12 Mar 2009, 10:36pm
Federal forest policy
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Region 6 Announces More Stimulus Projects

The US Forest Service’s Region 6 (Oregon and Washington) has announced an additional $10 million in Stimulus funds will be spent on fuels management projects in Oregon.

This is in addition to the $3.25 million announced a week ago [here] to be spent on existing school programs followed by a summer youth employment program in Washington.

The additional $10 million in economic stimulus funds is to be spent in Deschutes, Douglas, Jefferson, Josephine, Curry, and Crook counties.

The announcement was posted yesterday (March 10) on the brand new Region 6 website news page [here].

The March 10 news release [here]:

Forest Service Announces More Economic Recovery Projects

Released: 10 March 2009

PORTLAND, OR – Jobs clearing brush and trees to prevent disastrous wildfires in rural Oregon will be funded with $10 million in economic stimulus funds, U.S. Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell announced today.

Hazardous fuel reduction projects in six central and southern Oregon counties will receive the money, meant to create jobs quickly. The work will employ approximately 100 people with private companies already under contract with the Forest Service.

Another $3.25 million will fund the second half of a $6.5 million Oregon Youth Employment Initiative that will put 1,500 youth to work in Oregon’s national forests doing natural resource conservation and restoration work on public and private lands.

“I am excited that we will be doing our part in helping put people to work,” Regional Forester Mary Wagner said Tuesday. “Reducing wildfire threats and putting young people to work in the woods are two of our highest priorities.”

The announcement marks the balance of initial funds the Forest Service is spending nationwide to create jobs within seven days under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Contracts are expected to be awarded by March 17.

The Pacific Northwest region of the Forest Service will get $13 million of $33 million awarded nationally today.

The Forest Service received a total of $1.15 billion nationally under the Recovery and Reinvestment act. The other 90 percent of the Forest Service’ allotment is expected to be announced in a few weeks. Project proposals were solicited from forests as well as cities, counties and non-profit agencies.

Deschutes, Douglas, Jefferson and Josephine counties will receive approximately $2 million each for hazardous fuel reduction work, while Curry and Crook counties will receive approximately $1 million each.

Information on the overall U.S. Forest Service role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be found at: http://fs.usda.gov/recovery/. For information on the total federal effort please visit http://www.recovery.gov/.

Region 5 Updates Stimulus Statement

USFS Region 5 (California) has updated their first round Stimulus spending announcement to include an additional $1.5 million for “fuels projects” on the Shasta-Trinity and Stanislaus National Forests.

On March 5th Region 5 issued a News Release announcing that the first round of Stimulus projects had been selected. In that News Release [here, discussed here] Region 5 revealed that:

First round projects on lands managed by the Forest Service in California will include maintenance and construction on facilities, roads and trails totaling 70 jobs and $7.75 million. The jobs are estimated to last from four months up to a year. These projects will benefit 11 counties.

Today (March 12) Region 5 issued another News Release [here]

The language is virtually identical except that the above paragraph has been removed and the following two paragraphs added.

First round Forest Service “fuels” projects in California will total approximately $1.5 million. The jobs are estimated to last up to 18 months. Projects will take place on the Shasta Trinity National Forest and Stanislaus National Forest through contracts and agreements and with a Grant through State and Private Forestry.

Overall, first round total projects on lands managed by the Forest Service in California which was rolled out on March 5 will include maintenance and construction on facilities, roads, trails and now “fuels” totaling $9.25 million.

There is no matching announcement at the Shasta-Trinity NF website. They do note, however, that 208,460 acres burned on the S-TNF last summer, at a suppression cost of $158.9 million.

The Stanislaus NF has a number of fuel management and forest restoration projects in various stages of planning and implementation. These include:

* Phase II of the South 108 Fuel Reduction, Forest Health and Road Management Project. Phase I implemented a variety of treatments, including various combinations of mechanical and hand thinning, mastication, prescribed burning, and goat browsing on approximately 4,840 acres along the Highway 108 corridor. Phase II proposes an additional 5,500 acres to: 1) thin the forest stands to reduce the fire danger and improve forest health, 2) create a shaded fuelbreak system, 3) reduce the brush by prescribe burning, shredding and/or goat browsing, and 4) close or obliterate roads and trails that are in poor condition and are unneeded for management access.

* Pinecrest Interior Healthy Forest Restoration project. Fuels reduction (tree thinning) is proposed on approximately 780 acres within and adjacent to the cabins, camps, campgrounds, open spaces, and businesses of the Pinecrest Basin.

* Soldier Creek Healthy Forest Restoration Project. Mechanical thinning would be conducted on 575 acres.

* Middle Fork Fuel Reduction and Forest Health Project. The Proposed Action treats approximately 1772 acres and includes mechanical thinning, hand thinning, biomass removal, shredding, piling and burning, and broadcast burning.

12 Mar 2009, 12:58pm
Saving Forests
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Wilderness - What Wilderness?

Historical human influences on the environment have been significant and widespread throughout North and South America for thousands of years. Landscapes that are thought of as “wilderness” or “natural” have in fact been subject to extensive and intensive human alteration and (dare we say it) stewardship for millennia.

Three scientific research papers newly posted in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes demonstrate the extent of human impact on the West Coast.

Evaluating the Purpose, Extent, and Ecological Restoration Applications of Indigenous Burning Practices in Southwestern Washington by Linda Storm and Daniela Shebitz [here] reports on studies of ancient camas prairies in the Upper Chehalis River basin of Washington State.

[I]ndigenous peoples contributed to the long-term maintenance and distribution of prairie and savanna ecosystems in pre-European western Washington through traditional management techniques, such as burning…

The human history of western Washington extends back at least 10,000 years (Ames and Maschner 1999) with sedentary village life beginning after 3,800 years ago. Human populations increased as plank house village sites were established, salmon harvest intensified, and winter storage developed in some locales after this period. Some researchers postulate that during this period inland, up-river groups of indigenous peoples in southwestern Washington began using fire to maintain prairie and savanna habitats and subsequently increased their production and storage of important plant food resources…

The implications are that restoration of ecosystems requires an understanding of historical human influences and a re-application of those influences. Without anthropogenic tending of the land, ecological transformations lead to degradation of whole ecosystems. Land set-aside and abandonment of human stewardship can destroy ecosystems, or at least squander and debilitate primary ecological and historical values.

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EPA Proposes Mandatory Reporting on CO2 Emissions

File under Useless and Stupid.

EPA Press Release, 03/10/2009, [here]

(Washington, D.C. – March 10, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today proposed the first comprehensive national system for reporting emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases produced by major sources in the United States.

“Our efforts to confront climate change must be guided by the best possible information,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Through this new reporting, we will have comprehensive and accurate data about the production of greenhouse gases. This is a critical step toward helping us better protect our health and environment – all without placing an onerous burden on our nation’s small businesses.” …

Greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, are produced by the burning of fossil fuels and through industrial and biological processes. Approximately 13,000 facilities, accounting for about 85 percent to 90 percent of greenhouse gases emitted in the United States, would be covered under the proposal. …

I guess onerous is in the eye of the beholder. Step 1: bury them with paperwork. Step 2: tax them into oblivion. Step 3: bankrupt the country. Step 4: huddle in the cold and dark.

None of this red tape nightmare will change the temperature of the planet one iota.

The direct emission sources covered under the reporting requirement would include energy intensive sectors such as cement production, iron and steel production, and electricity generation, among others. …

The production of greenhouse gasses by the Federal lands No Touch, Let It Burn, Watch It Rot program is exempt.

EPA estimates that the expected cost to comply with the reporting requirements to the private sector would be $160 million for the first year. In subsequent years, the annualized costs for the private sector would be $127 million.

Chump change. What’s a few hundred $million to an economy sinking into insolvency, anyway. Besides, the burden will be passed on to those least able to afford it.

EPA is developing this rule under the authority of the Clean Air Act. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. Two public hearings will be held during the comment period.

Two, count ‘em, two. The hearings will be nowhere near vast majority of the impacted citizenry.

More information on the proposed rule [here]

Contact Information: Cathy Milbourn, 202-564-4355 / milbourn.cathy@epa.gov

Please call Cathy. She’s waiting to hear from you.

Wilderness Bill Fails!

And now for some good news. The Omnibus Public Lands Bill was defeated in the House today.

The vote was 282 for, 144 against, but it still failed. The reason is that House leaders (Nancy Pelosi) tried to force passage under emergency rules. Emergency rules require a two-thirds majority (290 votes) and that was not achieved.

Normal rules were suspended because nearly 100 of the bills in the 1,200-page package have never passed or have had a hearing in the House. The House leadership (Nancy Pelosi) tried to jam the Omnibus Public Lands Bill through without discussion, debate, hearings, analysis, or any proper legislative consideration.

It was a damn emergency!

But too bad, enough responsible Congress-persons said wait a second, shouldn’t we deliberate through the normal processes?

The vote tally was 248 Dems and 34 Reps in favor, 3 Dems and 141 Reps opposed. Despite the betrayal of 34 Republicans, enough remained in opposition to suspension of the rules to quash the bill. The Democrats were almost uniform in their effort to circumvent due process in order to inflict 100 ill-considered land bills on the nation.

From the failing and close to bankruptcy New York TimesNearlyUp [here]:

House rejects public lands omnibus

By Eric Bontrager, Greenwire, March 11, 2009

The House rejected an amended omnibus package of more than 160 public lands, water and resources bills despite a last-minute change designed to ease concerns about the bill.

By a vote of 282-144, the House failed to pass S. 22 under a suspension of the rules, which barred any amendments from being added to the bill but also required a two-thirds majority for passage.

The bill would have designated more than 2 million acres of wilderness in nine states and established three new national park units, a new national monument, three new national conservation areas, more than 1,000 miles of national wild and scenic rivers and four new national trails. It also would have enlarged the boundaries of more than a dozen existing national park units and established 10 new national heritage areas. …

The House Democratic leadership had held off bringing the bill to the floor since the Senate passed the package in January while they attempted to gather enough support for the bill to pass it under suspension. …

“This is an extreme abuse of considering bills under a suspension of the rules,” said Natural Resources ranking member Doc Hastings (R-Wash.). “Any notion that this is just a package of bills already passed by the House is absolutely false.”

Is this the end of it? Doubtful, but the ugly thing has hit a snag for now.

Lock Up the Land Fanatics Go Nuts

Ready for some more bad news? Not only does the US Government own half the land in the West, they now wish to dedicate that land to catastrophic holocaust via wilderness designation.

Many people wrongly believe wilderness designation means “protection.” Far from it. Wilderness designation effectively condemns land to severe fires that destroy environmental values.

All of the land in the U.S. has been occupied by human beings for thousands of years. The residents have had significant impact, including alteration of vegetation through anthropogenic fire, extensive trail and home site development, agriculture and irrigation, and thousands of years of hunting and food gathering.

The 1964 Wilderness Act is fundamentally flawed in that it fails to acknowledge the true history and conditions of the land.

Further, wilderness designation means elimination of stewardship, unchecked fuel build-up, and as a result catastrophic fires that degrade heritage, habitat, watershed, airshed, recreation, and public health and safety values.

Wilderness is a myth, and a destructive one at that. It is based on a-historical, a-scientific, and anti-human bogosity. Further, it is manifestly untrue that land without wilderness designation is summarily raped and peppered with condos.

Despite these verities, spurred by the election of a Chicago socialist as President and a far left leaning Congress, the mad lust for new wilderness is reaching hysterical proportions. The NY Times reported:

By Scott Streater, Greenwire, NY Times, March 5, 2009 , [here]

The 111th Congress is poised to usher in the largest expansion of the nation’s wilderness in a generation, with 2.1 million acres of public land in line for the strictest environmental protections allowed under federal law.

An omnibus lands bill that could receive final congressional approval this month would create new wilderness areas in nine states — from the San Gabriel Mountains of California to Michigan’s Lake Superior shoreline to a portion of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia — covering almost as much land as the 2.4 million acres designated during the entire eight years of the Bush presidency.

Meanwhile, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) last month introduced the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, which would designate 24 million acres of mostly Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service land in five states as wilderness area.

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10 Mar 2009, 3:21pm
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The Failure of Relativism

My friend the estimable Matt Briggs (author of Breaking the Law of Averages: Real Life Probability and Statistics in Plain English [here]) has written a provocative essay at his excellent blog [here] and posted below.

Dr. Briggs reviews a book by best-selling Canadian author and conservative William D. Gairdner. The book is about the failure of Relativism, that Postmodern bugaboo which underlies political correctness and junk science.

Relativism holds that beauty, truth, and justice are relative, subjective, and situational. To a Relativist there is no absolute truth or fundamental morality.

Relativism encourages us to be tolerant and “open-minded” about any and everything, no matter how fundamentally flawed. Appreciation of real merit is dismissed as old-fashioned (or immoral or impractical) in art, science, politics, jurisprudence, business, government, education, and in all social intercourse.

Belief in absolute truths, beauty, and justice, on the other hand, is scorned and derided.

It is Relativism, however, that is fundamentally flawed, illogical, and debilitating to individuals and to society.

Please study and think about the ideas presented by Dr. Briggs. We live in perilous times. A renewed commitment to absolute values would help us all in facing the problems of today.

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9 Mar 2009, 12:24pm
Federal forest policy Forestry education
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Forest Service Announces Region 6 Economic Recovery Projects

The first round USFS R6 Stimulus projects have been announced:

Pacific Northwest Region 6 News Release, 04 March 2009 [here]

PORTLAND, OR – Chief Abigail Kimbell has announced the first set of U.S. Forest Service projects to be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The first two projects in the Pacific Northwest are the Oregon Youth Employment Initiative Phase 1 and the Olympic Peninsula Structure Restoration.

“I am honored that the Forest Service will play a vital role in providing jobs for Pacific Northwest communities and performing important natural resource conservation work in our Forests,” Regional Forester Mary Wagner said.

The Oregon Youth Employment Initiative Phase 1 is a partnership delivering a state-wide youth employment program focused on natural resource conservation and restoration on public and private lands. The first phase will begin within seven days and will spend $3,250,000 in existing school programs followed by a summer employment program.

The Olympic Peninsula Structure Restoration project includes painting, re-roofing and minor building repairs on four administrative sites and several recreational facilities on the Olympic National Forest. The work will provide jobs for the various communities around the Olympic Peninsula in Clallam, Jefferson, Mason and Grays Harbor counties.

More projects are expected to be announced in the coming days and weeks. Information on the overall U.S. Forest Service role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be found at: http://fs.usda.gov/recovery/

By the way, we agitated successfully for the web posting of this announcement:

Enquiry submitted by Mike Dubrasich on March 7th, 2009 at 04:31PM (EST).

I’ve been hunting but cannot locate R6 News Releases.

Reply from Dennis Lapcewich, US Forest Service Webmaster, on March 9, 2009 at 10:51AM (PDT).


The Pacific Northwest Region generally has not issued news releases for publication on the web. Since Forest Service activities within the Pacific Northwest traditionally occur at the local level within individual Forests, news information may be found at the local Forest level.

With the introduction of stimulus information coming from the White House, we are now starting up a new regional news releases area. I just received information this morning and the new site should be available shortly from here —> http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/ The actual news release about Region 6 stimulus plans under ARRA should be available now from here —> http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/pdx/news/20090304-arra-projects.shtml

Virtual Fire Lookouts

A group of Sierra foothill youths has dreamed up a project to install solar-powered video cams in Sierra forests to help detect fires. From the Sacramento Bee this morning:

Youths’ idea to spot Sierra fires will get global attention

By Chris Bowman, Sacramento Bee, March 8, 2009 [here]

Like many children in the Sierra foothills, Faith and Drew Oakes felt cheated by all the wildfires last summer.

The unheathful pall of dense smoke kept them indoors for weeks on end, when they otherwise would have been playing soccer and tennis.

Not long after the skies cleared, Faith, Drew and four other children from the Interstate 80 corridor communities of Newcastle, Auburn and Meadow Vista hatched a champion idea to help firefighters snuff out blazes before they smoke out communities. And the reward for ingenuity should more than make up for the children’s lost summer of 2008.

The group has been selected out of 13,000 youth teams from 40 countries to present their innovation at an upcoming Children’s Climate Call conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. They will compete against five similar youth teams worldwide for the chance to make their project a reality.

Locally, the team has presented its project to officials with the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the U.S. Forest Service and – on Saturday – the California Licensed Foresters Association, at its annual conference in Sacramento.

The children’s idea is to post solar-powered video cameras linked to the Internet above the tree lines around the Tahoe National Forest.

They also would make available a free screensaver for computer monitors that would rotate multiple real-time views of the forest.

“While you are looking at these pretty photos, you’re also being a set of eyes for a possible fire,” Alejandro Vega, 12, explained Saturday to the foresters, who were all smiles and applause.

Any number of people on the Internet would become virtual fire lookouts, vastly supplementing the few volunteers who staff the three actual lookout towers in the Tahoe forest. …

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8 Mar 2009, 12:33pm
Climate and Weather
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Global Cooling: the Video

On Feb. 6 I gave a talk entitled “Global Cooling” at the Oregon Language Center [here] in Albany. Russel Shaw of OLC videotaped my hour-long lecture and posted it in seven segments on YouTube.

Global Cooling Part 1 [here]

Global Cooling Part 2 [here]

Global Cooling Part 3 [here]

Global Cooling Part 4 [here]

Global Cooling Part 5 [here]

Global Cooling Part 6 [here]

Global Cooling Part 7 [here]

The theme of the talk was paleobotany and paleoclimatology over the last 400 million years. Lecture notes are [here].

The thesis presented is that we are today in a cooling phase and headed toward another Ice Age glaciation. The Holocene interglacial is nearly over.

For the last 1.8 million years the Earth has been in a deep freeze punctuated every 100,000 years by an interglacial warm period. The interglacials have appeared like clockwork and are correlated with periodic eccentricities in the Earth’s orbit known as Milankovitch Cycles.

The interglacial warm periods last about 10,000 years. The Holocene is roughly that old, and global temperatures are headed inexorably downward. Anthropogenic carbon dioxide does not seem to be having any significant effect on a process driven by cosmological rhythms.

If humanity could warm the planet, we should. Ice Age glaciations are devastating to most species. Giant ice sheets form in the arctic and spread south, burying the surface of the Northern Hemisphere in mile-thick glaciers as far south as the 45th Parallel. Katabatic winds coming off the ice sheets extend tundra conditions far south of that.

Before the Pleistocene the globe was much warmer. In fact, for the last 250 million years it has been many degrees warmer than now. Most plant and animal species evolved on a much warmer planet than today.

Global warming is not something to be feared. On the contrary, it is something much to be desired.

I spoke about all that and more. You can now watch and listen to my musings, if you can stay awake for the entire hour. Please enjoy, if only as a cure for insomnia.

7 Mar 2009, 8:26pm
Federal forest policy
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Wildfire Risk Reduction and Renewable Biomass Utilization Act

US Rep Denny Rehberg (R-MT) introduced HR 1111, the Wildfire Risk Reduction and Renewable Biomass Utilization Act, last month (2/23/2009). The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to allow biomass removed from forest lands in connection with hazardous fuel reduction projects to be considered a source of renewable fuel for purposes of the renewable fuel standard.

As the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 currently stands, biomass removed from Federal forests is not eligible for incentives for removal and bio-energy utilization [here, here, here, here, here].

The text of HR 1111 follows. Note that biomass from “old-growth forests” and “late successional forests” is still excluded, unless the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture determines that the removal of organic material from such land is appropriate. The quoted terms are undefined in the Bill.

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Hundred Thousand Dollar Jobs

The US Forest Service has announced that the first round of Stimulus projects have been selected. The USFS received $1.15 billion from the the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of that, $98 million (12 percent) is to be spent in this first round.

Region 5 (the Pacific Southwest Region in California) will be spending $7.75 million. They foresee creating 70 jobs with that money, jobs that will last one year. That’s $110,714 per job. The jobs entail maintenance and construction on facilities, roads, and trails.

The USFS Region 5 News Release [here]:

NEWS RELEASE: USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region

Forest Service Contributes To National Economic Recovery

VALLEJO, Calif., Mar. 5, 2009 — U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell announced today the Agency’s plan to participate in the nation’s economic recovery program. The Forest Service has received $1.15 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The first group of Forest Service projects nationwide created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, totaling $98 million, have been selected. These initial projects will create 1,500 jobs, giving the Agency the early opportunity to put people to work. The remaining projects, totaling $1.052 billion, will be announced shortly and will create an additional 23,500 jobs nationwide.

First round projects on lands managed by the Forest Service in California will include maintenance and construction on facilities, roads and trails totaling 70 jobs and $7.75 million. The jobs are estimated to last from four months up to a year. These projects will benefit 11 counties.

“I am proud that the Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region will be playing an important role in creating private sector jobs for Californians on their national forests,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore. “With the construction industry being one of the hardest hit, these projects will be right on point. In addition we have the opportunity to provide jobs to counties with high unemployment up to as much as a year.”

Under the language of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Forest Service will create as many jobs as possible to support communities and to get money flowing through the economy again. All funds will be spent on specific targeted projects that are, or soon will be, ready to go.

“The Forest Service anticipates playing a key role in our nation’s economic recovery,” said Chief Kimbell. “We are grateful for the confidence Congress has shown us and look forward to demonstrating how the Forest Service can create good jobs during difficult times,” Kimbell added.

Many of the most affected communities of the economic downturn are located near national forests. Rural jobs will be created in areas needing restoration work with shovel ready projects related to fire prevention, roads, bridges, buildings and recreation facilities.

More detailed information about new Forest Service projects and jobs in California will be forthcoming.

Information on the overall U.S. Forest Service role in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act can be found at: http://fs.usda.gov/recovery. Information on the total federal effort can be found at http://www.recovery.gov.

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Quincy Sawmill To Close

Monday Sierra Pacific Industries announced the closure of its Quincy, CA, small-log sawmill. The company is unable to obtain enough timber to keep the mill running.

From the NY Times [here]

Logger withdraws from Calif. fire reduction effort

By Jessica Leber, ClimateWire, March 5, 2009

Environmental lawsuits have long made it difficult for Sierra Pacific Industries, the second-largest lumber producer in the United States, to obtain local timber for its small-log sawmill in the tiny Northern California town of Quincy.

This week, the flagging economy hit the final nail into the mill’s coffin: The company announced on Monday that it will close the plant in May.

The mill was conceived to use small-diameter logs from programs that thin trees on national forest lands for the purpose of reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

But due to a long series of administrative appeals and lawsuits from environmental groups that object to any commercial logging in national forests, the Forest Service has only achieved 20 percent of its overall sales targets, said Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).

Nearly two-thirds of this year’s timber sale program is being held up by pending litigation, the company said. The result is that SPI has had to haul logs from farther away to run the mill and make up for the difference.

“Today’s lumber prices are not sufficient to cover these increased costs,” said the company in a statement. “To make things worse, environmental litigation has not only reduced the mill’s raw material supply, but also increased the risk of wildfires in the area.”

Small trees — a big problem in the area’s large forest fires — can’t be cut

Linda Blum of the Quincy Library Group, a group formed in an effort to reach a compromise between environmentalists and loggers to restore the health of the region’s forests, said the closure is symbolic of the difficulties in managing forest land to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires and benefit the community at the same time (ClimateWire, Sept. 18, 2008).

In 1998, five years after the group was founded, Congress passed the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, which promoted tree thinning on national forest land to reduce the threat of wildfires while providing raw material for local timber companies. Sierra Pacific Industries began building the mill in Quincy even before the act was officially passed. …

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Old-Growth Forests and Global Warming

Old-growth logging in the Pacific Northwest was shut down 15 years ago with the imposition of the Northwest Forest Plan. Nary a stick has been cut in a decade and a half.

The idea was to “save” the spotted owls, a creature alleged to be “dependent” on old-growth.

Unfortunately, shutting down almost all logging of any kind on Fed lands (roughly 60 percent of the forested landscape) did not aid the owl. Spotted owl populations plummeted anyway, and owls now number less than 40 percent of what they did 15 years ago.

It seems that spotted owls are not old-growth dependent, due to the fact that they live and fledge young in second-growth forests. And it seems that predator-prey relations dictate owl population change, much as they do for virtually every species of wildlife.

But no matter. This post is not about spotted owls. It’s about that tired old canard that logging is killing all the old-growth.

Actually, that’s not the case. Competition from the dense thickets of young trees and the catastrophic forests fires that incinerate multi-cohort (old and young growth mixed) stands are to blame for the destruction of old-growth trees over the last 15 years.

But the old lie lives on, now with a new twist. Old-growth is claimed to have the magical property of staving off climate change. How do they do it, you ask? Why, by sequestering carbon dioxide, of course.

The trouble is, the sequestration is temporary. When the old-growth catches fire and burns with unnatural severity, a goodly portion of the biomass goes up in smoke. The remainder consists of newly dead wood, cooked at fatal temperatures, and the dead biomass rapidly rots, releasing (you guessed it) more CO2.

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Supremes Limit Standing to Sue USFS

In a 5-4 ruling Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that enviros who sue the US Forest Service must show that their members will be directly harmed in a concrete way by specific USFS actions.

Vague claims that blanket the nation will no longer be adequate for establishing standing to sue.

Some Background

The case at issue, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, arose when five enviro groups (the Earth Island Institute, Sierra Club, Sequoia ForestKeepers, Heartwood, Inc., and Center for Biological Diversity) sued the USFS to enjoin the Burnt Ridge Project.

The Burnt Ridge Project timber sale was proposed in September of 2003. It was to be a 238 acre rehabilitation treatment within the 150,700 acre McNally Fire (2002) on the Hot Springs Ranger District of Sequoia National Forest. This amounted to 0.16 percent of the burned area. But heaven forfend, the sky would have fallen if so much as one acre of the catastrophe had been treated, and so the “watchdog” groups slammed the USFS with a lawsuit to stop it.

The USFS had promulgated a rule, entirely consistent with NEPA, that microscopic projects like the Burnt Ridge Project could be categorically excluded from Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) analysis.

The five enviro groups claimed they had standing to sue because some joker from Indiana (Heartwood, Inc. is based in Indiana) avowed that he might drive or fly to California some day and might possibly hike out to the project area and view it, and that the very sight of a rehab project would ruin his recreational experience. From the Ninth Circuit Court decision of 2006 [here].

To establish their standing, plaintiffs rely on the declaration of Jim Bensman, an employee and member of Heartwood. According to his affidavit, Bensman has been using the National Forests for over 25 years, and has visited National Forests in California, including Klamath, Shasta, Six Rivers and Trinity. Bensman declared that he planned to return to California in August 2004 and Oregon in October 2004. He asserted that his interest in the biological health of the forest, as well as his recreational interest, is harmed when development occurs in violation of law or policy. Bensman specifically stated that if an appeal option were available to him on projects that are categorically excluded from appeal, he would exercise that right of appeal. He also alleged personal and procedural injuries under each challenged regulation.

Judge James K. Singleton of the US District Court of Eastern California bought that malarkey, and in 2005 enjoined the Burnt Ridge Project and every other micro-project in the nation, even though the Burnt Ridge Project was the only project specifically referenced in the complaint.

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