13 Mar 2008, 11:24am
Federal forest policy Saving Forests
by admin

Nobody Gets It

Last November we reported (at SOS Forests, the old version) on a landmark decision made in a California forestry case [here, here].

On Oct. 16, Judge Morrison C. England of the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California issued a written judgment denying the injunctions demanded by the Plaintiffs, a coalition of environmental groups led by Sierra Forest Legacy, formerly known as Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. Others in the (losing) coalition are the Center For Biological Diversity, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and the Wilderness Society.

The Plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction on grounds that the Slapjack, Basin and Empire Projects risked irreparable harm to old forest habitat and imperiled wildlife including California spotted owls, Pacific fishers and American martens. However, no fishers or martens have been seen within 200 miles of any of the project areas during the last 40 years.

The Projects are forest thinnings in the Wildland-Urban Interface, that most dangerous of fire zones. The Empire Project will treat 2,500 acres immediately adjacent to five communities at risk: Quincy, Massack, Greenhorn, Keddie and Butterfly Valley. The 35,00 acre Slapjack Project is near the communities of Brownsville, Challenge, Clipper Mills, Dobbins, Feather Fall, Forbestown, and Strawberry Valley, which collectively are home to between 5,000 and 7,0000 people. The Basin Project is 1,300 acres of similar selective thinning.

The Plaintiffs appealed, and last week arguments were heard before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. A tape recording of the attorneys for the Plaintiffs and the Defendants is [here].

Various points were raised. The Plaintiff’s attorney argued that 20 inch trees are perforce old-growth based on their diameter. However, true old-growth trees are rarely that small. I have a Douglas-fir next my driveway that is 24 inches in diameter and 26 years old. Determining the age of trees is fairly simple. Why nobody involved bothered to do that in this case is beyond me. Perhaps if a real forester were hired, that kind of confusion could be ameliorated.

The judges seemed concerned that merchantable-sized trees would be harvested. I am aware of no law that limits the USFS to sub-merchantable size classes. However, there are numerous laws that require the US Government to supply timber to the national economy from federal lands. Why none of those laws were mentioned is again a mystery to me.

The Plaintiff’s attorney claimed irreparable harm would be done to martens and fishers that do not exist within 200 miles of the treatment areas. That seemed like a stretch of the truth. He also argued that thinning would impair spotted owl habitat, again a falsehood.

The Defendant’s attorney seemed to know nothing whatsoever about forestry, or forests, or wildlife habitat, or much else. She seemed, from the tape recording, to be nervous, confused, and ill-prepared.

I personally do not think the 9th Circuit Court should be a training ground for rookie attorneys, particularly when so much is a stake. The purpose of the proposed projects is to SAVE forests, not destroy them, to SAVE habitat, by preventing incineration of it, and to SAVE the homes and lives of the resident citizens from catastrophic megafire. That’s not a joke or a practice game for greenhorns.

The Plaintiffs seemed not to care one tiny whit whether forests, habitat, homes, or lives are destroyed by raging infernos. They are holocauster life-haters, evidently. That kind of evil must be countered with some serious effort. Unfortunately, no one involved seems to get it.

13 Mar 2008, 1:47pm
by Timbo

I’d have to generally agree on your take on guvment legal types. I’ve seen a few and they seem, for the most part, to be clueless, ill prepared, totally without knowledge about land management stuff, or all three. Stands to reason; you think we the taxpayer are getting the best on a government salary? Penny wise and pound foolish. I once sat in on a trial (in this one an industry group was the plaintiff) and a cohort poked me in the side and asked if I knew how much the industry’s attorney made: Answer? $800/hr. That guy ran circles around the guvment’s young lawyer.

13 Mar 2008, 6:15pm
by bear bait

A few years back, the marten chasers were running around in the bark beetle killed lodgepole growing on the pummy flats around the Chemult Ranger District of the Winema NF? (Deschutes?). The land between Hiway 97 to the east and the Pacific Crest Trail, all south of Hiway 58. Lots of dead lodgepole logged in that area. A lot of early machine harvesting. Shears, processors, the like. And when you do that, you build some large top and limb piles. Some monster piles.

So the research weenies were setting out marten traps at random to show that martens live upslope in the old growth Doug fir and hemlock in the transition forest. Downslope where PP pine grows on little hills and mounds and LP pine in thickets across the freeze flats on a broad landscape, the researchers intended to show that martens were not doing well with all this logging.

Well, the couple of traps around the slash piles kept catching a lot of martens. It seems the big brush piles were a rodent and bird cafeteria, and martens were there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The highest densities of pine martens in the West were in association with logged lodgepole and those big unburned slash piles.

Thousands of acres of lodgepole, with the dead and dying logged but the green trees not cut. Tens of thousands of big piles. Full of martens.

So much for the pine marten being a poster child for saving old growth. It is, in reality, a poster child for having some large slash piles saved around any logging venture. Those piles are a fire danger but also fine marten habitat. Funny how those things work.

And also funny how that kind of information does not get disseminated to the far reaches of the public domain. It would appear to me that if you wanted to increase the pine marten population, you would do some canopy opening thinnings to reduce fuels, and you would also create some limb and top piles for rodent habitat. Further, if fishers were to be provided for, make some some little clear cuts of an acre or so which would produce young stands of regrowth favorable to porcupines. That would be appropriate, as porkies are a fisher favorite. And the young plantations also harbor hares and rabbits. More fisher food.

It is all about that seral stage deal with forests, and the differing critters that come with each of the stages. It’s called DIVERSITY. Not that one-size-fits-all-paint-by-the-numbers thing, without art, design, or care. That we get with top down forestry from Senator Couldcareless and Rep. Dontknowshit, signed by President Clueless, and administered by some affirmative action recipient who just happened to fit some visual requirement the day that Chief Whatsaforest was required to assign the task.

If there is any hope, would someone please let me know where and when?

14 Mar 2008, 5:34am
by Backcut

Now if we’d go for a “wholistic” approach in restoring our forests (which is 180 degrees away from the 12″ diameter limits the eco’s want ot impose nationwide), we’d make a dent in the problems over the next decade. Their attempts to eliminate “natural” monocultures will fail catastrophically. A pine/lodgepole/white fir mix is a forest that is currently at risk.

We also have to resist the temptation to use their dogma-drama scare tactics, using statements like “nearly 10 million acres of forests burned last year”. That statements packs a lot of punch but, it just isn’t a true statement. If we don’t “walk on water”, regarding forest sciences and truths, the public will NEVER believe us and forests will continue to suffer.

Bear bait is right that it takes an incredible amount of knowledge and skills to do what is scientifically appropriate for each and every acre of public land. The Sierra Club has to be bashed down as an ignorant extremist group preying on good-hearted but clueless Americans.

14 Mar 2008, 7:36am
by Mike

BC — you are right. To correct my mistake: in 2007 a mere 9,329,544 acres of something burned up in wildfires. An additional 2,969,429 acres of something were “prescribed” burned, and 419,685 acres of something were whoofoo-ed. These numbers according to NIFC.



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