, it is argued, should motivate a consensus on politics. The constitutive social, political and economic uncertainties are treated as minor obstacles that need to be delimited as soon as possible – of course by a top-down approach. . . the discourse of the impatient scientists privileges hegemonic players such as world powers, states, transnational organizations, and multinational corporations. Participatory strategies are only rarely in evidence. Likewise, global mitigation has precedence over local adaptation. “Global” knowledge triumphs over “local” knowledge. . . the sum of these considerations is the conclusion that democracy itself is inappropriate, that the slow procedures for implementation and management of specific, policy-relevant scientific knowledge leads to massive, unknown dangers. The democratic system designed to balance divergent interests has failed in the face of these threats.
And this comment by Melissa Leach:
“Thanks for all the comments on Roger’s excellent blog; this is a vital debate and it’s great that it’s happening. Since he quoted me to kick things off, I’d like to throw in a few clarifications and thoughts.
I should make it clear that my Huffpost blog didn’t actually claim that there was anything inherently undemocratic about the concept of planetary boundaries (or indeed of the anthropocene). Rather, the focus of that piece was on the ways that the dynamics of a particular UN Expert meeting ‘closed down’ discussion of uncertainties, contestation, values and politics so that the end result was an apparently scientifically-authoritative/authoritarian set of messages conveyed to the SDG process. Nor am I claiming that the scientists involved in developing the concept are personally authoritarian in outlook. On the contrary. I know and work with many of them too. Indeed, as the longer version of the piece described, some were there at the Expert meeting and there was plenty of discussion in its early stages about uncertainties, politics, values, and the need for debate and dialogue, and bottom-up as well as top-down approaches. At least in part, the ant-democratic moves came in the ways the UN meeting managed and communicated its messages to the Open Working Group process.
Yet I also don’t think communication alone is to blame. There is a tendency for the concept of planetary boundaries to align rather neatly with approaches that are top-down not bottom up, set rather than deliberated, singular rather than respectful of diversity, privileging scientific over experiential expertise, global rather than local, control rather than response-oriented, and so on. It does so more than other candidate or related concepts – whether the ‘three pillars’, sustainability or sustainable development, or component dimensions such as climate change or biodiversity . There are plenty of reasons for this, and they relate to both scientific and political processes. But it does mean we have to keep a particular ‘watching brief’ on this concept-of-the-moment; one that is constructive and engaged, yet maintains the ability to contest and critique.
Ultimately, as our work in the STEPS Centre has often underlined, we need to be clear about means and ends; service and mastery. As long as planetary boundaries (like other technical concepts and frameworks) are seen as means to democratically-set ends; retained in service (rather than mastery) of political agency and used to open up (rather than close down) inclusive debate… then they’re part of the solution. And powerful parts at that. Otherwise, they risk confounding not only democracy, but the problems themselves.
But check out the post and the comments… there are some quotes by G. K. Chesterton and by Eisenhower.
I particularly liked Roger’s comment #12..
Thanks much … I guess that I see the proposals as more than think pieces. The scientists involved are actively working to secure a seat at the table and exercise influence based on their proposals — this from just yesterday:
My critique here has nothing to do with “relativism” related to truth — as you know 350 ppm and 2 degrees are political rather than scientific boundaries. Climate change is real, but that fact has nothing to do with whether we chose authoritarian or democratic responses.
Going back to our world, we can want to have sustainable forests and communities, but claiming inappropriate legitimacy for scientific information and scientists’ opinions, is, as Roger says for climate, a separate issue.
One more reflection on my week. I attended a seminar relating to a disease that a family member suffers from. The speaker said “no one supports research on (this chemical) for this disease because the pharmaceutical companies fund research and this is not their product.” Maybe it’s easier to see that what gets funded gets studied, and who controls the funding controls the ultimate information when you are in Health World. Hence the need for a People’s Research Agenda.
Previously, we’ve discussed and debated the Willamette National Forest’s proposed Goose timber sale, especially as it relates to the fact that many local residents in the McKenzie Bridge area of Oregon knew nothing of the Forest Service’s plans to log 7,600 logging trucks full of trees from what amounts to their neighborhood.
According to the Eugene Register Guard, a federal judge has put the McKenzie Bridge timber sale on hold, ordering the Forest Service to prepare an environmental impact statement. At the end of the article you’ll notice that this logging project would reduce 13% of the Lookout Mountain Potential Wilderness Area, in a part of central Oregon that’s already heavily logged and roaded. Besides, logging to reduce potential Wilderness is, like, so, late 70s/early 80s. Hey Forest Service, get with 21st Century already.
A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Forest Service cannot go forward with a controversial logging project near McKenzie Bridge until an environmental impact statement has been prepared.
People living near the 2,100-acre Goose Project had opposed strongly the logging plans. They said there had been insufficient notice about the project and that they didn’t find out about it until it was too late for them to weigh in.
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit last May challenging the project.
In a ruling dated Thursday and made available late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken said the timber sale could have a “potentially significant effect” on the environment. As a result, the Forest Service erred in choosing a less stringent environmental assessment, rather than a more demanding environmental impact statement, to assess the potential effects of harvesting an estimated 38 million board feet of lumber from federal land….
Aiken’s ruling will likely be embraced by McKenzie Bridge area residents who said they didn’t learn about the pending timber sale and harvest until last spring. Those residents had little recourse because they didn’t have legal standing to challenge the sale — unlike Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, who did have such standing because they were the only parties to have appealed the project back when it was approved in 2010.
Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild said Tuesday that the ruling is a victory for local residents who will now have a much greater opportunity to be heard on the matter. That’s because an environmental impact statement requires greater public participation. “The public gets to comment, so that the decision-maker has the benefit of that information and can make a fully informed decision,” Heiken said.
Heiken said the Forest Service “had the chance to get it right a couple of times and stumbled.” The agency could have limited the proposed sale to the noncontroversial thinning of dense young timber stands, but instead opted to include the proposed logging of mature forests and logging near riparian areas, he said.
The agency again made a misstep when it decided against inviting public comment after local residents learned of the proposed sale last year, he said. “The Forest Service still had the discretion to do that and avoid this lawsuit,” he said….
Aiken said that the project would reduce the 9,664-acre Lookout Mountain Potential Wilderness Area by 1,249 acres — resulting in the harvesting of 680 acres of timberland and fragmenting an additional 569 acres from the rest of the potential wilderness area. In addition to the number of acres logged, the project also would authorize the construction of eight miles of temporary roads and one mile of permanent road, the judge noted.
Here is the press release from the plaintiffs.
Imagining a positive mutual future for wildland urban interface areas…check out this video about how Colorado Springs worked to create a Fire Resilient community, and their experience with the Waldo Canyon Fire. If you haven’t been around a western more or less urban community experiencing fire, listening to some of the interviews may give you a look at what it feels like to folks who live there.
Also, at about 4:30 in the video, Brett Lacy, the Fire Marshall of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, says “we expected the fire to go to those mitigation areas and lay down, but in most instances it hit those areas and went out,” and shows a couple of areas. Looks like those areas are beyond the home ignition zone. We have discussed these kinds of things on the blog before, but I think this video is helpful in seeing the areas treated and how that affected fire behavior.
You might also want to check out other information on the Fire Adapted Communities website here.
This is pretty interesting because Mr. Wynsma was able to obtain a great deal of information, (should that information be available more generally?) and also his observations as employee and collaborator. I’m starting a page on ideas for solving “the Problem” and will put his ideas, as well as the ideas found (buried?) in comments here, on that page. Here’s the link, and below is an excerpt.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Truth about Collaboration
Even though I don’t believe the current process for collaboration will solve these problems, that doesn’t mean there aren’t good things about the collaborative process or that the process can’t be improved upon to help solve the problems.
Here’s what I and other current and retired Forest Service acquaintances I contacted think are good things about the collaborative process:
Involving a diverse group of people (I hate the term “stakeholders”) during the project planning process is a good thing. I believe it helps the Forest Service design projects that better meet the desires of the public, even though it’s impossible to meet everybody’s personal opinions on how to best manage the public forests.
With collaboration comes group ownership in projects and support from start to finish.
Joint solutions and commitment means no backing out.
The collaborative program provides assistance with funding to accomplish needed treatments.
Collaboration can help lay people better understand the complexity of forest management.
Collaboration may build community relationships that encourage continuing positive working relationships between Forest Service people and the community.
Collaborative groups police themselves and force extremists on both sides of the spectrum to consider what they are really saying philosophically vs. practically on any given issue.
On the other hand, there are things about collaboration that are not so good, if not bad. Here’s what I and other current and retired Forest Service acquaintances I contacted think are bad things about the collaborative process:
The collaborative process is time consuming and more costly than the traditional process of public scoping and comment gathering for projects. The more people involved in a project, the harder it is to schedule meeting dates and field trips that will maximize the largest group involvement. The results of my inquiry clearly show that projects aren’t moving through the NEPA and appeals process any faster than normal and possibly even taking longer.
The time consuming nature of collaboration can be a major deterrent to people that are not paid to attend meetings during working hours, people who have limited free time or travel. Forest Service people can become weary of after hour meetings, paid or not paid.
Meetings can go on for months, if not years. This consumption of time makes it difficult, if not impossible, for many people to take part.
Poorly managed meetings generate negative emotions and can ruin the entire process.
For individuals or groups with an agenda to limit or eliminate forest management, collaboration can provide an opportunity to wear others down by dragging meetings on and on, then appeal and/or litigate after an extended collaboration process. Collaboration can also usurp the agency’s authority.
The Forest Service may or may not be aware of hidden agendas or games being played by some members in a collaborative group.
Forest Service specialists may feel like they get “cut-out” of project development.
Also considering project specialists: the more days they have to spend in meetings, the less time they have to conduct field work and write reports, which extend the timeline for implementing projects.
The ugly truth is that collaboration won’t reduce analysis paralysis, appeals and litigation. Collaboration also won’t increase the rate at which the Forest Service can reduce fuels and restore unhealthy forests until the appeals process and our current myriad of conflicting environmental laws are reformed.
So what are some possible ways to improve the collaborative process?
Here’s a few:
After all the time and effort put into project development by collaborative groups and the Forest Service, it simply isn’t fair to the collaborative or to the taxpayers of this country to allow an inexpensive process for individuals and groups, whether they were members of the group or not, to stop or delay project implementation through appeals and litigation.
Congress should pass a new law that will exempt collaborative projects from the appeal or objection process. They should also include bonding requirements for any individual or group that file suits to stall or stop collaborative projects.
Congress should also reform or eliminate the Equal Access to Justice Act, which allows litigants to recuperate court costs from the tax paying public.
The Forest Service should develop a new Categorical Exclusion to replace the Healthy Forests Restoration Act version (CE #10) that allowed for fuels reduction timber harvests less than 1,000 acres in size. The CE #10 was rescinded following a lawsuit filed by environmental groups because in my opinion this CE allowed for expedited implementation of fuels reduction projects.
To get a broader spectrum of public involvement, make more use of the internet to gather input from people who want to participate in collaboration but don’t have the time or money to show up for meetings and field trips. The Forest Service could maintain email mailing lists for projects that people want to be engaged in and could be kept up to date on the progression of projects without having to show up for meetings. For example, with the smart phone technology I could imagine a logger sitting in the woods during a lunch break or a hiker up on a mountain top being able to participate in a collaborative project.
Note from Sharon: I was somewhat involved in the development of CE#10, not sure that would help at the end of the day. I really like his last point in terms of the criticism I hear from both sides.
Recently, the discussion of collaboration and forest planning – at least on this blog – has focused on the processes at play with the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest forest plan revision. See here, here and here. The discussion and debate continues, as we can clearly see in these point/counter-point guest columns, which recently ran in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News. The first one is from Lee Rozen, who wrote his piece on behalf of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News editorial board. The second piece is from Gary Macfarlane, ecosystem defense director for Friends of the Clearwater.
We have this Friend, see, who’s stumped us
By Lee Rozen, for the Moscow-Pullman Daily News editorial board
Sometimes, you have to wonder whether the Friends of the Clearwater can see the national forest for the trees. Generally speaking, we agree with much of what the Friends, and groups like them, stand for. We are skeptical whenever industry or local government tells us to just trust them because they are acting in our best interest.
But when government in the form of the U.S. Forest Service comes forward and seeks the informed advice of a wide variety of groups – both industry and Friends included – we don’t see sinister conspiracies lurking behind the next stump. Challenges, perhaps, but not conspiracies.
The Forest Service is trying a “collaborative” process to develop a management plan for the newly combined administration of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. That’s instead of proposing a plan and offering it up for industry, governments, recreationists and environmentalists to take potshots at, and eventually go to court over.
It seems that’s what Friends of the Clearwater want them to do. The Friends seem to be afraid their principles will be co-opted if they sit down across the table from industry, government, hunters, motorcyclists and ski-mobilers and negotiate the best way to reach an acceptable compromise on the use of this forest. More practically, they argue that industry and government can pay to have their representatives at the discussions but groups of volunteers with day jobs can neither afford the time off nor the travel expenses. As a result, the Forest Service has offered to help the collaboration occur online.
A plan for running a national forest poses a complex problem because it is so unclear what national forests are and what they should be. It’s pretty clear what’s intended for national parks, wilderness areas and national recreational areas. But national forests are different. They are supposed to support a mix of goals, many of which can be contradictory – logging and recreation, for instance. The Friends of the Clearwater, and other interest groups, should be working to make the “collaborative process” work for all, rather trying to shoot it down in hopes of “total victory” in the courts.
US Forest Service must follow the law
By Gary Macfarlane
Lee Rozen’s criticism of Friends of the Clearwater (Our View, written for the editorial board, March 13) is off base, misinformed and reflects a lack of understanding concerning our public land laws and the public involvement process. Had he contacted us, he would have learned why we believe the Forest Service is not following the law. It appears the agency has stumbled into a quagmire, under the guise of collaboration, with its new forest planning process.
The process the Forest Service is currently following on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests plan revision circumvents existing law, creates a contradictory and confusing public involvement process and lacks accountability. For 40 years, the National Environmental Policy Act has governed public input and analysis of agency proposals. NEPA mandates that the first step of the public involvement process is to identify pertinent issues. However, this collaborative process is seeking to resolve issues before the genuine public involvement process even begins. How can the Forest Service resolve issues before they are properly identified?
Under NEPA, all citizens can participate equally. However, the new collaborative forest plan revision process – which has no statutory authority – creates two unequal classes of citizens. The E-collaborative invention funnels citizen comments from the second class through the first class citizen collaborative group. Why should a special working group have more input and be allowed to determine whether or how other citizen comments are used?
Furthermore, NEPA requires an objective analysis of alternatives before decisions are made. Thus, the integrity of NEPA is compromised when the agency reaches a deal or understanding with the collaborative forest planning group before the NEPA process even begins. NEPA must be more than a pro forma exercise. Can you imagine having a collaborative group decide the outcome of an election before the election begins in order to avoid the contentiousness of elections?
Another stated reason behind the new forest planning process is to save time and money. How is having two competing public involvement processes for national forest planning more efficient? Indeed, the Forest Service recently admitted the collaborative process would take longer than anticipated. We feel that such redundancy wastes time and money and also creates conflict and confusion. In fact, a member of the forest planning collaborative for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests – Jonathan Oppenheimer of the Idaho Conservation League – recently termed the process as collective collaborative confusion at a presentation given in Eugene, Ore. Even proponents of collaboration find the new process fatally flawed.
Retired Forest Service fishery biologist and Moscow resident Al Espinosa stated in a comment letter on the new process, “The intent here is to avoid accountability by eliminating the appeal process and providing a phony pathway around the regulations and laws.”
He also noted the new planning process would circumvent the national interest. Removing accountability and de-legitimizing NEPA’s public involvement and decision-making process is not in the public interest. The Forest Service could have prevented scrutiny, confusion and distrust had the agency followed citizen suggestions made in an October meeting in how to lawfully proceed with the forest plan revision process.
If national forest management is to be determined by local collaborative groups, then existing laws like NEPA need to be repealed first. If the goal is to remove the ability of citizens to have judicial redress and to challenge agency decisions in court, then the Constitution must be amended. The new process for national forest planning clashes with the law. Friends of the Clearwater simply believes the Forest Service should be accountable to U.S. citizens and the law. We think the majority of Americans would agree with us.
Missoula, MT – The Canada lynx was listed as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in March 2000, yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has yet to complete the required recovery plan to ensure the survival of the elusive cat.
Today, a coalition of wildlife advocacy groups dedicated to the long-term survival and recovery of lynx filed a lawsuit to compel the Agency to complete a recovery plan to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. Threats to the lynx include loss of habitat and connectivity from improper forest management, development, and climate change, and mortality from starvation, predation, poaching, and incidental trapping.
The goal of the ESA is to prevent the extinction of and to provide for the eventual de-listing of imperiled species. As such, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to adopt and implement recovery plans for all listed species that describe the specific actions needed to achieve de-listing, include measurable criteria, and estimate the time and costs required to achieve recovery goals.
“Recovery plans are one of the most important tools to ensure a species does not go extinct,” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center in Helena who is representing the wildlife advocacy groups in the case. “The ESA-mandated plan provides a road map to eventual de-listing by laying out what needs to happen and how best to get there,” added Bishop.
“Lynx will never fully recover in Montana and throughout the rest of their range in the lower 48 states until state and federal agencies have coordinated, concrete conservation actions designed to promote their recovery,” said Arlene Montgomery, Program Director of Friends of the Wild Swan. “Recovery plans are vital to ensuring that lynx not only persist, but thrive. They address the threats and provide the strategy that will lead to recovering lynx that builds upon the Endangered Species Act listing and designation of critical habitat.”
“Offering the Canada lynx protection under the Endangered Species Act absent a Recovery Plan, the Service merely created a paper tiger,” explained Duane Short, Wild Species Program Director for Biodiversity Conservation Alliance. “Its legal obligation to develop and implement a Recovery Plan is intended to produce meaningful actions that will actually enhance long-term survival of the species. Listing the lynx as Threatened under the Act, absent a Recovery Plan, is a job left undone.”
“The lynx’s recovery continues to be hampered by a ‘business as usual’ mentality from the federal and state agencies,” added Bishop. “Recent data suggests the lynx population in Montana may be in decline and yet, we’re still seeing development, trapping and snaring, roads, and industrial logging projects – including clear cuts – in some of the last remaining areas still occupied by lynx, including protected critical habitat” said Bishop. “Coordination among the various entities at the federal, state, and local level is needed to address the cumulative effects of these activities on lynx and their habitat. This is exactly what a federal recovery plan can do.”
The Western Environmental Law Center is representing Friends of the Wild Swan, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance, and the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance.