Judge Halts Fleecer Mtn Logging Project: USFS shortcut lynx, griz analysis, must also supplement EA with “full and fair discussion of the impact that temporary roads will have on elk”
According to this news article [emphasis added]:
A judge on Friday blocked [the Fleecer Mountain] logging project in Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and ordered two federal agencies to take another look at the effects on lynx, grizzly bears and elk that may be in the area….
U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen wrote in his ruling the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service used a procedural shortcut to conclude lynx habitat would not be harmed by the project.
The federal Endangered Species Act requires the government to ensure no action will harm the existence of any endangered or threatened species, or destroy or harm their habitat. But the procedure was bypassed when the Fish and Wildlife Service wrote that threatened lynx did not “occupy” the southwestern Montana forest, even though there is some evidence lynx may be present, Christensen wrote.
As a result, the Forest Service did not conduct a biological assessment on the effects of the logging project on habitat that lynx may pass through.
Christensen ordered the agencies to conduct a new analysis using the proper standard under the federal Endangered Species Act.
The Forest Service also must conduct a new biological assessment on the project’s effect on threatened grizzly bears after Christensen ruled the original assessment was “arbitrary and capricious.”
The agency also must study the effects on elk of building temporary roads for the project, Christensen said.
Here are some highlights from U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen’s order:
Summary judgment is also granted in favor of Plaintiffs on their claims under the ESA. The Court concludes that the case must be remanded to the Wildlife Service to consider whether lynx “may be present” in the Forest because the Wildlife Service improperly applied a stricter standard to that inquiry. Until the Wildlife Service conducts its analysis under the proper standard and the parties complete any consultation that might become necessary, the Project must be enjoined.
The Forest Service’s biological assessment of whether the Project “may affect” grizzly bears was also arbitrary and capricious, and a new biological assessment must be prepared.
Summary judgment is granted in favor of Plaintiffs on their claim that the Forest Plan’s and Project’s discussions of elk violate NEPA. Although the Forest Service did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in setting road density levels for the Forest, analyzing road density at the landscape and hunting unit scales, or defining secure areas for elk, the Court nevertheless finds that the Forest Service must supplement its EIS for the Forest Plan to explain or support, if possible, its decision to exclude temporary roads from the road density objectives and to correct the record to show that permitted and administrative roads are included in the objectives.
The Project EA must also be supplemented with a full and fair discussion of the impact that temporary roads will have on elk during the Project’s lifetime, an important aspect of the problem given the already high road density levels in the Project area.
I want to delve more into the specifics of Judge Christensen’s order, especially the part about impacts of temporary roads on elk, but first, careful readers of this blog may remember that we’ve had some discussion and debate about this Fleecer Mountain logging project in the past.
For example, who could forgot the almost joy-like, childish mocking of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystem Council from the editorial board of the Montana Standard newspaper in their March 4, 2012 editorial ironically titled, Abuse of enviro laws may doom them?
Last year the Montana Standard editorial board wrote:
Who knew that Fleecer Mountain had such a thriving population of grizzly bears? And who would have thought that taking out some dead and dying trees, working on stream restoration and improving sagebrush range lands might lead to the extinction of lynx?
Environmental groups do….What a surprise….
Listening to their rhetoric, one might get the impression that government employees are bent on wiping out native species and butchering forests into moonscapes. The Fleecer project is a prime example. Forest Service scientists carefully planned the project to deal with numerous dead and dying trees in the area and supply some logs to the timber industry. They looked at conifer encroachment into native grasslands and the decline of aspen groves. And they considered the health of the streams and ways to improve the movement of fish.
But Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, saw the Forest Service’s real, sinister motives…and said the lawsuit was necessary “for the sake of the elk, grizzly bears, lynx and a myriad of other old growth dependent species.”
There have never been grizzlies spotted there. And Forest Service personnel say their analysis found the lodge pole pine areas where the logging is proposed is not prime lynx habitat.
The Montana Standard editorial on March 4 criticized the Alliance for the Wild Rockies for filing lawsuits to stop the Fleecer timber sale….While claiming the Alliance is “abusing environmental laws,” what the editorial didn’t mention is that we win about 87 percent of those suits.Simply put, unless the Forest Service is found to be breaking the law, we don’t win….When the Alliance was informed of the new [Fleecer Mountain logging] project, we toured the site with the forest supervisor and two district rangers, told them our concerns, and submitted detailed comments in writing. The previous two forest supervisors worked with us on the Grasshopper, Anaconda Job Corps, Beaverhead-Deerlodge roadside salvage and the Georgetown Lake timber sales, for which they should be commended. But this time around, the agency decided to try and make giant, illegal clearcuts in prime elk habitat instead of following their own rules and laws.
Contrary to media representations, our country’s environmental laws aren’t that strict. They don’t prohibit logging on our National Forests, but do require that the Forest Service must ensure that there will be viable populations of native species after logging — and clearcuts simply do not make good wildlife habitat for elk, grizzly bears and other old-growth dependent species.
We are a nation of laws and that means federal agencies, just like citizens, must follow the law. As before, the Forest Service will either pull this proposal or, if it loses in court, blame environmentalists for once again stopping clearcutting of elk winter range.
The Standard claims it was surprised to find there are grizzly bears around Butte. But in 2010, the Standard reported that a grizzly bear was killed near Elk Park and in 2005 a hunter killed a grizzly bear within the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area which adjoins the Fleecer timber sale and is within the wildlife security analysis area for the project. If grizzlies are to be recovered and removed from the Endangered Species protections, it means their habitat must be taken into account in Forest Service timber sales….
Instead of attacking citizens for participating in the management of our public lands and “abusing” environmental laws, the Standard should ask the Forest Service and its allies, like the Montana Wilderness Association, why the agency has such a hard time following the laws that ensure Butte continues to be surrounded by beautiful national forests full of native wildlife for generations yet to come.
The [Fleecer Mountain Logging] Project EA must also be supplemented with a full and fair discussion of the impact that temporary roads will have on elk during the Project’s lifetime, an important aspect of the problem given the already high road density levels in the Project area.
As a backcountry elk hunter, I’m certainly keenly aware that great elk habitat and logging roads mix about as well as oil and water. And as an elk hunter, I’m also vigilant about protecting great elk habitat and ensuring that existing elk habitat (and habitat for all wildlife species) on public land isn’t compromised by misguided “management” schemes.
As a forest activist I’ve monitored many logging projects, post-logging, and have documented evidence that even these supposedly “temporary” logging roads have impacts that last long after the logging is finished and the temporary road is supposedly “restored.”
For example, we’ve noticed that just like regular logging roads, these temporary logging roads become vectors for the spread of noxious and invasive weed species, such as knapweed and cheatgrass. So too, these “temporary” logging roads are often quickly found by people who have less than ideal environmental ethics who use these temporary logging roads for illegal dumping and illegal ATV and motorcycle joy-riding. It’s also worth pointing out that we’ve witnessed all of the same weed-spreading and illegal dumping and ATV use as we’ve seen with temporary logging roads on some logging “skid trails” as well.
Unfortunately, too many of these so-called “Sportsmen’s” groups have fallen hook, line and sinker for the timber industry’s rhetoric that “temporary” logging roads are a great thing and that there are no negative consequences what-so-ever to building a bunch of “temporary” logging roads in many of our already over-roaded public National Forests.
For example, “Sportsmen’s” groups such as Montana Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Montana Trout Unlimited (as well as conservation groups like the Montana Wilderness Association) are supporting Senator Tester’s mandated logging bill, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. One key selling point these well-funded groups use is that the bill would largely prohibit new, permanent logging road construction, instead relying on the construction of an unlimited number of “temporary” logging roads, which these groups seem to think have zero impact on the environment.
Just like Judge Christensen ordered the Forest Service to have a “full and fair discussion of the impact that temporary roads will have on elk” I’d like to request that these “Sportsmen’s” groups be more honest about the documented negative impacts of even “temporary” logging roads have on elk, other wildlife and the over-all health of our forests and watersheds. Sportsmen’s groups should encourage, not discourage, a “full and fair discussion of the impact that temporary roads will have on elk” and other wildlife species, not simply pick and choose when they will stand up based on what appears to be game of political paddy-cake, in which politicians with a “D” after their name are lionized, while any politician with an “R” after their name is demonized.
Finally, back in March 2009 ecologist and author George Wuerthner had this piece, Permanent Damage from Temporary Logging Roads, over at Counterpunch. Since Wuerthner’s article contains some excellent additional information and thoughts about the very real ecological impacts of “temporary” logging roads I’ll post it here in its entirety. Wuerthner’s piece ends with some very good, and very reasonable, questions anyone supporting the construction of “temporary” logging roads should ask themselves before getting the rest of us to jump on the “temporary” road bandwagon.
The latest attempt by the Forest Service to make logging palatable is “temporary” roads. A lot of research has found that logging roads are among the biggest impacts to forest ecosystems. (For a good review of road impacts see Trombulak and Frissell.) The Forest Service has at least 400,000 miles of roads on the lands it administers and these roads are a major environmental collateral impact associated with logging and other resource exploitation.Even the Forest Service has had to admit that logging roads have many unacceptable impacts to the forest ecosystem, so they have to come up with a new term and idea to make logging acceptable—temporary roads. Temporary roads only have temporary impacts—or so we are led to believe. And some conservationists have jumped on the “temporary” road band wagon just as some readers of the National Inquirer are quick to accept the hype of the latest fad promoting say the low fat ice cream diet.
Temporary roads are like low fat ice cream, they seem to taste good, but as any nutritionist can tell you, you’re are infinitely better off if you don’t consume a lot of ice cream at all—low fat or otherwise. The same is true for roads. Temporary roads are only slightly better than a regular road, and no one should be fooled into thinking they somehow eliminate the negative impacts associated with roads just because they are “temporary.
The problem is that temporary roads have most of the same environmental impacts as regular roads. Roads compact soil. Even three trips by logging equipment over soil can result in a significant reduction in water infiltration. Roads, by slicing across slopes, alter downward flow of subsurface and surface water, often concentrating it on the compacted road surface, thus increasing erosive power. Roads are a chronic source of sedimentation, and a major impact on aquatic ecosystems.Roads fragment wildlife habitat. Roads are avoided by some sensitive wildlife species or used as a convenient travel corridor by other species. Often roads provide access for “weedy” ones that negatively impact other species—such as creating access for edge birds to invade and attack interior forest species.Roads change air flow which can affect fire spread and even the distribution of plants responding to micro-climate changes. Roads are the major vector for weeds and disease. Weeds and disease are one of the most pernicious and problematic impacts associated with roads. In the long term, the introduction of weeds and disease may do more damage to forests than the logging. For instance, a root fungus that is introduced by logging equipment along logging roads is decimating Port Orford Cedar stands in Oregon and California where the tree grows.Road beds provide access for hikers and hunters—giving more potential disturbance to wildlife. And ORVers typically find ways to get around gates and other obstacles to use the roads as roads. In short, a temporary road is mostly a mirage. It is essentially a new logging road.
Now some will argue that temporary roads are better than regular roads, especially if they are “reclaimed.” If a road is fully reclaimed, there is something to this argument. The problem is that there is no legal definition of what constitutes “reclaimed” and most roads are not fully reclaimed, in part, because it is very difficult and expensive to do reclamation.To fully reclaim a road is more than putting up a gate to block vehicle travel. It requires ripping up the road bed to remove the compacted soil layers. The side slope soil has to be put back on the site, and reshaped so sub surface and surface water flow is restored. Culverts need to be removed, and stream channels fully restructured and reconstituted. Vegetation needs to be planted—and grass seed is not enough—especially if the area once supported forest. And logs, rocks, and other natural structures need to be put back on the slope. And even if all these things are done, an old road does not magically disappear overnight. It continues to have impacts for years until the vegetation has grown sufficiently to more or less emulate the pre-road condition.
I’ve seen fully reclaimed roads in Redwood National Park and a few other places, but it’s is extremely rare. And the expense often numbers in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per mile.
By contrast, I’ve seen a lot more minimally reclaimed roads. I’ve been on forest service lands where a “temporary” road is just a road that the FS didn’t put on its travel maps as a legal road. It was still there on the ground, but since it was not included in the official travel plan as a road, as far as the FS was concerned, the road did not exist any longer.
The FS usually does go a step further, however, to close temporary roads. Typically the agency will put up a gate. Nevertheless, most gates, unless built extremely well, do not keep ORVers from using the road on the other side and sometimes even the agency continues to use the road for “administrative purposes.”
While such “temporary” roads may reduce road impacts somewhat, they are nowhere as good as no road at all. And this is the rub. I’ve had environmentalists telling me that I don’t have to worry about “new” logging roads because they are all going to be “temporary”. For example, that is one of the claims of the Beaverhead Deerlodge Partnership proponents. Don’t’ worry, all logging will be from existing roads and any new roads will be “temporary” and must be “removed” in five years.
For one thing, such temporary roads will effectively be a road for five years at the least, and may exist far longer as a marginally reclaimed road, especially in the arid environment found in much of Southwest Montana. Such “temporary” roads will exhibit nearly all the problems of a regular road except that they may not be used for public vehicle travel.
So when you hear someone supporting logging because it won’t have the impacts of roads since all new roads will be “temporary” ask some hard questions about the proposal. How long will the “temporary” road be in use? Will it be closed to all vehicle traffic forever or will it be used again for logging in 10 or 20 years? Will it be reclaimed? What does reclamation mean? Will the road bed be ripped up, slopes restored, stream channels reconstructed, and original vegetation restored? If not, than you will have a road—and a road is still a road whether it is called “temporary” or otherwise. Temporary roads may be better than a permanent addition to the road network, but it should never be thought of as a zero impact. Low fat ice cream is still ice cream—and you’re not likely to lose weight eating a lot of it. Temporary roads are still roads, and typically have all of the major impacts associated with any road.
The following blog post is from the Dog Alliance’s Dana Smith and appeared on their blog:
Today, Dogwood Alliance and our long-time partner, Natural Resources Defense Council, launched Our Forests Aren’t Fuel, a campaign to stop the large-scale burning of trees for electricity. It’s no coincidence that the launch of this new effort coincides with today’s Wall Street Journal front-page story exposing how Southern wetland forests are being clearcut, turned into pellets and shipped overseas to be burned in European power stations.
For over a year now, we’ve been doing our homework, researching the market trends, identifying the major corporate players and investigating the impacts on the ground. We’ve been cultivating partnerships and allies (check out the 75 groups signed on to our campaign platform) and informing the media, including, of course, the Wall Street Journal, who we extensively briefed on the issues leading up to today’s article. We’ve been preparing for just the right moment to expose the inconvenient truths about burning wood for electricity: it not only threatens wildlife and water resources in the world’s most biologically diverse temperate forest, but it also threatens to accelerate climate change, endangering life as we know it on planet Earth. Today, the smoking gun is revealed, with evidence that trees from clearcut 100-year old wetland forests in the Southern US were burned as fuel to generate electricity.
Misdirected renewable energy policies both here in the US and in Europe treat biomass, including the burning of trees, as renewable energy just like solar and wind. With billions of dollars of government subsidies available, over the past several years, major utility companies have been converting coal burning power plants to wood, even though there is a mounting body of scientific evidence that burning trees for electricity releases more carbon into the atmosphere than burning coal. In a rush to find much-needed alternatives to fossil fuels, this inconvenient truth, along with evidence that it’s destroying forests, has been largely ignored.
The Economist recently hit the nail on the head in depicting the practice of burning trees for electricity with an illustration of a caveman lighting a fire with sticks in hand. With the emerging technologies of solar and wind power, burning trees as fuel for electricity is indeed quite primitive and clumsy by comparison. The use of forests as a primary fuel source is taking us backward, not forward, on the path to clean energy.
Europe is currently at the forefront of this rush to burn, which has led to an explosion of new facilities here in the South that are chopping down our forests, turning them into wood pellets and exporting them across the Atlantic. Currently, the Southern US is the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets. Wood pellet exports to Europe from the South doubled from 1.5 million tons to over 3 million tons over the past year and are projected to double again to 6 million tons by 2015.
Trees from clearcut wetland forests like this one are being turned into wood pellets and shipped overseas to burn for electricity.
At the head of the pack in Europe is Drax, who is investing billions of dollars to convert dirty old coal plants to wood burning. Much of the wood comes in the form of pellets from the Southern US. Drax is not alone, with many of Europe’s largest utilities including Electrabel, GDF Suez, Dong, and Forth burning wood pellets imported from the US South to generate electricity as well.
Domestic utilities here in the South are not far behind the Europeans. All of the top utilities in the South already have some capacity to burn wood for electricity with plans for further expansion in the future. Currently, Dominion Power in Virginia leads the pack. Other companies are not far behind like Southern Company, Duke Power, TVA, and Florida Power & Lights, who all have plans of their own.
The largest company pelletizing forests in the South is Maryland-based Enviva. Though they claim that the trees they use come from “sustainable forestry”, Enviva ‘s sourcing of wood from clearcut cypress tupelo wetland forests along the North Carolina Virginia coast was revealed today by not only the Wall Street Journal but also the BBC.
What an embarrassment this must be to Virginia’s Dominion Power and Drax in the UK, both of whom rely on Enviva for wood to burn. Drax purchases wood pellets exported to Europe by Enviva and Dominion Power buys the leftover tops and limbs from Enviva’s operations. Both Drax and Dominion claim that they hold their wood suppliers to high standards of forestry. The fact that Enviva has been caught sourcing from clearcut wetlands is yet another inconvenient truth I am sure these companies don’t want to hear. I suspect the other huge wood pellet companies, including Georgia Biomass, Green Circle, and more have some inconvenient truths of their own that will come out in due time.
Before that happens, however, these companies can make the right choice. The leaders in this fiasco, Dominion Power, Drax and Enviva, can set a better example by choosing not to burn trees for electricity and announcing their leadership in developing non-destructive, clean energy sources that will actually reduce carbon emissions. As leading developers of forests as a fuel source, these companies now have an opportunity to take swift and decisive action before additional investments are made and the problem reaches a scale that is irreversible for our forests and climate.
Our wetland forests provide critical habitat to countless species of plants and animals, and they protect coastal communities from flooding and serve as vital carbon sinks. Our wetland forests are many things, but they are NOT fuel.
Now, more than ever, we should fast-track investment in clean energy such as solar and wind while simultaneously accelerating efforts to protect forests. Our forests are vital for clean air, clean drinking water, flood control, wildlife habitat, and protect us from climate change. They should not be burnt for electricity – our forests aren’t fuel.
Happy Birthday to Michael Frome, a friend and Wilderness hero who turns 93 years young today. My wife was lucky enough to have Dr. Frome as a professor at Western Washington University during the 1990s and I’ve been fortunate to visit with him in Montana over the years. We’re planning to rendezvous with Michael later this summer in Wisconsin, as he currently lives an hour south of my hometown of Elkhart Lake.
Dr. Frome’s 1974 book, Battle for the Wilderness, should be required reading for anyone involved in public lands Wilderness issues, especially in today’s day and age of quid pro quo Wilderness proposals. Suffice to say, if Howard Zahniser, Steward Brandborg and those advocating for the Wilderness Act in the late 1950s and early 1960s would have taken some of the approaches to Wilderness protection we see emerging today, America’s Wilderness system (the envy of the world) would be a much different place. Although I suppose you would have been able to ride a tram to the top of many Wilderness peaks and enjoy a hot espresso and fresh muffin.
Michael remains active in many Wilderness, public lands and conservation issues. When he was 90, National Parks Traveler magazine did a feature on Frome, titled, “90 Years On, Dr. Michael Frome Continues to Lament the Sate of the National Parks.”
So, in celebration of Dr. Frome’s 93rd trip around the sun, and in honor of his continuing life’s works to protect Wilderness and America’s public lands, below is a copy of a speech Dr. Frome gave on April 26, 1984 at the University of California-Berkeley titled, “20th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act: Still in Pursuit of the Promised Land.” Below Michael’s speech is a copy of the introduction that was made for Michael. I’m not sure who gave the intro, but it includes a great deal of biographical information about Dr. Frome.
Since next year is the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act, it seems relevant to go back and remember what Wilderness activists thought during the 20th Anniversary. Happy Birthday Michael Frome, and here’s to many more!
Michael Frome: 20th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act: Still in Pursuit of the Promised Land (link)
Given at the University of California-Berkeley on April 26, 1984
I feel highly honored at being here at the University of California, invited to deliver the 1984 Horace M. Albright Lecture on Conservation. I am blessed at the opportunity to express my ideas freely and fully before this audience in this setting, under the banner, as it were, of a man I have known and admired for years, and am privileged to call my friend, Horace Albright, one of the principal figures in the history of conservation.
Freedom of expression is paramount in my life. I say that as a journalist, but I believe that free expression is the keystone of the health and efficiency of any institution or government or society. Diversity of opinion, even dissent, challenges an institution, or a political, social and economic system, to continually review and renew itself.
As a journalist, I believe that truth-telling is essential to my profession. Truth-telling must and will prevail. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance,” wrote James Madison, “and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the powers that knowledge gives.” What greater goal could a journalist set for himself? What finer reputation could be earn than as one who arms the people with the power that knowledge gives?
The same is true of anyone, for that matter, anyone with knowledge and position from which to communicate it. At times, to be sure, an open expression of ideas may seem foolhardy or risky. It endangers professional acceptance and advancement. But freedom of the individual, with the right of self-expression, is sacred. I consider my freedom as a need, like water or food, to sustain the spirit as well as the body; for real success or failure comes only from within and society cannot impress it from without. To quote Joseph Wood Krutch: “Only the individualist succeeds, for only self-realization is success.”
Or as a reader of Field & Stream wrote to me: “History books are records of events and the doings of individuals who didn’t go with the flow.” Let truth hang out and consequences follow. The challenge is to make the most of the democratic American system. It may not be so good, as they say, except when compared with the alternatives. From my own life I know that it works. That I should have uncensored outlets open to my writing, that I should have a place to lecture at the University of Idaho (as I did earlier at the University of Vermont), and that I should be here tonight – such experiences give me faith in myself and the American system.
The only trouble with democracy is that we take it for granted. Democracy is what we make of it, a system under which we the people get what we deserve. Laws and regulations have their place, but only people make things work. That is why I feel that writers, and educators, too, should be leaders in the exercise of free expression. We are the human machinery that stimulates and sustains the democratic system.
Wilderness I see as the embodiment of freedom, which is why I’ve chosen to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Wilderness Act with you here tonight. That law is an extension of the charter handed down by the founding fathers with its guarantee of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Wilderness I equate with freedom from want, war, and racial prejudice, and the freedom to cultivate one’s thoughts in one’s own way.
Last summer while in northern Minnesota, I got to thinking about Arthur Carhart, one of the wilderness pioneers. During the period he worked for the Forest Service as a landscape architect, from 1919 to 1923, he was dispatched to the Superior National Forest, in Minnesota, with directions to prepare a plan for recreation development. Carhart, however, recognized that the area could be “as priceless as Yellowstone, Yosemite, or the Grand Canyon-if it remained a water-trail wilderness. ” His bosses thought that was wild talk; they were considering a master plan to build roads to reach every lake and to line the shores with thousands of summer homes. But Carhart persisted to advocate his own concept, won support and laid the basis for establishment of what we now call the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Shortly before Carhart left, Sigurd Olson arrived on the scene. Over the years Olson would stand in meeting halls urging that natural values be protected from assorted mining, dam-building, logging and motorboating. It wasn’t easy and sometimes he was treated to hoots of scorn and derision. Years later Carhart paid tribute to Olson for leading a small group, which held, as he said, “a thin line of defense protecting this exquisite wilderness until help could rally to save it.”
What was it they found worth defending? Based on my experience, I would call it the feel of freedom above all else. Freedom from crowds, cars and mechanical noises. Freedom that comes from doing for one’s self, without dependence on technological support. Freedom in nature, derived from being among creatures that get up and fly when they want to, or run, swim, wiggle, dive and crawl, all admirable modes of self-propulsion. In the northern Minnesota wilderness I felt free to pick and savor wild blueberries, free to swim in cool waters, cool and dark, almost as pure as in the days of the Chippewa Indians.
I went to Minnesota as part of an exploration of wild America, pursuing adventures and encounters with different kinds of people and asking what wilderness means to them. They made some beautiful statements, usually simple yet lofty and profound. One of my friends, a forester in Idaho, said:
“You get away from your tradition and lifestyle in a wilderness and you find out in a heluva hurry who you are and what you’re capable of, what are the real issues in life. What really frightens you will come to the surface.
“Wilderness is my lifestyle. Wilderness is necessary. It represents that part of America that once was and always will remain. Wilderness is forever. We should be lucky enough to be smart enough to set it aside. We don’t have to be like the Europeans. We don’t have to wish for that type of land representation. We’ll have it. I think we’re smart in doing it.”
The very idea of wilderness enriches my body, mind and spirit, but is also elevates me to look beyond my own wants and needs. The American tradition has sought the transformation of resources; the Wilderness Act, however, stimulates a fundamental and older tradition of relationship with resources themselves. A river is accorded its right to exist because it is a river, rather than for any utilitarian service. Through appreciation of wilderness, I perceive the true role of the river, as a living symbol of all the life it sustains and nourishes, and my responsibility to it.
The Wilderness Act of 1964 opened an era of new legislation to protect rivers, trails, endangered species of plants and animals, air, water and the environment. My travels and studies convince me that wilderness itself merits the right to be wild. Wilderness is meant for the bald eagle, condor, spotted owl, and ivory-billed woodpecker; for birds that nest in the tops of old trees or in the rotted holes in tree trunks and that need dead or dying logs to house the grubs and other insects on which they feed. Wilderness is for grizzly bears, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, elk and wolves that need large areas set aside from civilization.
We are fortunate, in America, as my forester friend said, that we have such places at this advanced stage of history. As to why our generation benefits from this legacy, I identify two principle influences.
The first of these is the influence of leadership, sometimes idealistic, sometimes practical, conceiving wilderness as a valuable entity, or resource, defining its place and purpose in national destiny, demonstrating the means of protection and perpetuation. This leadership is as old as the republic, manifest in earlier days through the works of James Fenimore Cooper, George Catlin, George Perkins Marsh, and in pre-World War 11 years of Arthur Carhart, Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall. The last three were Forest Service employees, which shows that government officials can be wilderness leaders, too-though few, if any at all, have made much of a mark in the last 30 or 40 years.
The identification of Horace Albright with this notable lecture series leads me to discuss the early role of his agency, the National Park Service, and its approach to wilderness. From 1872, when Yellowstone National Park was established (even before there was a National Park Service), the Department of the Interior administered wilderness as a deliberate mission, even to calling troops of cavalry to protect it when Congress failed to allocate funds through non-military channels. Early directors of the Park Service were strong wilderness advocates and activists. I love the story of how Stephen T. Mather, the first director, issued an order to a lumber company to dismantle its mill and depart the bounds of Glacier National Park. When the order was disregarded, Mather personally headed a brigade that exploded the mill with 13 charges of TNT. On another occasion, when it was suggested to him that park superintendents be appointed under the same political terms as postmasters, Mather replied that he was going to pick his own people according to capability alone.
Those early years of the National Park Service were its heyday, when Mather and Albright built a vigorous, capable, aggressive organization, devoted to public service and committed to wilderness. It not only safeguarded wilderness values where they existed, but often restored these values, despite powerful opposition, in areas like Big Bend, Sequoia, Yosemite, Glacier, and the Great Smoky Mountains, all of which had been degraded by logging, grazing, mining or settlement.
When I was writing my book about the Great Smokies, “Strangers in High Places,” Horace was a major source of historic information. He told me, among other things, about his confrontation with Senator Kenneth D. McKellar. McKeller was a rough, tough, crusty machine politician, who built his strength in Tennessee by “bringing home the bacon” from Washington and by demanding every bit of his share in control of patronage (which earned him the title of “grand-pappy of all political pie-hunters”). He built his strength in the Senate through the system of seniority, which recognizes and rewards the talent of surviving through one election after another.
In the early 1930s, when McKellar learned there was to be a scenic road built on the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the new Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, he demanded one just like it for the Great Smokies. Here is what happened (to quote from “Strangers in High Places”):
“The national parks director went to see him and endeavored to explain that because of the rugged topography there could never be a road along the eastern crest of Smoky, and moreover that there never should be – that a large portion of the Great Smokies should be preserved as a roadless wilderness. The two national parks were designed to complement each other, Albright emphasized; it would be ridiculous to develop them exactly alike.
“McKellar exploded. He couldn’t bother with such details as the meaning of a national park and the methods of its management. He blasted Albright and for good measure blasted Albright’s parentage. That a damn career bureaucrat would dare stand in the way of the welfare of Tennessee! McKellar would have liked to punch the rascal (who had to be a Republican anyway, since he was serving under Hoover) squarely in the nose, and he said so.
“Albright withdrew. He was a tough man in his own right, but knew when to advance and when to retreat. In a few days he returned to Capitol Hill. McKellar refused to see him, but Albright had brought along an intermediary, a mutual friend, who insisted that he listen to the parks director and held him strongly by the arm while he did. ‘I will explain to you the difference between the two parks, of Virginia and North Carolina-Tennessee,’ began Albright. After so doing, he concluded, ‘I will not, under any circumstance, go ahead with the road you demand. Furthermore, Senator McKellar, I resent your personal insults.’
“Despite McKellar’s power and influence, that road was not built. The politicians were obliged to accept the National Park Service as a bureau that ran its affairs on non-partisan integrity. They may not have liked it, but they respected the Service all the more because it lay beyond the spoils system.”
Alas and alack, they don’t much make them like Mather and Albright anymore. Nor like Giffort Pinchot or Ferdinand Silcox either. But they do make them like John Muir; maybe not quite like the singular Muir, but in his image. This leads me to the second significant influence in the protection of wilderness.
One lesson I learned from Horace years ago is that the act of setting up national parks is not enough to make them work. By the same token, having 80 million acres designated in the National Wilderness Preservation System doesn’t insure their sanctity. National parks, national forests, national wildlife refuges, state parks and forests, county and city parks – no tract of public land has its future assured simply with a label, nor because it has a staff of paid professionals in charge. As I said earlier, laws and regulations have their place, but only people make things work. What is most needed, as Horace expressed it years ago, is “wider support from more citizens who will take the trouble to inform themselves of new needs and weak spots in our conservation program.”
The fact is that each national park, starting with Yellowstone, came into being through public will and desire. Someone had a dream, plus the determination to rally others to make that dream come true. Such is the story of the Redwoods, Santa Monica Mountains, North Cascades, Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Great Smoky Mountains, all of them. The same principle applies to the ongoing protection of preserves once they are established, that is, through the identification of those “new needs and weak spots.”
An individual may be struck with a brilliant idea in land use, but that idea reaches fulfillment because the people want it to. For example, the Appalachian Trail was conceived in 1921 by Benton MacKaye, a trained forester and regional planner. It was based on his wanderings in the New England forests, although others had already begun localized trails. In an article titled “An Appalachian Trail – A Project in Regional Planning,” he envisioned “a ‘long trail’ over the full length of the Appalachian skyline from the highest peak in the North to the highest peak in the South.” Few proposals in regional planning have ever fired the imagination as did MacKaye’s. Scattered groups and individuals began to work, ultimately to work together to forge the Appalachian Trail into the longest marked path in the world. It has been supported ever since as something more than merely a recreational footway. “This is to be a connected trail,” as the Appalachian Trail Conference declared in its constitution as early as 1925, “running as far as practicable over the summits of the mountains and through the wildlands of the Atlantic seaboard and adjoining states, from Maine to Georgia, to be supplemented by a system of primitive camps at proper intervals, so as to render accessible for tramping, camping, and other forms of primitive travel and living, the said mountains and wildlands, as a means for conserving and developing, within this region, the primeval environment as a natural resource.”
The establishment of the Idaho Primitive Area is another case in point. I recently came across historic data, including the minutes of a meeting conducted at Boise in December 1930. The governor of Idaho, H. Clarence Baldridge, had appointed a committee to consider the wisdom of setting aside something to be called “primitive area” in the heart of the national forests of the state. The governor at that 1930 meeting said it was the wildest country he had ever seen and that the general consensus was it should be “perpetuated as nearly in its natural state as possible for future generations.” Following considerable study and consultation, the Forest Service set aside approximately one million acres.
The Idaho Primitive Area came into existence because the people of the region wanted it to. That was in 1931, more than half a century ago. It was established on paper but endures down to our time in fact. It is sometimes argued that wilderness is the playground of elite and effete urbanites, but I don’t believe it. The Idaho Primitive Area would have been lost a long time ago if the people of the state had not felt their stake in it as some priceless possession. Little wonder that, when then Senator Frank Church conducted hearings on the proposed permanence and enlargement of the Idaho Primitive Area, people who had never spoken publicly before stood and opened their hearts in praise of an area larger and wilder than Yellowstone. Little wonder that, in seeking for some appropriate way of paying tribute to Senator Church before his death, Idaho should unite in 1984 behind the new name of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the largest wilderness outside of Alaska.
One further illustration. Twenty years ago, I attended a symposium conducted at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on the question of whether the Colorado River flowing far below us should be dammed. David Brower, the executive director of the Sierra Club, argued fervently that it should not be. My friend Martin Litton was present there, too, and was very active in opposing the plans of the Bureau of Reclamation, but Brower has been most identified with leadership in that issue. I recall how he charged at that symposium that the Sierra Club book on the Grand Canyon was being suppressed and was not available for sale in the national park.
As it happened, the park superintendent of that time was a friend of mine. I was with him only an hour after Brower had made his remark. The superintendent’s feathers were ruffled. “Why, of course we have the book for sale. It’s right here. ” And there it was, hidden under the counter. The Secretary of the Interior, Stewart L. Udall, was one of the conservation heroes of the period, but nowhere near infallible. He was a principal advocate of the proposed dams on the Colorado River and of environmentally destructive power development in the Southwest. As a consequence, national park people were silent and silenced.
In 1970 four seasonal employees resigned their positions at Mesa Verde National Park after being warned not to discuss with visitors effects of the nearby massive Black Mesa stripmining project on the Hopi Indians. “Morally,” they declared, “we felt we could no longer work for an agency whose purpose is to protect our cultural heritage, but whose practice is censorship of major environmental problems which ultimately affect the very park in which we were working.”
Those four employees should have been praised, rather than forced to resign. Professional training tends to teach one to conform and direct ambitions into safe channels, whereas freedom of expression needs to be recognized, stimulated and defended as an essential element of good government. But where government leadership fails, in the absence of a Mather or Albright, then the public voice must be heard. With due credit to the instrumental role of David Brower, it wasn’t quite he who saved the Grand Canyon, but people all across this country who expressed themselves, echoing the plea of President Theodore Roosevelt early in this century: “Do nothing to mar its grandeur.”
So it is with wilderness, the natural treasure that enriches our lives and our land. The Wilderness Act of 1964 could never have been passed without broad public support and approval. Thus we celebrate this 20th anniversary of a momentous and proud happening, one of the noble achievements of modern civilization, a show of ethics and idealism to contrast with super-technology, super-colonialism and violence. The National Wilderness Preservation System provides hope for a coming age of reason and nonviolence, in which respect for the earth and of all its occupants will prevail.
But we have a long road to travel to realize the promise of the promised land. And I don’t lay the blame on commerical interests which may or may not view wilderness as a source of raw materials. The four federal agencies responsible for administering the Wilderness System have not met their responsibility or opportunity. They don’t think or plan in ecosystems. They don’t direct serious attention to wilderness administration. They don’t coordinate their approaches. In my travels across the country I haven’t seen a single wilderness managed as it should be in fulfillment of the letter and spirit of the Wilderness Act, but I have seen wilderness areas in terrible condition, abused and degraded.
Little attention is directed to wilderness theory and principle. I’ve met more than a few personnel at all levels in these agencies who have never taken the time to read the Wilderness Act and consider it to be all a bother anyway. “Well,” they demand to know, “how much wilderness do you actually need?” While recognizing that it can’t all be wild, I feel reluctant to answer that question; what counts more is whether each succeeding generation must settle for an increasingly degraded world, reflected in de0 graded, circumscribed living. I can’t juxtapose resource commodities against wilderness when the great value of wild country lies in its freedom, challenge and inspiration.
We need to safeguard the sources of freedom, challenge and inspiration. The Constitution is recognized as a sacred document guaranteeing freedom of expression, though it requires continual testing and defending. Wilderness is equally sacred, in my view – a living document of land and people, as valid and vital as the Constitution.
I’ve learned that we, even the experts – or especially the experts – understand very little about wilderness reserves: of how to manage and interpret wilderness so it will always be wild; of its abundant benefits to society; of how to apply the lessons of wilderness to make the whole earth a better place to live. We need to assess actual and potential values of wilderness reserves in terms of their bearing on human sensitivity and creativity.
I respect resource management and the education of resource professionals, but I want that professionalism firmly and broadly grounded, in philosophy and ethics as well as science. That’s what makes being part of a natural resource learning institution exciting to me. Last year, under the auspices of the Wilderness Research Center of the University of Idaho, my colleagues and I conducted the First National Wilderness Management Workshop. The Chief of the Forest Service, Max Peterson, one of the principal participants, felt moved to call it a “landmark conference,” and the immediate result was to raise the visibility of wilderness in resource management on federal lands. More people now know there are problems that must be addressed. Other such projects are planned at the University of Idaho, along with ongoing courses in wilderness conservation and management.
Last month I was privileged to speak at Colorado State University on the “Twentieth Anniversary of the Wilderness Act: Heroes Who Made It Happen – New Heroes in the Making.” A few years ago that presentation would have been unlikely; forestry schools didn’t care much for the subject. Now Colorado State is preparing for a major national conference on wilderness research and, even more significant, to serve as host for a world wilderness congress in 1987.
These activities by educational institutions are timely. The 20th anniversary of the Wilderness Act finds us on an upward curve of environmental concern, with wilderness at the heart of our environment, as at the heart of the nation.
I think of the campaigners for the Wilderness Act as true patriots: Howard Zahniser, David Brower, William O. Douglas, Richard Neuberger, Olaus Murie, Stewart Brandborg, Hubert Humphrey, John P. Saylor, Sigurd Olson, and others who should not be forgotten. My research shows Horace Albright as one of the early proponents of a Wilderness Act. At the Mid-Century Conference on Resources for the Future, held in Washington, in December 1953, he declared as follows:
“The wilderness areas in the national forests have never had a basis in law. They have been set aside by the Secretary of Agriculture for a good many years, and I am not sure that even now he can go to Congress and get such a law. Right away it would be asked: Would that mean the stopping of grazing, or of mining, or of cutting? But, just the same, law is the only means by which the areas can eventually be protected. The wilderness areas, or some of them and some of their characteristics, ought to be embodied in the law.”
My favorite heroes are my own breed, writers who are activists, like Sig Olson, Dick Neuberger, Wallace Stegner, Paul Brooks, Bernard DeVoto, and especially journalists who tell it like it is, like John Oakes. In the New York Times of May 13, 1956, he reported that Senator Humphrey was sponsoring a bill that would set up a national wilderness preservation system. “The idea is certainly worth exploring,” John wrote, “if what is left of our country in a natural state is worth saving, as many of us believe it is.” He outlined the problem as follows:
“This isn’t just a question of city folks seeking outdoor recreation, or enjoying spectacular scenery, or breathing unpoisoned air. It goes much deeper; it springs from the inextricable relationship of man with nature, a relationship that even the most insensitive and complex civilization can never dissipate. Man needs nature; he may within limits control it, but to destroy it is to begin the destruction of man himself. We cannot live on a sterile planet, nor would we want to.”
Of course we can’t. The 20th anniversary of the Wilderness Act gives assurance that we will not have to. We have still to achieve the promised land, but the pursuit itself is uplifting and yields its own
Introducing: Michael Frome
Mr. Frome was born in New York City and spent most of his early years there and in Washington, D.C. He studied at City College of New York and George Washington University, without obtaining a degree, being eager, or over-eager, as he admits, to begin a career in journalism. His debut was inauspicious, a start from the bottom at the Washington Post and International News Service. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II and was trained as a navigator in the Air Transport Command, which led to flights to distant corners of the globe. For the last year of the war he was stationed at Hamilton Field at San Rafael, and made his first visit to Berkeley, to see a football game.
Following the war he returned to the Washington Post as a full-fledged reporter, writing front-page stories. But travel had made him restless. He went south for a time to write for the Nashville Tennesseean, then returned to Washington to do public relations for the American Automobile Association. During this period he developed and cultivated his interest in tourism, the out-of-doors, and conservation. He met Horace Albright, who was then Chairman of the National Parks Advisory Board, and such other members of the Board as Alfred Knopf, the literary lion, and Bernard DeVoto, the author.
In 1959 he became a freelance writer, first focused on travel, then shifting his attention to conservation, natural resources, forestry, wildlife, and political issues relating to the environment. Over the years he has contributed to major magazines and newspapers. He has been a conservation columnist for American Forests, Field and Stream, and the Los Angeles Times. Currently his columns appear in Defenders of Wildlife and Western Outdoors, but you never can tell when you will pick up a publication with a Michael Frome byline or some quotation of his work.
He has been a prolific writer. His books include The Forest Service, revised and updated in 1984; Battle of the Wilderness and Whose Woods These Are, both reprinted this year; Strangers in High Places; the Rand-McNally National Park Guide; and The National Parks. He has lately completed Promised Land – Adventures and Encounters in Wild America, which will appear early next year.
Michael has received a number of awards. He particularly prizes the Mort Weisinger Award presented in 1981 by his peers of the American Society of journalists and Authors for the best magazine article published in the preceding year, a five-part series titled “The Ungreening of the National Parks.”
No stranger to the academic community, Michael has lectured at many colleges and universities. In 1978 he served as Visiting Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont. In 1981-82 he was Author-in-Residence at the Pinchot Institute for Conservation Studies, headquartered at the Gifford Pinchot Estate at Mitford, Pennsylvania. For the past two years he has been Visiting Associate Professor of Wildland Recreation Management in the College of Forestry at the University of Idaho, where he will continue for another year at least. Idaho is fortunate to have him.
Michael Frome is a spokesman for wilderness, for wildlife, for public lands, for wise land use. He is an independent voice and a critic constructive in the public interest. Walter J. Hickel, while Secretary of the Interior, declared “Mike tells it like it is, not like we’d like to think it is.” Senator James McClure of Idaho greeted our speaker at a wilderness hearing as follows: “Now, you’ve criticized me, but you’ve been fair and done it with a flair. You’ve pinned my hide to the wall, but it’s up there with some pretty good hides. I’m glad you’re here in Idaho.”
From the Environment News Service:
WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2013 (ENS) – The Obama Administration’s plan to remove the gray wolf from the protections of the Endangered Species Act, as detailed in a draft Federal Register notice released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, PEER, is temporarily on hold.
The reasons for the indefinite delay announced this week were not revealed nor were the records of closed-door meetings to craft this plan that began in August 2010.
Today a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to obtain the records from those meetings was filed by PEER, a nonprofit national alliance of local, state and federal resource professionals.
The draft Federal Register notice would strike the gray wolf from the federal list of threatened or endangered species but would keep endangered status for the Mexican wolf. No protected habitat would be delineated for the Mexican wolf, of which fewer than 100 remain in the wild.
This step is the culmination of what officials call their National Wolf Strategy, developed in a series of federal-state meetings called Structured Decision Making, SDM. Tribal representatives declined to participate.
On April 30, 2012, PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for all SDM meeting notes, handouts and decision documents. More than a year later, the agency has not produced any of the requested records, despite a legal requirement that the records be produced within 20 working days.
Today, PEER filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to obtain all of the SDM documents.
Given our recent discussions about ESA, I thought this article here by Bob Berwyn was very interesting.
Federal wildlife agencies are under intense pressure from states to turn over wolf management. Congress has already set the stage for political interference in the wolf recovery process, and that step has put the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service at the edge of a very slippery slope. Any proposal to de-list wolves is likely to face significant opposition and legal challenges from conservation advocates.
Congress has “set the stage” for “political interference”? But isn’t when and where species should be managed open for public (“political”) discussion? Didn’t Congress, in fact, determine what is in ESA?
Here’s a quote from the scientists’ letter..
“The gray wolf has barely begun to recover or is absent from significant portions of its former range where substantial suitable habitat remains. The Service’s draft rule fails to consider science identifying extensive suitable habitat in the Pacific Northwest, California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the Northeast. It also fails to consider the importance of these areas to the long-term survival and recovery of wolves, or the importance of wolves to the ecosystems of these regions.”
So it sounds like the scientists (which I’m not sure tracks with the ESA legislation) think recovery means they need to go back everywhere there’s “suitable habitat”. I would argue that the “ecosystem” I live in seems to be doing OK without wolves.. and who would judge that? Since ecosystems are a human idea imposed on the planet, I guess it’s up to anyone to argue one way or another and I would think wolf biologists might not be the folks to ask about how an “ecosystem” is doing. And it also seems like they if they are not everywhere, in the long-term wolves cannot survive. I don’t know what the rationale is for that but if they are doing fine, and expanding their ranges now… I just don’t get why designating suitable habitat everywhere is necessary..
Here’s a quote from a previous post here:
With Endangered Species Act protection, states like Oregon and Washington could decide they don’t want any wolves at all. Utah, Colorado, and California and Northeastern states could decide never to pursue wolf restoration, foreclosing the possibility of recovery in large parts of gray wolves’ historic range.
“The Obama administration is giving up on gray wolf recovery before the job is done. How can they declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ when gray wolves still face significant threats throughout their range,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife and a former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Wolves in the Pacific Northwest have only just begun to recover, and there are no wolf populations in Utah and Colorado. Places like the Olympic peninsula in Washington state and the Colorado Rockies would benefit both ecologically and economically from the return of wolves. We shouldn’t be closing the door on an incredible opportunity to revitalize some of America’s best remaining suitable wolf habitat by bringing back these important iconic animals,” she said.
“Gray wolves once ranged in a continuous population from Canada all the way down to Mexico, and we shouldn’t give up on this vision until they are restored … But now, politics has been allowed to trump sound science, and the future recovery of America’s wolves is being tossed up in the air once again. It is truly sad that the Obama administration has chosen this path and short-circuited what could and should have been a tremendous conservation success for our nation,” she concluded.
Wow! “Science” tells us that wolves and grizzlies have to be reintroduced everywhere they used to be? Doesn’t sound like a science question to me..sounds to me like plain old preference and values, which generally tends to be mediated through.. our elected officials.
On May 16, 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen ruled in favor of conservation groups and found that the U.S. Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to consult with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether its region-wide management direction for the threatened Canada lynx would destroy or adversely affect 10 million acres of designated critical habitat for the elusive feline.
In the past, the Forest Service had taken a project by project approach to managing critical habitat, but recovering Canada lynx requires managing their habitat at the large landscape scale. This ruling requires the Forest Service to sit down with the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure its big-picture management scheme is protecting the 10 million acres of designated lynx critical habitat in the northern Rockies. The judge’s ruling impacts 11 national forests containing designated critical habitat in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
The lawsuit challenged the Forest Service’s failure to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure that the Northern Rockies Lynx Management Direction would not destroy lynx critical habitat. At the time the management direction was adopted, lynx critical habitat was only designated in three national parks—Glacier, North Cascades and Voyageurs. The U.S Fish and Wildlife Service subsequently designated 10 million acres of critical habitat across 11 national forests in the northern Rockies after it determined that Julie MacDonald, a high ranking political appointee in the Bush Administration, had improperly interfered with critical habitat designations for several species, including the Canada lynx. The court ruling determined that the Forest Service should have consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service when the new critical habitat was designated.
Maybe we could follow this story and learn about the ins and outs of ESA as this goes through the process. When I worked for the FS, we had experts so I didn’t really need to understand all the ins and outs (I was involved with the S Rockies lynx amendment, but more in terms of trying to move it along procedurally). Bob Berwyn posted this on his blog here. It’s interesting that states currently with wolverines don’t seem to be as enthused as Colorado, which currently does not have them. Correlation or causation?
Here’s an excerpt from Bob’s story:
Just in the past few weeks, the state agency rekindled those talks to update stakeholders on the federal listing process, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton.
“We’re trying give everybody an understanding of how some of the things that are proposed would work … The way they’re doing it is kind of new,” Hampton said, referring to the proposed simultaneous listing and nonessential population proposal.
“Overall it was a productive meeting. There were concerns that came up, many related to lynx and the history of that,” he said.
The lynx listing resulted in more stringent reviews for certain types of projects on national forest lands, including logging, ski area operations and expansions, and other recreational uses.
Colorado won’t consider a wolverine reintroduction program until the federal listing is finalized. Then, the State Legislature would have have to give its approval, but Hampton said that state biologists are keen to explore the idea.
“There’s still a great deal of interest in this … Maybe to temper that, there’s biological excitement. There aren’t that many species that you can look at and say, they’re native, were extirpated, and there is general agreement that bringing them back would be a good thing,” he said.
Here’s my question: they aren’t here in Colorado. We bring them in (reintroduction) and then we have yet another creature to analyze on each federal proposal, and it seems that we need to analyze even when they are nowhere around because it could become habitat for them were their populations to grow (is this true?).
Would it be a “good thing”? Based on the same logic (native and extirpated) we would be reintroducing grizzlies to California.. I don’t know.. what is “biological excitement”? People get “biologically excited” for a variety of reasons, not all of which can be discussed on a family blog, but are not usually set into public policy…
I’m interested in a) whose opinion rules at the end of the day as this process goes forward (biologists who work for CDOW? USFWS?)
b) how and when the scientific information gets arrayed and how it is structured for the public to comment on the scientific information and its use.
In the case of the wolverine, the USFWS posits that snowmobiling, backcountry skiing, and land management activities like timber harvest and infrastructure development, don’t pose a serious threat, but nongovernmental conservation groups counter that there’s not enough good science to draw that conclusion. Intentional killing of wolverines would be banned in any case.
Did we move somehow from scientific information about impacts to needing to prove that there are no impacts..isn’t it impossible to prove a negative?
c) what happened with lynx.. at first it sounded like there was a deal with ski areas to support it, now every ski proposal needs to be examined for its impacts on lynx and I believe there’s been litigation that cited lynx.. how does that all work? Was there really a deal? How did it hold up?
d) How about people on private lands.. do they have the same restrictions as public lands?
e) If wolverine is up north and having trouble, is a choice to be more careful up north to protect it instead of moving it somewhere it isn’t? Which under climate change may get less hospitable for the species anyway? Is that a good use of public biologist time and federal planning and analysis funding?
The following introduction was written by Greg Petrich with the Alaska Chapter, North American Bear Foundation. After the intro is a guest column written by Don Cornelius and Jack Gustafson. Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Gustafson are former Area Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Habitat Division; with a combined experience of over 32 years reviewing Tongass National Forest, and private Native corporation logging issues. – mk
Senate bill S.340 (currently pending in Senate Natural Resources Committee) would transfer premium cherry picked Tongass National Forest lands to the private for-profit Sealaska Native corporation – violating a previous settled contract with the US government to select final land claims inside non-controversial agreed upon boundaries. A product of political influence it has become one of the most controversial issues ever to hit Southeast Alaska.
Two of the regions most respected and well known habitat professionals: Don Cornelius, and Jack Gustafson examine this bill’s potential impact on a globally rare and threatened resource – the tiny fraction of the land that holds the massive “giant trees” of the Tongass. – Greg Petrich, Alaska Chapter, North American Bear Foundation.
Congress Considers S.340. An Alaska Big-Tree Old Growth Transfer to Private Corporation
By Don Cornelius and Jack Gustafson
Legislation sponsored by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) would transfer approximately 70,000 acres of public land in scattered locations across Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to the Sealaska Corporation, primarily for extensive industrial scale clearcut logging other commercial development.
The bottom line on S.340 is:
A) It is completely unnecessary; and
B) It is a very poor environmental trade off of lands and resources, and not in the public interest.
C) It sets a precedent, and an inequity, in the transfer of lands outside the public review process, potentially opening new claims by Native corporations across the state.
The proposed legislation (S. 340) would enable the Sealaska Corporation, to reopen and rewrite basic terms of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (1971) in order to make alternative land selections in the Tongass, including some of the region’s most valuable large-tree old growth. Under current law, the Sealaska Corporation has already made its final land selections but is now seeking legislation to renege on their original ‘requested’ deal to obtain more commercially valuable Tongass public lands.
Sealaska’s controversial proposal has attracted opposition from small towns scattered throughout the southeast Alaska panhandle region as well as a diverse assortment of sportsmen and conservation groups concerned about habitat impacts. Several of the publicly owned areas now being sought for logging by the Sealaska Corporation have exceptional ecological value identified as conservation priorities through a comprehensive Tongass-wide habitat assessment process by The Nature Conservancy and Audubon Alaska.
A letter jointly submitted about the bill from The Wildlife Society, The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Wildlife Forever, Safari Club International and more than a dozen other sports groups describes the legislation as “fundamentally flawed” and asks that the bill not advance further. Trout Unlimited also opposes the legislation for not adequately protecting high-value salmon producing watersheds that would be transferred out of the national forest to be logged by Sealaska.
The Tongass National Forest contains a significant portion of the earth’s last remaining significantly-sized tracts of this forest type. Large-tree old growth stands have always been scarce as well as long-targeted by loggers since the first days of commercial logging. Today, they constitute a very small fraction of the overall landscape. Size class 6 and 7 combined represent 3.4% of the land area. Size class 7 alone, which include stands with up to 200,000 board feet per acre (think of trees 10-12+ feet in girth and worth a quarter million dollars per acre) today occur on just half a percent of the land base.
Past Tongass operations have been exceedingly hard on these unique and rare large-tree stands. These very special stands are far more than just visually impressive, evolved over a millennium, they constitute the richest and most valuable wildlife habitat on the Tongass.
The public lands that would be transferred to Sealaska under S. 340 include some of the region’s most biologically productive areas. The bill would enable the corporation to “high-grade” ― i.e., disproportionately target and clearcut extremely rare, big-tree old growth. Recent analysis of S. 340 shows that Sealaska is selecting large-tree old growth stands (combined volume class 6/7) at 10 times the rate they occur naturally in the Tongass (30% vs 3.4%).  Even the young-growth (previously logged) forest that Sealaska is also selecting targets the most productive lands.
The Sealaska legislation would high-grade increasingly rare, large-tree old growth and amplify this long-recognized problem. Congress explicitly identified the high-grading concern in 1990 as part of the Tongass Timber Reform Act (TTRA) and enacted an explicit ban on the practice.  An independent scientific peer review of Tongass forest management practices in 1997 further highlighted the interconnected problems of high-grading, forest fragmentation, and loss of habitat connectivity.  In its most recent testimony to Congress on S. 340 the Department of the Interior testified that if the Sealaska legislation is enacted as proposed the United States Fish and Wildlife Service may have to review its previous findings not to list the Queen Charlotte goshawk and the Alexander Archipelago wolf under the Endangered Species Act.
Because Sealaska has already made its final Settlement Act land selections under existing law and has officially filed those selections with the federal Bureau of Land Management, no further action is required by Congress for the corporation to receive its full entitlement.
S. 340 is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). We would encourage you to contact the Full Committee and ask for no further action on this bill.
Mr. Cornelius and Mr. Gustafson are former Area Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Habitat Division; with a combined experience of over 32 years reviewing Tongass National Forest, and private Native corporation logging issues.
 Kirchoff, S. 340 Tongass National Forest Comparison, February 2013 (Click Here ) http://www.fileden.com/files/2012/4/8/3289499/S340_TNF_Comparison_Feb2013.xlsx
 H.R. 987: Tongass Timber Reform Act, Section 301(c)(2)
 Powell, et al., “Joint Statement of Members of the Peer Review Committee Concerning the Inadequacy of Conservation Measures for Vertebrate Species in the Tongass National Forest Land Management Plan of Record,” (September 1997).
Here is Region Five’s “Ecological Restoration Implementation Plan”. It is definitely worth a browse, especially if you are a local within or near any of these National Forests. Each Forest spells out what it is doing and what it is planning.
(The picture is an old one, from fall of 2000. I had been here, salvaging bug-killed trees, in 1991. There was obviously additional mortality after that.)
From the Eldorado NF entry:
Maintain healthy and well-distributed populations of native species through sustaining habitats associated with those species
Use ecological strategies for post-fire restoration
Apply best science to make restoration decisions
Involve the public through collaborative partnerships that build trust among diverse interest groups
Create additional funding sources through partnerships
Incorporate the “Triple Bottom Line” into our restoration strategy: emphasizing social, economic and ecological objectives
Implement an “All lands approach” for restoring landscapes
Establish a sustainable level of recreational activities and restore landscapes affected by unmanaged recreation
Implement an effective conservation education and interpretation program that promotes understanding the value of healthy watersheds and ecosystem services they deliver and support for restoration actions.
Improve the function of streams and meadows
Restore resilience of the Forests to wildfire, insects and disease
Integrate program funding and priorities to create effective and efficient implementation of restoration activities
Reduce the spread of non-native invasive species
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.