16 Oct 2009, 5:01pm
Federal forest policy Politics and politicians
by admin

A Disaster For People and Forests

Note: Last July Montana Senator Jon Tester unveiled his new proposed “Forest Jobs And Recreation Act of 2009″ which is actually a bait-and-switch Burn Baby Burn wilderness bill [here, here]. Jim Rathbun, Forest Supervisor, Kootenai National Forest, retired, has written a letter to Sen. Tester in regards to his bill, and Mr. Rathbun has given us permission to post it.

To: Senator Jon Tester
United States Senate
Room 204 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Tester:

Thank you for presenting your Forest Jobs and Recreation Act to the public at Troy, yesterday. I appreciated being able to shake your hand and speak to you briefly after the presentation. I wish that you would have permitted open public comment and questions.

As I told you yesterday: I am opposed to the Act.

One thing that was conspicuous to me yesterday, was the apparent total absence and participation of the Forest Service. Virtually all of the proposed actions contained in the Act are on Forest Service lands. But there was no presentation by, or even apparent presence of, Forest Service personnel. I found that strange, indeed.

All of the objectives, allocations, directions and proposed actions in your Act, on the Kootenai National Forest, take place on the Troy Ranger District. There are five ranger districts on the Kootenai National Forest. The planning and management direction for all of those ranger districts, including the Troy Ranger District, is, or was, developed and contained in the Forest Plan for the Kootenai National Forest, completed in 1987. Does your Act, and the planning processes used on the Troy District follow closely the direction contained in the Forest Plan?

I suggest that you at least read the Record of Decision for the 1987 Forest Plan. It is only about 45 pages.

One requirement in the Forest Plan is stated as follows on page 1. of the Record of Decision: “The Forest Plan is a 10-15 year Plan. It will normally be revised every 10 years, but by law must be revised every 15 years.” The Kootenai Forest Plan, completed in September 1987, has never been revised. It was completed in 1987, and, by law, should have been revised not later than September 2002. So much for complying with the law. I understand that Forest Planning is now “On Hold”.

The Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974, and the National Forest Management Act of 1976, gave clear direction for the planning and management of the resources throughout the National Forest System; as did numerous other laws passed and implemented throughout the over 100 year history of the National Forest System; laws such as the Organic Administration Act, the Multiple-Use Sustained Yield Act, the Wilderness Act, Mineral Leasing Act, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, the Land and Water Conservation Act, Historic Preservation Act, Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and-on-and-on. My copy of The Principal Laws Relating to Forest Service Activities is a 1983 edition and contains some 580 pages.

Will each ranger district on the Kootenai NF follow the same planning process that was used at Troy to complete a district plan and ultimately result in another Forest Jobs and Recreation Act? Is that what the preservationists are going to demand, if your Bill is passed? Will each county commissioner in Lincoln County develop their own little commissioner district plan and then have legislation passed to manage that section of the Kootenai NF to their liking? Will that happen on the other national forests in your Act?

National Forest Management should, by law, be based on good science. I don’t believe your Act is based on good science, or any science, for that matter. I know that it isn’t. As far as I can determine it was based on what a few people, and I do mean, a few select people, agreed to, through negotiations: “I’ll agree to more wilderness, if you agree to some timber harvest.” And vice versa. Where was the Forest Service? Where is the science? Where is the long term sustainability of the forests and all of their resources?

To my knowledge there were no open public meetings, at a time when the public could really attend, on the Three Rivers Challenge portion of your Bill. Is that the way it was on the other National Forests included in your Bill? There wasn’t an open meeting in Libby, that I know of. We are talking about National Forest System lands here.

The Kootenai National Forest certainly didn’t hold any open public meetings in communities throughout the KNF, explaining this planning process. They still haven’t. Wouldn’t you expect them to?

In his brief presentation Commissioner Konzen spoke of public participation in Troy and also mentioned a public meeting in the Yaak. But that was it. There were no public involvement meetings anywhere else in the County. Even in Troy, it is my understanding, public participation was very selective and very limited.

Several years ago I heard that Commissioner Konzen was involved in a planning process. I went into the commissioner’s office on a Wednesday and asked about what was happening on the Yaak. Commissioners Konzen and Roose jumped to their feet and in somewhat of a panic, denied that any serious planning was happening. Within a week they made a presentation in Washington, DC, to elected representatives, seeking a law that would do just what you have done. But, they were in total denial right here in Libby. When they had the meeting with the elected people in DC, they didn’t even invite the other commissioner that had made the trip with them. Those are the people you are dealing with. Are you really aware of the history of this process?

You mentioned several timber companies by name that support your Act. Those are companies that have managed to survive the devastation that has happened to the wood products industries in Montana and throughout the Northwest, these past 20 years. But the fact is that a huge industry has been reduced to those few smaller mills that exist today. It is my understanding that even some of those mills are not able to operate year-long. The people that own and operate those facilities may support your Act, but, I believe most of the people who work in those mills, and work in the forests to provide wood for those mills, do not support your Bill.

You also mentioned that the Montana Loggers Association supports S1470. The leadership of the MLA, from what I have heard and observed, is, and has been, influenced more by the mill operators than by the loggers. It has been my observation that the loggers speak out only when the operators permit it.

There is a semi trailer at Payne Machinery, here in Libby, that has the names of 18 mills in Montana that closed between 1990 and 2000. Since 2000, at least three fairly large mills have closed in Lincoln County. I’m sure that quite a few more have closed across the State. Certainly those people that have been put out of work due to closures do not support your Bill.

Right here in Lincoln County, the leading timber-growing county in the State, and, 20 years ago, the highest wood products-producing county in the State, the only “mill” that remains is Chapel Cedar, a small post and rail and special products facility. You visited it, so you know the small size of the operation.

When I came to Libby in 1983, Lincoln County prided itself for being the number one county in the State for personal income. That high income was based on the thriving wood products and mining industries. Today, Lincoln County is last in the State for personal income, primarily because of the loss of jobs in those industries. I believe, as do others, that over 80 percent of the timber/wood products-related jobs have been lost in Lincoln County, primarily because of the failure of the KNF to produce the timber it committed to in the Forest Plan. On page 3 of the 1987 Forest Plan Record of Decision it states: “As the amount of timber available from private lands declines, more importance will be placed on supplies from the Kootenai Forest. This leading timber-supplier position will be retained into the forseeable future because of the amount of productive forest land designated for the sustained yield of timber.”

The Kootenai Forest has not kept that commitment. And, it has not revised the Forest Plan.

The 1987 Forest Plan recognized some 1,263,000 acres of land suitable for timber production. Since the Plan was completed, timber lands have been set aside, or otherwise made unavailable for timber harvest and management because of decisions made to expand grizzly bear habitat, “protect” Canada Lynx habitat, elimination of the transportation system, and other reasons. These decisions significantly changed the conditions throughout much of the KNF, and still, the Forest Plan was never revised. I doubt that the Kootenai National Forest has a current record, or even an estimate, of the number of acres currently available for the management of the timber resource.

Timber stands develop through various stages over varying periods of time, depending on species of trees, elevation, slope, aspect, climate, etc. Ultimately stands reach maturity under natural conditions, stand densities reach limits, growth slows, trees weaken, become susceptible to drought, insects and disease, and die. Frequently the final cause of death is some kind of disease or insect attack, such as the mountain pine beetle, or a catastrophic event such as wildfire. The stands of red, beetle-killed timber that you presented are examples of nature taking it’s course.

You recently sent out a card advertising S1470. Everything in it is presented as very favorable. You didn’t mention any of the long term consequences of not managing the land for the production of its real potential. What happens to the land that grows 400 million board feet of timber annually and only has 40 million board feet removed annually, because a few people want to look at it and not have roads crossing the landscape?

With the application of intensive forest management, these conditions and disasters can be minimized or avoided. But, in recent years the preservationists have been very successful in stopping intensive forest management, and now we are paying for it on forest lands throughout Montana. They have even appealed and gone to court over proposed harvest, or salvaging, of stands similar to the beetle-kill stands that you presented and the salvage of timber burned in wildfires. I might add that this has happened, primarily during the last 20 years, under the watch of elected people throughout the State, at the State government and county government levels, as well as Baucus, Williams, Burns, Rehberg, and Racicot. These are the influential public servants that could have stepped forward and demanded that the national forests be managed according to law for the benefit of the people of Montana. They didn’t, and here we are. And, under your Act, if it is passed, it will continue. I believe that as soon as the preservationists get their wilderness and roadless areas, they will find others to challenge resource uses of the national forests covered in your Bill.

If this Act is passed, I believe the long term consequences will be a disaster for the people of Montana today and for future generations. And it will be a disaster for the unmanaged natural resources. I also believe that the people who insisted on its passage and implementation will not be perceived well in history.

Please withdraw S1470 and at least allow all of the people of Montana an opportunity to consider what is in it, and to express their opinions. Montana is a very large state, as you well know. It is sparsely populated. The Federal lands are widespread. People need adequate time to be able to develop and express their opinions and to be very informed and involved. .

Please withdraw S1470.


Jim Rathbun, Forest Supervisor, Kootenai National Forest, retired.

17 Oct 2009, 8:11am
by Gary C.

This letter reflects the opinion of the vast majority of the people of Lincoln County, where I am a 3rd generation native, and also the vast majority of Montanans. THANK YOU JIM!!

Every person in America will be negatively affected by passage of this bill. Our country is currently bankrupt because of bills like this. They all are similar to 1470 in that they are behind the scenes special interest funded disasters. Americans, step up and proclaim loud and long that we must stop this madness and return to the principals of our founding fathers and the laws protecting this country. Doing this will make us strong and prosperous again. Vote out these fools who are determined to destroy America!!

17 Oct 2009, 10:25am
by bear bait

Karen Budd-Falen’s revelations [here], about the enormous amount of money being taken from USFS budget items to pay their assessed legal costs by the courts, indicate that the USFS doesn’t have the money to do any planning.

The enviro interests have now conspired to bleed the USFS dry through the legal process. EAJA-awarded legal fees are mandated if the legal action results in ANY change in how the USFS does business. Todd True of the EarthJustice legal arm of the Sierra Club gets $600 an hour for his efforts, and his lead attorneys $450 to $550 per billable hour. You understand how Budd-Falen was able to track $4.7 BILLION dollars of awarded legal fees to the enviros on just the cases she knew about and was able to use the FOIA process to get the information. The time period was 2003 to 2007. It appears that is the tip of the iceberg. No wonder the USFS wasn’t a part of the Tester deal. He is setting them up to fail, and cost them any budget money they had for infrastructure repair and creation.

When you catch an albacore or a salmon, the first thing you do is bleed it. Evidently that applies to suing the USFS. Bleed them out. No wonder we see combined ranger districts with less than 50 employees, and then you find out a quarter of those are “Permanent Seasonal Fire Fighter” jobs, with yearlong insurance, the retirement benefit, but only a guarantee of so many days work a year. On in April and off in October. The Piss Fir Willies have been rendered helpless and hopeless, and are now being bled for their revenue by Big Green. Sad. The Taliban of Trees has prevailed.

17 Oct 2009, 1:14pm
by Larry H.

Talk about “extractive industry”!!! They extract money at the expense of our forests. No wonder there are no new foresters in the pipeline, too. They all want the lucrative job of “eco-lawyer”.

17 Oct 2009, 1:35pm
by Jim Trenholm

Jim Rathbun was Emmett District Ranger on the Boise National Forest while I was forest engineer there about four decades ago. My Forest Service career started in 1959 and Jim is one of the outstanding line officers I encountered along the way.

All would do well to read, understand and apply what he wrote.

Peace and Understanding,
Jim Trenholm
The Stewardship Group
Roy, Utah 84067

17 Oct 2009, 3:03pm
by Mike

I don’t call them (Tester and his puppet-masters) “environmentalists” or “conservationists” or even “preservationists”. They don’t qualify for those monikers because their evident (and often self-stated) goal is to incinerate America’s forests.

Catastrophic fire yields huge environmental devastation. Nothing is conserved or preserved, but instead everything (flora, fauna, water, air, soil) is damaged or destroyed. Yet catastrophic fire is the outcome sought by the so-called “enviros.”

“Enviro” groups sue to halt USFS and BLM stewardship activities and treatments, always claiming violations of NEPA and the ESA. But they never sue to constrain Let It Burn, even though the USFS Let It Burn program is in blatant and egregious violation of those laws.

Heck, the litigious pro-holocausters even sue to halt the use of fire retardant. Indeed, it is the so-called “enviro activist” representatives from frequent-lawsuit groups (such as the Wilderness Society) who have taken over the Wildland Fire Leadership Council and have promulgated woofoo, foofurb, and their “Blackened, Burned Forests Are Beautiful” campaign.

The pro-holocausters love to call for the murder of Smokey Bear, who has outlived his usefulness and should be burned at the stake, in their opinion. Nothing suits them more than a megafire, and Smokey is in their way.

The real cost of their sabotage is much more than legal fees: it is fire damages in the tens of $billions every year: seared landscapes, devastated forests, dead wildlife (including endangered species), incinerated habitats (that never grow back), befouled airsheds, befouled streams and rivers, mass erosion, flash floods, private homes and property destroyed (unfought fires leap across imaginary boundary lines), compromised public health and safety, crippled rural businesses engaged in agriculture, recreation, energy, wood products, and other sectors, depressing entire state and regional economies and generally laying waste to every forest resource or value that exists.

I call them holocausters and forest destroyers, or worse, when the mood overtakes me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for peace and understanding, but not at the price of my forests. In any case, I see no virtue in the laughable pretense of calling those who wish to destroy forests “environmentalists.”



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