1 Feb 2011, 1:08pm
Federal forest policy Private land policies
by admin

USFWS Sued Over Spotted Owl Revised Recovery Plan

by Ann Forest Burns, American Forest Resource Council News, January 28, 2011 [here]

FACA Lawsuit

On January 25, AFRC and the Carpenters Industrial Council (CIC), a labor group representing lumber and plywood workers, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, DC challenging the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) failure to follow the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in the work being done to revise the 2008 spotted owl recovery plan and critical habitat designation.

FACA requires advisory committees, that are not composed entirely of federal employees, to be “fairly balanced” in their membership; that they conduct their business in open meetings; and that written records be kept and open to public inspection. There are specific procedures that an agency must go through before an advisory committee can begin to meet.

The FWS has been using two groups that AFRC believes should be placed under FACA: a Primary Modeling Team and a Modeling Advisory Group. These groups have been working since 2009.

On November 10, 2010, AFRC and CIC sent a letter to Ken Salazar, Secretary of Interior, asking that FWS remedy the problem and not use the advisory groups in the meantime. At year’s end, AFRC received a response from the FWS Oregon office stating their belief that the groups come under an exemption for “recovery teams” in the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Draft Revised Recovery Plan proposes for the first time going outside federal land for habitat to preserve the owl, but presents no scientific basis to believe this is necessary or will result in increased owl numbers. The modeling being done by these advisory groups has not been shared with other groups, including the timber industry and environmental organizations. There has been no review or critique of the modeling results to date, and because of this AFRC believes it is vital that light be shed on how FWS and these groups are going about their work.

The FWS announced that they intend to release the Final Recovery Plan in mid-February. It is uncertain how much focus will be placed on the impact of the barred owl on spotted owl populations and the risks of catastrophic wildfire and windthrow. These two factors were shown to be the greatest threat to the spotted owl in the 2008 recovery plan.

The lawsuit asks the court the block the FWS from citing or using any of the recommendations made by the two advisory committees.

1 Feb 2011, 4:40pm
by Derek

I’ve had a bug in my head that’s been growing lately. Why doesn’t the “wise use” movement sue a lot more often? Why not turn the tables on the enviros and “monkey wrench” and “mock” the system to take away(or at least threaten) things they treasure? You don’t have to win-you only have to get a headline.

I believe that NEPA and the ESA will eventually be “reformed” by congress. I think wildfires, fuels treatments, and the need to “attract infrastructure to treat forest fuels” will drive it.I think the only way to push congress is to “throw a bigger net” and start to inconvenience “moderate enviros” and fence sitters. Nobody paid much attention to the ESA when it put 10,000 loggers out of work in Montana. They noticed a little more when a couple hundred thousand ranchers were threatened by the wolf. They notice a lot when half a million hunters became affected.

I’ve noticed a trend in Western forests. The only proposals to radically increase timber harvest come from places where the majority of the public are enviros. Case in Point. Sen. Bingaman(NM) has floated a plan called the “Jemez Mountain collaboration”. It calls for thinning 9,000 acres/year on the Santa Fe National Forest. Thats a 8 times increase from the the last ten year average.It would increase harvest from 3 MMBF to 25MMBF/yr. That’s slightly below the level in the 80’s!! Of course there’s no more sawmills left. The Wild Earth Guardians have endorsed it. No more litigation. Infrastructure will be the new buzz phrase. Santa Fe county, new age capital of the world, gave Obama 76% of the vote.

Now, why should they get a “waiver from NEPA litigation” when Montana still labors under it? Wouldn’t you just love to start appealing and throw in a lawsuit or two just to remind potential investors of the sword of NEPA hanging over their heads? Believe me, when a wildfire blows through in ten years, and there hasn’t been any thinning because no infrastructure got built; that’s when NEPA gets reformed. “Infrastructure” and “guaranteed long term supply” will be the new buzz phrases in the next five years. Colorado and Arizona are identical.

Here’s another. The “Man” has just doubled “critical habitat for the lynx”. How about suing the USFWS or USFS because they “haven’t adequately analyzed the effects of non-motorized recreation on lynx habitat in wilderness areas”. You know we’d win. After all, all we’d have to prove is that they “haven’t disproved it yet”.The beauty of NEPA. They’re guilty until they prove themselves innocent. I know there is no best available science analyzing it. And until there is… injunction time. Imagine the headline in the Missoulian!

Also in Montana we have the Bull Trout critical habitat doubled. This one is kind of a reach. We all know that Non-natives are the biggest threat. I think the USFWS has been dragging their feet on demanding extermination of non-natives. Now we got Ted Turner demanding the reform of ESA!

I know these are just the musings of a bitter man. I wouldn’t want to ruin the life of a back country guide any more than you. I just think the headlines would be cool. WE could settle at anytime and score some serious EAJA money. WE could call ourselves “the alliance of the wildER rockies”. A mysterious enviro group issuing communiques from a secret bat cave. Making outlandish statements and growing our hair long.

I’m satisfied just fantasizing about it.

1 Feb 2011, 5:55pm
by Larry H.

Since spotted owls and goshawks share the same habitat, and even re-use nests, as well as being territorial to the extreme, the modeling has to reflect that there is, indeed, a ceiling on how many nesting pairs can actually reproduce. These facts would not necessarily add to the angst that “spotted owls are going extinct”. It is simply a realistic observation that must be included into any plan that seeks to “save” owls.

The barred owl also takes away Region 6’s capacity for nesting pairs. There will always be some “overlap” in nesting sites but, pretending that owls could “saturate” each and every piece of ground is bogus. If an “owl circle” is at-risk to catastrophic wildfire, we MUST initiate a management plan to reduce those risks. Owls are a LOT less sensitive to human activities than the “eco-charlatans” claim. It seems awfully ridiculous to continue to “protect” an owl circle that doesn’t contain nest trees (or owls) anymore. How dead does an owl circle have to be before it is unsuitable? Ditto for goshawk areas. Is “hope” going to be factored into the modeling by continuing to protect the dead zones? Is wildfire probability going to be factored into flammable “Protected Activity Centers”?? How far into the future are they going to model? Will “climate change” be factored into the problem, or will they conveniently ignore the dying trees. Wildlife biologists consistently say that snag patches aren’t nesting habitat but, the eco-groups don’t believe those USFS scientists, believing they are “tainted” sources of information, simply because they work for the Forest Service.



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