This is a good news article from the Denver Post about people working together to decide on what should be cut. Kudos to the Park Superintendent.
Here’s an excerpt:
Dan Wenk, the superintendent of Yellowstone, is the face of the federal government around Cody, and his popularity underscores the truth that it’s harder to dislike a neighbor than some faceless bureaucrat inside the Beltway. When the cuts hit, Wenk had to slice $1.75 million from his $35 million budget and do it with the fiscal year just about half over.
He trimmed his payroll. He scaled back travel and training programs. Finally, he decided to idle the Park Service snowplows for two weeks, saving $30,000 a day and leaving it to the spring thaw to help clear more than 300 miles of roadway.
The idea, Wenk said, was to ensure that there was money left to keep Yellowstone open throughout the peak summer months.
“We cut the budget in a way we thought was absolutely the least impactful,” he said.
Locals were nearly unanimous in their praise for Wenk and the way he worked with community leaders and state officials to find a solution that got the plows rolling. It is a lesson, they said, that Washington should heed.
“We just talked it through,” said Claudia Wade, marketing director for the county tourism office. “Everybody came to the table and said, ‘How can we work this out?’ Not, ‘Whose fault is it?’ “
In case it isn’t obvious, the communities around Yellowstone and the Administration are generally not of the same political stripe. Local physical realities tend to trump ideological inclinations.
Can Idaho manage public lands better than the feds? Idaho Statesman and Some Whiffs of Domestic Imperialism
Now I am not for land transfer as a solution. I think that there is a middle way, or a variety of middle ways, to be tested that could help us deal with the concerns of local people and officials. But first we have to be willing to listen, and not enemize or partisanize them, or simply tell them that their concerns are not valid. Basically the US owns the land and it can do what it wants, buffeted by alternating sets of national interests.
Here is the link.
But here is an interesting paragraph:
WHAT ABOUT RECREATION?
Haunold, whose business sells skis, bikes and other outdoor equipment, said nothing in the discussion addresses his industry, whose $6.3 billion in consumer spending generates 77,000 jobs annually, according to a new report by the national Outdoor Industry Association.
According to a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the parent agency of the U.S. Forest Service, more than 7 million people visit Idaho’s 20 million acres of national forests annually, spending more than $400 million.
A 2011 Interior Department report concluded that recreation accounts for six times more jobs than grazing or timber, and three times more than energy and minerals on the 12 million acres in Idaho managed by the Bureau of Land Management.
Even though much of the visitation hits rural communities, much of the spending is done in Idaho’s urban areas, so the rural lawmakers backing the bill don’t necessarily see the economic benefits of recreation in their districts. What they do see are reduced timber harvests and restrictions on grazing.
That’s why Haunold is skeptical when lawmakers say they won’t sell off the land if they can win a lawsuit upholding their plan and force Congress to turn it over – which Haunold thinks is a distinct long shot.
“As soon as they get their hands on it, they are going to sell off what they think is not valuable,” he said. “They’re going to fail, but along the way they will waste my taxpayer dollars.”
I italicized the part that interested me. First, I ‘d like to see the breakdown of where the jobs are if articulated in the studies he refers to.
But I hadn’t heard before that the “rural communities don’t necessarily see the economic benefits”. I wonder if that’s true? If it is, perhaps OIA would support a “Payments to Counties-like” transfer based on a percentage of say, metro sales going to support governments in rural areas? It only makes sense if those uses are up-and-coming, require county services, and don’t pay taxes in the counties.
I am beginning to understand the point of view of some rural legislators. We can’t use the land for what would give local people jobs, but we can to give urban people jobs… because those uses are .. better..
There is a bit of an air of domestic imperialism here. I didn’t focus on that in this piece but here’s also a quote from Swearingen’s piece on collaboration that we discussed here:
The idea of collaborative process has had its skeptics ever since it got a foothold in the 1990s, as people looked for ways through the polarization of the timber wars. The basic idea was to get traditional foes like loggers and wilderness advocates into the same room to hammer out proposals that might spare the Forest Service some costly litigation. But critics complain that these local, collaborative groups shift power from urban conservation interests to a rural minority.
Maybe that’s what all the unrest is really all about. Maybe we should discuss the power issues directly. What would it take to give local communities their rightful place in determining land uses? What is the local communities rightful place? Are some communities simply colonies of national interests and groups, because they happen to have a large federal land component, and they should simply resign themselves to the fact that outsiders know more than they about what is best?
In a way, this is off the topic, but my feeling is that we have a patchwork of federal and state and private lands and any problems and mistrust among the authorities can reverberate across topic areas. I have to wonder why this is an issue in Utah and neighboring parts of Colorado, and not so much elsewhere.
Should there be some kind of federal/state/county hearing process where each side is required to state its side of the story for everyone’s mutual understanding? I wonder why this hasn’t happened.. is there a lack of mechanisms? Clearly there is a problem that seems to affect public safety. What could be more important?
Here’s one story..
The sheriff relayed the story of a BLM ranger who chased down a speeding motorist on a state highway using GPS to track down the offender. Because there’s not a federal code for speeding, Smith said the motorist was written up for erratic off-road driving.
Noel said such citations become problematic because violators are forced to deal with federal magistrates often long distances away.
In contrast, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said his county has a signed agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in which violators are handled locally and prosecuted on the reservation, providing transparency and accountability in the system.
Garfield County Sheriff James Perkins said he didn’t have enough time to brief committee members on the problems he’s had with overzealous federal employees over the past few years, and his concerns have gone unanswered.
“I’ve gotten absolutely nothing but stonewalled,” Perkins said. “I’ve tried my best to work with these people.”
While the sheriffs emphasized they have often enjoyed cooperative working arrangements with federal agencies such as the FBI or Drug Enforcement Administration, it has not been the case with land management agencies, with law enforcement missions at times compromised.
Perkins said a raid on a 20,000-plant marijuana cartel garden was botched because the federal land agency conducted a “confirmation mission” the day before.
“It was a total failure,” he said.
Some lawmakers questioned if they were only hearing one side of the story and wondered aloud if there had been serious attempts to hammer out the problems.
Earlier this week I gave a 60-minute talk to a meeting of the Alsea Watershed Council, my “home group,” where I have been giving presentations every few years since they first formed in the 1980s. The audience was a little smaller than usual, but all of the old-timers were there and Elmer Ostling’s wife had baked delicious cinnamon rolls for everyone.
The theme of my talk was to discuss scientific and political “transparency” in this age of Internet communications – and to use the recently completed website report, Oregon Websites and Watershed Project’s (ORWW) “Coquelle Trails,” as a model and framework for the discussion. The Coquelle Trails project covered more than 1,400,000-acres in southwest Oregon, including sizable portions of BLM and USFS lands and hundreds of thousands of acres of marbled murrelet, spotted owl, coho, California condor, wolf, and elk habitat. PowerPoint and PDF versions of the presentation have been put online here:
The original 2-page Press Release for Coquelle Trails was used as a handout. The online version of the handout can be found here:
The discussion was arranged in four parts: 1) a proposed definition of “scientific and political transparency” — at least as it should apply to taxpayer-funded research — for the 21st century; 2) a demonstration of how inexpensive and easy it is to produce baseline data in modern digital formats, by using the Coquelle Trails’ predictive map construction and field verification methodology as an illustration; 3) a brief overview of how the Coquelle Trails’ historical datasets and current findings were formatted for Internet access by using the same standards developed by ORWW with Siletz School 2nd-Grade students 15 years ago; and 4) basic conclusions regarding current opportunities and needs to create better trust and transparency between federal land management agencies and local communities via enhanced research methods and internet communications.
After a brief introduction and background regarding the focus of my talk and the reference materials we would be using, we began with the proposed definition for “Scientific (& Political) Transparency: 2013,” which was also outlined in four parts:
1. Plain English
Acronyms + Jargon + Latin + Metrics x Statistics = Total Obfuscation
Doug Fir vs. Doug-fir vs. PsMe
TMDL vs. turbidity vs. muddy water
2. Research Methodology
A. All taxpayer-funded work is documented.
B. All documentation is made readily available via public websites.
C. Most work is subject to Independent Peer Review.
D. All peer reviews and resulting discussions are made publicly available.
3. Direct Access to all taxpayer-funded research, meetings, reports, correspondence, political decisions, etc.
4. Stable, well-designed (dependable, comprehensive & “easy to use”) Websites: ORWW Coquelle Trails as a model.
The opening discussion of Plain English was illustrated with a philosophical approach as to how Latin had been used to create distance between the Messengers of God and the illiterate masses in the Middle Ages, and how that process was still being used today – via government acronyms, professional jargon, metrics, and obscure statistics (and Latin) – to create distance between government agencies and the public; between the agencies themselves; and even between different generations of scientists within the same disciplines.
I used personal examples of the “evolution” of Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga taxifolia) to Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) to PsMe (“Piz-Me”) in the agencies and classrooms during the past 60 years – while everyone in town and at the sawmills continued to call it “Doug Fir.” The similar history of TMDL – and why that acronym is not a good fit to discuss with current grade school and high school students – was another example. Same with metrics: the USFS and BLM are US agencies. Our standard of measure, used by all taxpayers, is the English system (chains, links, feet, miles, and acres) — why then do agency personnel try and talk and write in terms of hectares and kilometers in official reports and public presentations (rhetorical question)?
The second part of the discussion involved a series of slides showing how traditional archival research methods and modern technology were used during the Coquelle Trails project to achieve desired results. This was, essentially, a summary of the methodology as described and illustrated by the online report:
Part three of the discussion used a series of slides showing how ORWW has continued to use the same methods and formats developed with Siletz 2nd-Graders in 1998 to present Coquelle Trails research datasets, findings, and conclusions to the present day:
The point was made – pointedly – that government websites to the present time continue to be far less stable, far less comprehensive, and much more difficult to navigate than methods developed by grade-schoolers during the past century – during the very infancy of the Internet. Also, that the more accessible and reliable design was developed and has been expanded and maintained by a tiny non-profit in Philomath, Oregon, entirely funded by local residents, businesses, and organizations – and no federal dollars. And that those works have been continuously available and online for more than 16 years (compare to the life of an average government link or URL).
Which brought us to the Conclusions, also listed in four parts:
Conclusions: How Transparency Saves Money & Improves Decision Making
1. The 1976 Paperwork Reduction Act and the 2010 Plain Writing Act already require the use of Plain English by federal agencies. These acts simply need to be enforced.
2. Modern technology makes automated scanning of documents and GPS-referenced digital photography increasingly cheap and easy. Citizens should insist on such documentation and direct access to all taxpayer-funded research, meetings, etc., affecting local regulations.
3. High-speed Internet communications and the recent proliferation of ipads and smart phones has made universal access to technical information possible, with few limitations to time and location.
4. Increased access to better information is believed to result in improved research, discussion, and decision-making. Stable, well-designed websites make such access possible for almost all citizens, including: students, teachers, scientists, politicians and public resource managers.
So that was my presentation. I would be very interested in other thoughts on this. I think the current lack of transparency in government and in science (and maybe particularly in government-funded science) is doing a great disservice to taxpaying citizens, our voters, and our students and teachers, all of whom deserve clear and complete answers to their questions and requests.
Modern technology and Internet communications have made sharing information more possible, cheaper, and easier than at any other time in history – so why does the government (and its scientists) continue to hide behind secret meetings, foreign languages and measurements, unavailable “findings,” clunky and outdated communications, never-ending acronyms, and other forms of deliberate obfuscation? That’s a rhetorical question with lots of answers, but the bottom line is that there is really no excuse for allowing this type of behavior to continue. It’s way too expensive, totally unnecessary, probably unethical, and counterproductive to most legitimate workings of government and of science. In my opinion. I’m interested in the thoughts of others.
We have had much discussion about “corporations” when it comes to oil and gas and timber. The situation with the Outdoor Industry Association is an another industry association lobbying, and with its own PAC. They seem to be lobbying, in this case, to get rid of the messy and seemingly interminable place-by-place public processes in land management planning for public lands. It seems to this observer that if the idea of place-based bills in Congress is bad, then the idea of unilateral “monumenting” is possibly just as or more bad. Seems to me like you should be consistent about which public process you prefer.
Here is a link to a news article.
Here is a link to the Blue Ribbon Coalition side of the story. and an excerpt below. The whole section on this by BRC is worth reading to those interested in both sides of the story. Thanks to BRC for doing a quality job on explaining their point of view.
Thanks to them for the SUWA link which says..
To protect these scenic landscapes, in March of 2011 SUWA –along with members of the Greater Canyonlands Coalition including Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation Association, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Coloradans for Utah Wilderness — made a formal request to the Secretary of the Interior requesting that Secretary Salazar bar off-road vehicle (“ORV”) use on 1,050 miles of ORV route in sensitive habitat, streams, wetlands, riparian areas, archaeological sites and other vulnerable areas until it can conduct further studies on the impacts of the activity and determine whether it is, in fact, a sustainable use. The petition would leave open 1,400 miles of ORV route within the petition area, and about 13,000 miles of routes open in the four BLM field offices surrounding Greater Canyonlands.
Unfortunately, in August 2011 the Obama administration refused to host a public discussion on protecting the Greater Canyonlands region. Even worse, it claims the management plans written by the Bush administration already provide adequate protection. These are the same Bush plans that designated more than 3,000 miles of off-road vehicle trails in proposed redrock wilderness.
It seems to me that “designating trails” is different from “off trail abuse.> This could lead to fruitful dialogue, I bet, between SUWA or OIA and BRC. Now I am not a particular aficionado of OHVs myself, but it seems to be you could get a lot more off trail abuse stopped if you collaborated with folks out there, instead of trying to kick them out. But maybe that’s me, because I figure most people are reasonable. And we want our kids in the woods, and family recreation, and I see a lot of that happening with OHV’s.
Again, I wonder what wonderful things we all could do for outdoor recreation if groups weren’t going around spending energies stabbing other recreationists in the back? If a ranger can do it on a district (as described here), why can’t someone do it at the national level?
A spokesperson for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said the state does not want to see a reprise of the 1996 designation of a 1.9 million-acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by President Clinton. Said Ally Isom, deputy chief of staff and spokesperson for Herbert, in a statement provided to PLN, “No one has formally approached the Governor or his office about a proposed monument in Utah. We certainly hope we don’t have another Bill Clinton approach to creating a monument. Canyonlands National Park was established by statute and any expansion ought to be rightly created by statute involving all interested parties, including Utah stakeholders.”
Utah’s Congressional Delegation was also kept in the dark regarding OIA’s proposal. They learned about it only after local media called requesting comments on OIA’s letter.
Utah’s Senator’s Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee, joined with Utah’s Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz in a letter urging President Obama not to establish a new National Monument.
“We are opposed to efforts to create national monuments within the state of Utah by presidential decree. Federal land-use decisions must be cultivated in a collaborative process that balances various stakeholder uses and priorities.”…. “We are opposed to this petition because it flies in the face of the collaborative process outlined above. Federal land-use designations affect a wide-range of stakeholders and each group should have a seat at the table.” … “Again, we strongly urge the rejection of the most recent — and all future — petitions for national monument designations by presidential decree.”
More on this tomorrow.
Continuing our thread on the role of local people in managing national forest lands, it seems timely to bring up Idaho Roadless. I could understand why people who wanted A National Rule (albeit with some flaws) would be against Idaho and Colorado before the 2001 was upheld, as that may have been seen to be a harbinger of other states potentially escaping the 2001 Roadless corral. But now. I just don’t see why it is worth it for them to spend the bucks to go to appeals court with the Idaho Rule.
I am also curious if there have been settlement talks, and if so, what the USG put on the table. I wonder if such talks are protected by attorney-client privilege, or otherwise able to be FOIAed. But all that aside, what I see is the desire to not do what the State Government and the people of Idaho came to agreement about. For reasons that seemed originally ideological, but now are not so clear. I would really like to know what the groups are thinking, which I believe to be The Wilderness Society, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and The Lands Council. The groups are represented by Earthjustice.
Earthjustice’s story is that “protections were removed.” What we were told by other conservation groups is that Idaho gained additional protections in some places and lost in others but the net result was positive. This was generally a criticism of then-current Colorado efforts. It seems like there might be a lot of donated money sitting around marked “roadless,” with nothing else to litigate?
I guess they’re just “rolling the dice” (as my colleague says) with their donated, and our taxpayer money. It would be interesting to get estimates of the total cost (forest, region, OGC, DOJ) to the taxpayer for litigation and especially when legal decisions are appealed. My hypothesis, having signed many timesheets, and been on phone calls with a plentitude of attorneys, is that EAJA is the tip of a very grand iceberg.
Anyway, what triggered my thoughts about the Idaho Rule is this report on the efforts of the Implementation Committee.
Here’s a link and below is an excerpt:
Those were among the recommendations the Idaho Roadless Commission made to U.S. Forest Service staff across Idaho last week.
The panel, made up of foresters, county officials, conservationists and industry representatives, met as a federal appeals court deliberates on its future. It is designed to give the Forest Service a first look at how Idahoans react to proposed projects.
The commission was established by the Idaho Roadless Rule, which protects nearly 9 million acres of Idaho’s 20 million acres of national forest. The rule designates 250 roadless areas and establishes five management themes that guide temporary road construction, timber cutting, mineral development and recreation.
These themes, and especially the logging and other activities allowed in 5.5 million acres designated as backcountry restoration, are what prompted several environmental groups to challenge the rule in federal court. The Idaho Conservation League and Trout Unlimited supported the rule that then-Gov. Jim Risch negotiated as an alternative to the 2001 national roadless rule.
A three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments on the rule Friday in Portland. The judges will decide in two to six months whether to uphold U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill’s decision that the rule was legal.
The commission was well aware its own recommendations are under scrutiny from the groups that are appealing the rule. Forest Service staff made the case that the boundaries between two roadless areas in eastern Idaho probably were meant to follow the ridgeline. But a closer look shows the line would be too steep in places to build a road.
Trout Unlimited’s Scott Stouder told the panel how the lawyers for Earthjustice, the group that argued the case, would see it.
“They would say this is just moving the boundary to build the road,” Stouder said.
I guess that this is an illustration of how the litigation shadow can fall across people’s thinking, and not just those within the agency.
Also, I have to point out as the resident roadless geek, that:
In one area, where a mining company plans to open a pit to mine phosphate outside a roadless area, the panel supported a map correction of a slurry pipeline through the roadless area. The pipeline special area could be used as a road under the rule, but that would be decided later.
“I think it’s more of a mapping issue than anything else,” said Alan Prouty, J.R. Simplot’s vice president for environmental and regulatory affairs and a commission member.
Everyone agreed, thumbs-up.
Pipelines and the zones used to construct them are OK under the 2001 Rule according to the Bull Mountain pipeline case.
The restoration projects were proposed on the Boise National Forest in high elevation areas. In an area near Big Creek Summit, conifers competing with whitebark pine trees will be “felled, lopped and retained on the site.” The other is a reforestation project.
No roads need to be built for either one. For Caswell the projects are a reminder that the rule is not just about locking up the roadless areas.
“The rule has permissions along with prohibitions,” he said.
It sounds like both these projects would have been allowed under this exception from the 2001 Rule.
294.13 b 1 ii To maintain or restore the characteristics of ecosystem composition and structure, such as to reduce the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire effects, within the range of variability that would be expected to occur under natural disturbance regimes of the current climatic period;
I wish those groups could tell those of us who understand the roadless issues, why they want to spend our money on this fight. Is it about what’s allowed in one or more of the themes? IF so, it seems better for governance to have an open discussion about it.
I also ran across this article on the Idaho folks going to the hearing:
The federal courtroom in Portland was packed. A dozen people made the trip from Idaho to sit in silent support of the state’s roadless rule, including former Idaho governor Jim Risch and the chair of the Kootenai tribe.
Attorney Julie Weis represents the tribe. She says the rule is a good compromise, hashed out between environmental groups and mining interests. And it hasn’t led to more roads in Idaho’s national forests.
“In the four years since the rule was actually issued, not a single road has been built,” she told the three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. “The sky is not following on Idaho inventoried roadless areas.”
We’ve often discussed how people not from the area should have equal voice.. apparently equal is not enough to some.
This is a guest post from Bob Zybach (photo above). It carries forward from Matthew’s and my discussion about local people, and is the national government of the US treating its’ own local folks views differently than, say, international conservation organizations recommend. This previous discussion can be found here.
The question is whether each taxpayer should equally get to decide what happens on national forests, or to what extent local people, and local and state governments should have “more” of a voice.
Here is Bob’s piece.
When Pinchot and Roosevelt first put the Forest Service together under the auspices of the USDA, Pinchot authored the Congressionally-approved 1905 “Use Book,” intended to provide for management of the federal forest reserves. The very first sentences in this manual were:
“TO THE PUBLIC. The timber, water, pasture, mineral, and other resources of the forest reserves are for the use of the people. They may be obtained under reasonable conditions, without delay. Legitimate improvements and business enterprises will be encouraged.
Forest reserves are open to all persons for all lawful purposes.”
And it becomes more explicit thereafter:
“We know that the welfare of every community is dependent upon a cheap and plentiful supply of timber; that a forest cover is the most effective means of maintaining a regular stream flow for irrigation and other useful purposes; and that the permanence of the livestock industry [Note: this is before automobiles and McDonalds] depends upon the conservative use of the range.” (p. 7)
“The administration of forest reserves is not for the benefit of the Government, but of the people.” (p. 12)
And in a letter from the Secretary of Agriculture to Pinchot, in conjunction with the Act authorizing the transfer of the forest reserves from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture:
“‘You will see to it that the water, wood, and forage of the reserves are conserved and wisely used for the benefit of the home builder first of all, upon whom depends the best permanent use of lands and resources alike . . . In the management of each reserve local questions will be decided upon local grounds . . . and where conflicting interests must be reconciled the question will always be decided from the standpoint of the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run.” (p. 11)
The part that keeps getting left out by modern-day “conservationists” is that it is “the greatest number” of LOCAL people that Pinchot is talking about: i.e., “the local demand is always considered first.”
This is what people are talking about,when they speak of indigenous people; local homebuilders and their businesses — only now it is other people in other countries in competition with our own that seems to draw this kind of attention — not US taxpayer “local” people. Somehow, their needs and interests don’t seem to count for much anymore when it comes to the use and management of their local lands.
We are the only country in history to encourage our forests to burn up in wildfires and then let the remnants rot in place until the next wildfire — and to spend billions of dollars making sure this happens! We must obviously be very wealthy to even allow such a condition to evolve.
What a stupid waste, is my opinion. I’m in favor of real conservation instead, and of local resource management — as described by Pinchot and promised by Congress.
Many thanks to Bob Berwyn for this post. For a long time I have wondered about the difference between the way some elements of the conservation community believe that locals in the international sector should be treated, compared to the way that some think locals in our own country should be treated. Or maybe the conservation groups are different? It does cause one to wonder, though. Certainly, indigenous people have been the focus for some of this international work; however, if that were the case it would also raise some interesting questions in this country.
I think this topic is worthy of further discussion. What bothers some folks about the prevalence of litigation as a policy tool, is that it can remove the locus of control from decisions made by those interacting with locals, to national organizations. In fact, Hoberg (can’t remember which paper off the top of my head, maybe someone on the blog remembers?) suggests that that was a conscious strategy by some groups to remove the great “timber wars” debate from the Pacific Northwest and their elected officials, with whom these groups disagreed. Which could explain part of the reason some local folks feel disenfranchised by that tactic; they were/are.
Here’s a link
and here’s an excerpt.
The work by the IUCN is more directed toward forests in developing countries with indigenous populations, but the results of the study may also have some application in more developed parts of the world, where local communities have a significant stake in the management of forested areas.
“A first step is to recognize that many forests and landscapes are inhabited by people with some form of land rights,” said Chris Buss, Senior Programme Officer for IUCN’s Global Forest and Climate change Programme. “Investors are increasingly aware they must respect these rights through recognized processes, although the practical implications of such processes have until now received less attention.”
The current investment and management process often simply results in compensation for loss of access to land or resources — a neocolonial model — rather than a genuine shared enterprise. In contrast, a “rights-based” system places local control at the heart of the process. Under this system, the people who own or have rights over the forest are the ones who seek investors and partnerships for managing their natural resource assets.
“The rights-based approach recognizes local people’s autonomy and their rights to determine the land’s destiny and to gain income from its effective management,” said Minni Degawan, Project Coordinator for KADIOAN, an Indigenous Peoples organization based in the Philippines. “Empowering local people to make decisions on commercial forest management and land, with secure tenure rights, the ability to build their own organizations and access to markets and technology can be a highly effective way of raising incomes and protecting forestry resources.”
“Communities, governments and investors all stand to gain from investing in locally controlled forestry. However, launching a commercially viable enterprise is not without its own challenges and requires adjustments to conventional investment approaches,” said Peter Gardiner, Natural Resource Manger for Mondi. “To facilitate this process, the Growing Forest Partnerships which includes IUCN and TFD, have developed a practitioners’ manual, to be released later this month, which offers investors and rights holders a step-by-step guide to negotiating commercial agreements.”
Note: there have been previous posts on this blog relating national and international; in a quick scan this was the only one I could find, on what happens when people are not in the forest.
Lawmakers pick fight with feds over public lands
By Michelle L. Price and Josh Loftin Associated Press / March 7, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY—Some Western lawmakers are pushing for a showdown with Washington over federally-controlled land, picking a fight on an issue that they say puts an economic stranglehold on their states.
Republican legislators in Utah and Arizona are leading a charge to try to force the federal government to hand over control of public territory that makes up much of the West, insisting local leaders could manage it better.
“We’re putting them on notice for them to cede it to us. And if they don’t, we’ll start taxing it,” said Arizona state Sen. Al Melvin, who sponsored the legislation in that state.
Skeptics say state officials are likely to do more harm than good, especially to the environment, and stand to ruin what makes the region unique.
“How in the world do they think they could manage these federal public lands?” asked Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.
Legal experts say the challenges are unconstitutional. But the fight is worth it for many who see the potential for millions of dollars in revenue from taxes, development rights or even the sale of lands.
Lawmakers also say the federal oversight is crippling industries like ranching, timber and mining, and overregulation has led to overgrown forests and massive forest fires.
“This is killing us,” Melvin said.
State lawmakers say that with local control they could deliver jobs, money for education and even help balance the federal budget.
Utah lawmakers are moving forward with a plan that sets a 2014 deadline for the federal government to relinquish lands that aren’t national parks, military installations or wilderness. The proposal that advanced Wednesday demands control of about 30 million acres — nearly 50 percent of the entire state.
Republican state Rep. Ken Ivory is leading the effort in Utah and helped draft model legislation for use in other states.
“If sovereignty means anything, it means not having to say pretty please or mother may I,” Ivory said.
A similar bill is working its way through the Arizona Legislature, where lawmakers would put the federal government on roughly the same timeline.
About 40 percent of the land in Arizona is under federal control and about 30 percent is tribal land — leaving about 30 percent as state or private land.
About 70 percent of the land in Utah is controlled by the federal government.
The legislation in those two states is mainly directed at land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, which controls 245 million acres of land that’s concentrated in 12 Western states.
Arizona’s proposal includes a provision that, if the state does take possession, most of the proceeds from any land sold would be used to pay off the national debt.
Lawmakers in Utah and Arizona have said the legislation is endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that advocates conservative ideals, and they expect it to eventually be introduced in other Western states.
But legal experts say the challenges won’t get very far because any attempt by state legislatures to claim federal land is unconstitutional.
“That’s not really open to dispute,” said Joseph Feller, a professor who teaches natural resources law at Arizona State University.
“The states have absolutely no power to take over the federal public land,” he said. “They’ve tried it before.”
This was made clear during the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s and 1980s, when Western states pushed for greater control of federally owned public lands. Arizona passed legislation during that period that’s similar to this year’s proposal.
“Legally, it’s a ridiculous claim. It would be thrown out in federal court in five seconds,” said John Leshy, a law professor at University of California Hastings College of Law
Leshy, who also served on the President Obama’s Interior Department transition team, added, “This is all just about cranky, symbolic politics.”
State ownership of all that land could also be a big problem for the environment, said Bahr, of the Sierra Club.
“The state doesn’t really have anything in place for land protection, and the attitude of the Legislature is one of abuse rather than protection,” she said.
Local officials, however, argue that the state would at least be a better partner than federal officials.
Dirk Clayson, commissioner of rural Kane County, Utah, said the decisions about federal land access seem to be dictated more by “Washington politics” than logic.
“We really have a federal land management policy that ignores the needs of state, county or local residents,” Clayson said. “There’s risks, but the general feeling is we have a much more effective working relationship with the state. After all, they’re only a four-hour automobile drive away from us.”
Sharon’s note: this is never going to happen but I wonder what would happen if we got some of these folks in a room with a bipartisan panel, told them and enforced leaving the partisan vitriol at the door, and listened to what they had to say.
From Oregon here:
Oregon’s rural communities cannot afford another 20 years of gridlock in our federal forests. Without a new path forward, mills will continue to disappear, forest jobs will be outsourced and counties will be pushed off the budgetary cliff. During a time when it’s particularly hard to find common ground in public policy, we think we have achieved a balanced forest health and jobs plan — and in a uniquely Oregon way.
As a bipartisan coalition, we have worked through our differences to forge a plan that would create thousands of new jobs, ensure the health of federal forests for future generations and provide long-term funding certainty for Oregon’s rural schools, roads and law enforcement agencies.
Federal support payments to rural and forested communities, commonly known as “county payments,” helped support rural Oregon counties for more than a decade. They expired Oct. 1.
Absent a long-term solution, diminishing county payments will have serious consequences for Oregon families and businesses.
A recent Oregon State University study found that without county payments, Oregon’s rural counties will shed between 3,000 and 4,000 jobs. Oregon business sales will drop by an estimated $385 million to $400 million. Counties will lose $250 million to $300 million in revenues.
Counties already near the financial cliff and facing depressionlike unemployment soon may call for a public safety emergency and will be forced to eliminate most state-mandated services — including services that help the neediest citizens in our communities.
Failing counties will have consequences for the entire state. Those counties will continue to release offenders and close jail beds. Potholed roads and structurally deficient bridges will be neglected. And already-underfunded rural schools will be devastated.
Given the serious fiscal crisis our forested communities face, we believe a new approach is necessary to create jobs, help stabilize Oregon’s rural communities and better manage our forests.
We hope to release the full details of our plan early next year. But, given the importance and enormous amount of public interest in this issue, we wanted to update Oregonians on the broad outlines of our work:
Our plan would create an estimated 12,000 new jobs throughout Oregon. To preserve and expand Oregon’s manufacturing base, our plan would continue the ban on exporting unprocessed logs from federal lands and impose penalties on businesses that violate the law and send family-wage jobs overseas.
Our plan would allow sustainable timber harvest primarily on lands that have been logged previously. It sets aside sensitive areas and mature and old growth forests. The timber harvest lands would remain under the ownership of the federal government but would be managed in trust for the counties by a diverse, public board under strict guidelines to ensure sustained yield and to protect and improve clean water and terrestrial and aquatic values. The mature and old growth forests would be transferred from the federal Bureau of Land Management to the U.S. Forest Service.
Our plan would provide counties in Western Oregon with a predictable level of revenues in perpetuity to support essential county services such as law enforcement, health care, education and transportation. It would reduce counties’ dependence on uncertain federal support payments in favor of a long-term solution that allows them to return to the tradition of self-reliance that embodies our state’s heritage.
Our plan is expected to save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by reducing the annual federal management costs associated with the management of Western Oregon timberlands and making Oregon counties self-sufficient and not dependent upon federal county payments.
Our plan proposes major new wilderness and wild and scenic designations to protect some of Oregon’s most incredible natural treasures, such as the iconic Rogue River.
Our plan is a moderate approach.
It will not appease those who insist on returning to the days of unsustainable logging and clear-cutting old growth on public lands. It will not win the support of those who are content with the status quo — administrative gridlock and endless legal appeals that have led to unhealthy forests, failing rural counties and a deteriorating timber industry.
And like all legislation in Congress, our plan still is subject to the legislative process. While we believe the plan we have crafted is a reasonable compromise that serves the best interests of Oregon, we must work with the House Committee on Natural Resources and our colleagues in the greater House of Representatives, the Senate and the Obama administration.
Fortunately, the most persuasive arguments are on our side. Our balanced, bipartisan plan would create thousands of jobs in our forests, mills and communities, stabilize rural communities, save taxpayers money, protect old growth and ensure the health of federal forests for future generations.
It’s a solution that Oregonians deserve. We look forward to working with those who want to make this long-term vision a reality.
U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Greg Walden and Kurt Schrader represent Oregon’s 4th, 1st and 5th congressional districts.
Battle for Preservation In Montana Is Nothing New
By Gabriel Furshong / Writers on the Range on Wed, Dec 28, 2011
More so than any other landscape in Big Sky Country, Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front derives its wonder from a violent juxtaposition of geological forms. The Front is the convergence of two mega-ecosystems that together cover roughly a quarter of our country – the Northern Plains and the Northern Rockies.
This is where each seemingly limitless region reaches its limit. Within this thin strip roams the second-largest elk herd in the Lower 48, as well as 13 species of raptor and a third of all plant species known in Montana. It’s the only place south of the Canadian border where grizzlies still den between the peaks and the prairie.
For 100 years, this landscape has been the subject of debate over the limits of acceptable change. Montanans along the Front have fought oil and gas exploration. It is a measure of their success that the battle cry of each generation has gradually shifted from our grandparents and great-grandparents, who wanted to “return it to the way it was,” to our parents and ourselves, who now want to “keep it the way it is.”
This last phrase – keep it the way it is – has for 10 years been the unofficial motto of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front, a loose affiliation of outfitters, ranchers, farmers, community organizers, business owners and outdoor enthusiasts. Thanks to this coalition, the debate over change on the Front is now closer to resolution than ever before.
Last October, Montana Sen. Max Baucus introduced the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act, which would designate 67,000 acres of wilderness and prohibit road building or any expansion of motorized use on an additional 210,000 acres. That’s big news. Yet, the relative calm with which the news was received has been surprising. When I asked a veteran writer and former journalist for the Missoulian newspaper what he thought about the media coverage of Baucus’ announcement, all he could say was, “I just don’t understand why it hasn’t gotten more attention.”
His words followed me to the Front where I retreated for a hunting trip just a week after the announcement. While waiting on white-tailed deer, I found myself reflecting on the twists and turns of our local debate over change. I wondered why this pending resolution has been received so quietly after so much time and such a lot of fuss.
The coalition’s many predecessors fought seemingly endless battles for the better part of a century, from the near-extinction of the buffalo and other species to agency road building and aggressive oil and gas exploration. Our first victory finally came in 2006, when Republican Sen. Conrad Burns and Democratic Sen. Max Baucus banned all leasing of federal minerals along the Front. Forest Service travel plan decisions that followed in 2007 and 2009 emphasized traditional use over motorized recreation, and suddenly, a once-complicated landscape was largely cleared of competing interests.
It was then that farmers and ranchers affiliated with the coalition raised an important question: Would we have the restraint to avoid becoming agents of change ourselves? Over the next four years, we interviewed grazing permittees, argued with county commissioners, developed alliances, held meetings of 100 people and meetings of 10 people, and sought out hundreds of kitchen-table conversations, one person at a time.
We drew boundaries. We nearly fell out with each other several times, but we hung onto the ideal of restraint. In the end, it was not just the landscape that we chose to the keep the way it was. We chose to maintain all existing uses as well, including motorized and bicycle use alongside traditional horse and hiker travel.
So after going through so much, it’s understandable that this final stage in the fight is underwhelming. Indeed, the only evident opposition to the Heritage Act so far came in the form of an indignant email from a small western Montana environmental group decrying the legislation as containing far too few wilderness acres. I mentioned this to a Vietnam veteran and local lawyer from Choteau, Mont., when I ran into him on my hunting trip. As he trailed his horse around me, he just shook his head and said, “Well, we’ve had that debate a million times before.”
Yes, we have, and with any luck it won’t change a thing.
At this time of the year, I am working on my end-of-year donations. I received a “Top 10 Reasons to Give” list from an international environmental law NGO that I support. One of the bullets on the list was “because forest peoples deserve a say in how their land is used…. we will continue to work to safeguard the rights of indigenous people and other local communities in the implementation of projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation (REDD).” It’s a good question for consideration, I think, in the New Year. We should be considering property rights, local history, and political legitimacy in terms of the legitimate role of local people in our own country.
What kind of “rights” should local communities have in terms of decision making on federal lands? It reminds me of a dinner I had once with a Senior Executive of another federal agency. His point of view was that the people of Delta don’t deserve any more of a voice in the management of public lands around Delta than people in the Bronx. On the other hand, we have the county “coordination” movement and increasing local/federal tensions. What can we learn from the two examples above, who seem to have managed to find a middle ground?